Congressman Bill Johnson offered YSU president position

By Shianna Gibbons 

The Youngstown State University board of trustees voted 8-1 to offer U.S. Rep. William “Bill” Johnson the position of president at YSU on Nov. 16.

Michael Peterson, the chair of the board of trustees, stated in a press release about Johnson that he is excited for the future of YSU and he believes Johnson is a good candidate.

Congressman Johnson is a strong, innovative, servant leader who we believe will be well positioned to guide the university as we take charge of our future,” Peterson stated. “The Presidential Search Guidance Committee, working with executive search firm Witt/Kiefer, did a great job identifying a highly qualified individual who will be able to position YSU for a vibrant future.”

Molly Seals, a member of the board of trustees, was the only dissenting vote.

“No, I do not believe he is the right person to lead our university,” Seals said in the meeting Nov. 16. 

We looked at leadership, background, demeanor, work-related characteristics and skills and I came to my conclusion that he was not the right person for the role of president of our university,” Seals stated in an email to The Jambar.

According to the press release, the board also gave authorization to begin negotiations on behalf of the university for, “an agreement of employment in conformance with the terms, conditions and parameters reviewed by university legal counsel, subject to approval by the board of trustees.”

Johnson was born in North Carolina and joined the U.S. Air Force in 1973. After serving 26 years, he retired from the Air Force with the rank of lieutenant colonel. 

During his military career, he received his bachelor’s degree from Troy University in 1979 and his master’s degree from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1984.

Johnson has served as a Republican U.S. Rep. for Ohio’s 6th congressional district since 2011. 

After the announcement, Johnson released his own statement via his X account stating, “I wasn’t looking for another job, because I love serving the people of eastern Ohio. When I was approached about leading this great university, with student success at the forefront, and helping to prepare the next generation of Americans to lead, I listened,” Johnson stated. “I’ll have a very difficult decision to make.”

In response to the board’s announcement, YSU-OEA, the faculty union, released its own statement to condemn the board of trustees for its lack of transparency and YSU community involvement.

“[The board has] not allowed faculty, staff, and students an opportunity to offer any input on potential candidates. We are surprised and disappointed that the board would offer the presidency to anyone without first having a campus visit to meet with university stakeholders; especially someone with no higher education experience or a terminal degree in any academic field.  This action shows a blatant disregard and lack of respect for the university community,” YSU-OEA stated.

Mark Vopat, YSU-OEA president and philosophy professor, stated in a press release that the board’s decision is unnecessary and harms the relationship the union and the board have made under interim President Helen Lafferty’s leadership.

It was our understanding that Dr. Lafferty was appointed for 18 months to ensure that YSU had enough time to conduct a national search and involve the YSU community,” Vopat stated. “Ending her tenure early and rushing through the selecting process is entirely unnecessary.”

A student-organized petition, “Bill Johnson is Wrong for YSU!” started by Rose McClurkin, a senior political science major and president of Planned Parenthood Generation Action, has garnered over 300 signatures as of 2 p.m. on Nov. 17.

The petition states, “The board of trustees went behind the faculty, students, and communities’ back to offer Bill Johnson, an extremist politician, the position of YSU’s new president.”

The Jambar will update this story as it develops.