Faculty and Staff Want Better Communication With Administration

By Justin Wier, Sam Phillips

Academic Senate held open forums this week to address the results of a campus climate survey that reflected a disconnect between faculty and administrators at Youngstown State University.

The three areas in the results for the Campus Climate Survey with the most positive responses and least positive responses are shown with comparisons to the average responses at other colleges and university classified as Master’s institutions by the Carnegie Foundation.

The “Great Colleges to Work For” survey was administered by the Chronicle of Higher Education. The results showed that only a third of participants responded positively to questions about senior leadership, shared governance and relations between faculty, administration and staff.

Around two-thirds of participants responded positively to questions about job satisfaction, pride and their supervisors or department chairs, but even these results are below the 75 percent average of other universities within YSU’s classification.

Chet Cooper, chair of Academic Senate, said the purpose of the open forums was not to rehash the problems identified in the survey results but to make suggestions for improvement.

Administrators, including Provost Martin Abraham, were present to hear faculty and staff’s remarks.

Brian Wells, an adviser in the Beeghly College of Education, said morale is at its lowest in his 10 years at YSU.

“Faculty and staff on this campus need to be given a voice, and they need to be heard,” Wells said. “Until they are heard, they aren’t going to be able to offer solutions.”

Several people voiced a desire for better communication with the administration. Faculty and staff want to be involved in decision making, and they want administration to explain the rationale behind the decisions they make.

Kriss Schueller, chair of the department of computer science and information systems, said he’s aware of many instances where faculty and staff made recommendations or requests to the administration. The administration in turn made a different decision and provided no explanation to faculty or staff.

“The upper administration is setting priorities, that’s their job, but isn’t it also their job also to listen to our priorities?” Schuller said.

Diana Palardy, professor of foreign language, said several search committees have had their recommendations for various positions ignored. This has led to less desire to participate in committees, she said.

“A lot of faculty invest a lot of time and effort into these committees,” Palardy said. “It starts to get tedious after awhile.”

Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, professor in the department of philosophy and religious studies, said administration needs to show that they value faculty, and one way they can do that is by increasing their pay.

“Just a step in that direction will alter — in a positive way — the trend that has been going for quite some time,” he said.

He also said restoring yearly reports from the president and provost would demonstrate that the administration cares about faculty and staff enough to share their plans with them, and it wouldn’t cost anything.

Jeanine Mincher, professor in the department of human ecology, said stakeholders would like to be invited to the table important decisions are being made.

“Many decisions are being made, and the people who are affected by the decision are never even asked what they think about them,” Mincher said. “I think that would be an easy way to start.”

Cooper said the Academic Senate has asked the Board of Trustees to consider adding a faculty representative similar to the student trustees currently on the board.

In addition to the open forums, the Senate plans to hold focus groups at the college level. Once all the comments are compiled, they intend to generate an action plan to improve the campus climate.

Academic Senate also asked Student Government Association to hold focus groups, so students could provide input.

SGA President Tyler Miller-Gordon said the groups will be held by invitation, and they will seek out campus leaders. He said everyone has the same goal of providing the best possible experience for students.

“There’s been awesome discourse,” Miller-Gordon said. “We have seen many solutions put forth from faculty, staff and students alike.”

Dan Hiner contributed additional reporting.