By Shianna Gibbons
Before Thanksgiving break, petitions circulated and protests were held on campus following the board of trustees’ announcement of offering William “Bill” Johnson the position of president at Youngstown State University.
The announcement was sent to YSU students and staff, and the greater Youngstown community Nov. 16 without prior announcements of candidate selection in the national search for a new president.
A crowd of around 30 people gathered outside of Tod Hall on Nov. 20 to share their dissatisfaction with the board for the lack of transparency and involvement.
Rose McClurkin, president of Planned Parenthood Generation Action and senior political science major, put together a petition, “Bill Johnson is Wrong for YSU!” and organized the protest. The petition has garnered over 2,000 signatures since Nov. 29.
McClurkin said the community wanted to be included in the process.
“Everybody heard [about the offer] at the same time because we were not made aware,” McClurkin said. “It feels very disappointing. I have seen the development of trying to get the trust between the faculty of trustees and the board is not committed to valuing that trust and its lack of transparency shows that over and over again.”
An alumni petition was also started and a letter sent to the board and signed by Daniel Catello, Madeline Grimes, Ashley Orr, Tyler Pabst and Jacob Schriner-Briggs. The alumni petition has gathered over 2,000 signatures since Nov. 30.
The petitions and letters from the YSU-OEA and alumni were sent to the board, posted publicly and released to the media.
At the protest, leaders of different campus-related organizations shared their thoughts on the board’s decision to choose Johnson. The crowd chanted “Resist the offer. Open the process” and “Hear our voice. We want a choice” in between speakers.
A counter-protest was also held Nov. 20 in support of the board’s decision. YSU’s chapter of Turning Point USA President Austin Browne said he believes the concerns are mostly about Johnson’s politics.
“Our stance on the issue is we think [Johnson’s] qualified,” Browne said. “We think a lot of the attacks coming against him, despite what people say about it being about the procedure and transparency — it’s politically motivated.”
YSU’s Student Government Association also presented a resolution at the Nov. 20 meeting to “express dissatisfaction on behalf of the student body.” The resolution was passed and then presented to the board.
Alexander Papa, SGA president, said SGA wanted to address students’ concerns with the presidential search process.
“This resolution was crafted to address the fact that we as students feel left out in the process,” Papa said. “In the past they had presidents come onto campus, do interviews, do town halls and that just didn’t happen this time.”
The board announced a meeting for Nov. 21. Michael Peterson, chair of the board of trustees, said the board had received the petitions and saw the protest but would not accept public comments until the Dec. 7 meeting. Later, the board voted to approve a contract of employment for Johnson. Observers booed the board.
McClurkin, SGA, alumni, YSU-OEA and the greater community plan on giving public comments during the December meeting.