By Elizabeth Lehman
In September 2017, The Jambar ran a two-part story about the development of a new campus Women and Gender Resource Initiative at Youngstown State University. This was intended to result in an eventual center on campus.
After reaching out to individuals involved with the initiative, The Jambar has discovered the progress has been slow and an assistant director has not been named.
Michael Jerryson, associate professor of philosophy and religious studies, said the committee met in August 2017 and recommended Megan List, assistant professor in teacher education, for the position.
Jerryson said the recommendation for the part-time interim director position was initially someone who was involved with one of the previous attempts at a women’s center at YSU.
“She’s a counselor who’s retiring, didn’t need lots of money, she’s knowledgeable about YSU and all that was needed because she helped start the first women’s center here, and I was very hesitant to put her name in because she also felt like she was taken advantage of last time,” Jerryson said.
He said he was concerned with making sure the appropriate support was lined up before trying to secure this individual as director this time around. Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Martin Abraham, gave List the director position, despite the committee’s recommendation.
Jerryson said he was enthusiastic with the choice and was still considering how to fill the assistant director position.
“If you want to switch places, I’m like, ‘Do you want the name now of the person for the counselor and the assistant director position?’ To which then, Dr. Abraham said, ‘From now on you have to go through Megan List for this, not me,’” Jerryson said.
He said List is untenured, which puts her in an insecure position to fight and advocate for the center as its director, and progress has been slow.
“Since this has taken place, we’ve seen no movement in terms of a space provided, no assistant director,” Jerryson said. “So once again, we have one person being provided meager amounts of funding and support to keep something afloat, and the failure of the administration now to follow through on what was promised, to avoid this very pitfall.”
Abraham said this issue comes down to a matter of trust between the faculty and the administration. He said he’s hopeful this can be worked through in time, but one concern is if List can find a way to advocate for the center that is effective but not confrontational.
“I think that the next concern, and I think this is where Dr. Jerryson is coming from, is that if she does that effectively, will administration penalize her and hold a grudge?” Abraham said. “That’s the fear. I’m hoping we can get to a place where we’re better, we’re closer to it. In order for her to be successful, there has to be some level of trust that she can advocate effectively for the center and it will not be held against her when we do an evaluation for tenure.”
Abraham said, whether or not it’s factual, it has been perceived that, in the past, individuals were penalized for things they did that had nothing to do with their performance, teaching, scholarship and service.
He said if YSU is going to become the great university it has the potential to be, these issues need to be overcome.
“We need to get past what we’ve done in history, what we’ve done before; what the faculty perceive administration has done, what administration says faculty have done,” Abraham said. “We have to move together, forward together, with the spirit of trying to do the right things for the right reasons, putting history behind us and looking at where we can succeed going forward.”
Abraham said he believes establishing a women’s center is an important activity on campus and that it is a priority he’s enthusiastic about, but it cannot be supported at the level Jerryson, List and the committee may want. He said he encourages continued advocacy for the center from Jerryson, List and the committee.
“If they don’t continue to keep it on the radar, if they don’t continue to push and advocate for the level of funding that it deserves, it’s not going to stay on the list of things that we need to do from an administrative perspective,” Abraham said.
A Women and Gender Center Fundraiser dinner is planned for Friday, April 27, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Kilcawley Center in the Ohio Room and it will cost $50 a plate.
“Our hope is to raise some community funds to be able to include that support in grant applications so that we can become more seriously funded,” List said.
Tickets for the event can be purchased at Women and Gender Resource Initiative webpage, www.ysu.edu/wgri.