Stepping Stone

Youngstown State University is once again wracked with uncertainty, and there seems to be one man to blame — Randy Dunn. With Dunn signing his contract for the president position at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, YSU will find itself with a substantial hole among its senior administrators, a presidential-sized one.

“YSU is not a stepping stone for me,” Dunn said in an interview with The Jambar in May. “I am going to work hard and be very visible and active in advancing YSU in those directions where we can come together.”

Randy Dunn was far from visible early this week. He canceled his appearance at Crash Day; he declined to return and answer our calls on Sunday; he failed to contact Ron Cole, the university’s public information officer, and Shannon Tirone, chief of staff, on Sunday or Monday — he seemed to have all but vanished.

In a press conference after an emergency meeting of the Board of Trustees, however, Dunn said that he didn’t tell anyone because SIU was running a “closed and wholly confidential” search for its next president.

These happenings aren’t exactly unprecedented, though they are certainly still shocking. This is not the first university where Dunn used a drop of subterfuge. Dunn’s contract was not renewed at Murray State University — his last university — because he had been sending applications for other positions during his tenure. In hindsight, the signs were there.

“As … we build on our successes, I hope that will provide me an opportunity for a long enough ‘run’ at the university to have people say that I made a difference and serve the school — and the region — well,” Dunn said in the same interview in May.

During his seven-month tenure, Dunn has certainly served long enough to make a difference — long enough to waste university funds on his search committee, his move, and his salary. Whether or not he served the school and the region, well that is another story. Now the university will have to expend funds on a new search. Hopefully, this next president will have a longer shelf life.

At the Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, Dunn submitted his written resignation and will leave office on August 16. In his press conference, Dunn made it clear that he did not accept the job with the intention of it being a stepping stone. Still, it feels that way; it’s simply a hard pill to swallow.

Why, though, would the YSU community want to keep a president who will receive only spite from most of the community? It would be preferable to elect an interim president – out with the old guard, in with the new.

YSU is a school in the midst of transition: our community is a post-industrial town that is just now on the brink of recovery, becoming an advanced manufacturing and research hub; YSU is beginning to reverse the trend of slumping enrollment; and, YSU is returning to its prominent position among the nation’s many engineering schools.

All things considered, the dawn is finally rising on Youngstown’s long night, and Dunn — you’re missing out. Though it may seem that not even the board knows where to go from here, with the promise of no provost, no vice president of finance, and no president soon, Youngstown is a city that has endured its fair share of hardships, and we will certainly endure one more. We may even come out better for it.