By Shianna Gibbons and Dylan Lux
The Youngstown State University board of trustees voted 8-1 to give U.S. Rep. William “Bill” Johnson the position of YSU president on Nov. 21.
Michael Peterson, chair of the board, said Johnson was unmatched as a candidate.
“Johnson expressed a passion for YSU and the community more than other candidates,” Peterson said. “We firmly believe that our YSU family will understand why he is selected as the leader of YSU.”
Johnson thanked the community for expressing confidence in his ability to lead and addressed the community’s concerns.
“It’s been a huge honor. [Being YSU president] fits with my sense of service. I see that opportunity of service here at YSU. I know some have questioned my professional and educational experience — it’s not the traditional route,” Johnson said. “As president, my history in politics will not reflect my decisions here at YSU, regardless of political and religious affiliation. I’m committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment.”
Johnson’s contract is worth $410,000 a year, and his presidency will start sometime in March 2024, during the first quarter of the year.
The board announced that the presidential search was a confidential process similar to private institutions. Anita Hackstedde, secretary of the board, said in a press conference that an executive leadership team made up of different stakeholders met with the final three candidates.
Despite recent protests, petitions and a Student Government Association resolution condemning the board’s actions that excluded the YSU community from its decision, the board presented and approved the contract.
At the start of the meeting, the board acknowledged the recent protests and petitions but did not allow public comments or concerns to be raised before entering an executive session.
During the executive session, public comments were held in the lobby of the first floor of Tod Hall by YSU students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members.
The community called for the board to include the YSU community in its decision-making process for the new president. Daniel Catello, YSU alumni class of 2014, said the community cannot support the board’s decision.
“The student body is diverse and we need a leader that will represent and support our students,” Catello said. “If there [are] going to be closed doors in this process, there [are] going to be closed wallets.”
The YSU Foundation released a statement regarding different donors that are pulling or reconsidering their donations.
“The YSU Foundation finds it necessary to express our concerns regarding recent developments surrounding the YSU presidential search with our donors, friends, the YSU board of trustees, and the YSU community at large. We would have preferred a more inclusive process that represented the university’s students, faculty, and staff, along with its donor base, supporters and alumni.”
Bruce Zoldan and the Zoldan family, who donated $5 million toward a new student center, said they haven’t made an official decision but may ask for the donation to be used for student scholarships instead of the Zoldan name on the new center.
The next board of trustees meetings will be Dec. 6 and 7 on the first floor of Tod Hall.