Published: Monday, October 8, 2007
Survey: YSU board doesn't have a clue
It was suggested that employee strikes in 2005 affected some responses.
By HAROLD GWIN
YOUNGSTOWN Are Youngstown State University's trustees out of touch with campus issues affecting faculty, staff and students?
Some members of the board of trustees reacted with surprise when informed that a campus climate survey done in the spring showed a high percentage of respondents suggested the board doesn't understand faculty, staff or student concerns.
The survey is just one part of a YSU self-study being conducted in preparation for a 10-year academic reaccreditation by the Higher Learning Commission.
The commission is scheduled to send a visitation team to YSU in February.
The campus survey was sent to 1,109 YSU employees, including administrators, faculty and classified employee groups, and 500 responded.
Respondents expressed satisfaction on a number of issues, based on the sampling of questions presented to the trustees.
A strong majority said they support YSU's mission and a majority said the activities and commitments of the university are congruent with its mission.
A majority also said that increasing minorities on faculty and staff is a high YSU priority.
More than half said they feel their work is appreciated and a strong majority expressed job satisfaction. However, a majority also said that steps haven't been taken to improve relationships and morale.
One question on the survey showed that 44 percent of the respondents felt the trustees don't understand student concerns, 55.2 percent felt they don't understand faculty concerns and 62.8 percent said they don't understand staff concerns.
Trustee Dr. Sudershan K. Garg said he was surprised to hear that people feel the board doesn't have regard for their issues.
Trustee Dr. H.S. Wang suggested that the university's human resources department needs to hear these concerns so that those issues can filter up through the system.
Perhaps there is a need to give people a chance to express themselves beyond just a survey, offered Atty. John L. Pogue, board chairman.
He pointed out that the time demand for the position of trustee is difficult.
People are often surprised with his lack of details on certain issues, but the board can't micromanage the university, he said.
There should be a way to gather that information and present it unedited to the board, suggested Trustee Harry Meshel.
The university needs to be creative to find ways for people to express themselves, added Trustee Millicent S. Counts.
The board needs to deal with this, said Trustee Scott Schulick. Address it before the evaluation committee visit in February, he said.
Pogue said the strikes by the faculty and classified employee unions in late summer 2005 may have had a significant impact on some of the survey results.
Dr. Cynthia Anderson, vice president for student affairs, said on on-going push to improve labor-management relations on campus will do much to make many of those concerns disappear. Both sides desire improved relations and there is a goal to resolve the next round of negotiations before the reaccreditation team visit, she said.
Dr. Bege Bowers, associate provost for academic programs and planning, told the board that various committees involved in the self-study have come up with recommendations to address various issues raised in the survey.
Bowers is leading the university's reaccreditation process.
Ivan Maldonado, president of the 400-member Association of Classified Employees union, said the low marks on trustee understanding of employee concerns may be a matter of the board not quite asking all the right questions.
"They need to sit down and have dialogue with us," he said, suggesting that the unions have a seat at the table when labor issues are presented to the trustees, either to provide additional information and a second viewpoint or to rebut what the administration is saying.
Dr. Nancy White, president of the 380-member faculty union, said there is a perception either real or imagined that employees are not to have direct contact with trustees and that trustees are not to have direct contact with employees.
White said she would prefer to sit down with the board or selected members of the board and have an informal conversation about campus issues.
David Spatholt, Student Government Association president, pointed out that there are two student trustees on the board and the SGA believes they express student needs and concerns to the full body.
However, when it comes to labor management and negotiations, students feel their needs are often left out of the process, he said.