Last week, The Jambar received three letters to the editor from a student, SGA representatives and a YSU chair and professor. Yes, you heard that right. The Jambar received three whole letters in a single week and, potentially more revolutionary, all the letters were in reference to the same controversy — gasp. So what exactly has lit a fire under the collective ass of the YSU community? The hiring of Ron Brown as the new YSU assistant coach.
Dwarfing the locker room controversy that surrounded Pelini’s introduction into the university, Ron Brown is known for somewhat neolithic views on the homosexual community and a love of expressing those beliefs publicly; an evangelical Christian who was known to preach to his team. He has also told the Associated Press, “that based on the Bible, homosexuality, the lifestyle of homosexuality, is a sin.” It isn’t exactly surprising that he stirred up some controversy on college campuses.
Though YSU’s athletics department has remained tight-lipped about the whole affair and an official announcement has been made, Ron Brown himself has confirmed his role as the new assistant coach. He is, apparently, currently working on campus.
But this editorial isn’t about denouncing this man’s views and their latent threat to YSU, something the letters to the editor accomplished already, but it is about YSU’s response to the obvious controversy. Or, should we say, their lack of response.
This whole turgid affair is representative of a noxious trend that can be identified out of this incident.
The YSU administration and Board of Trustees’ methodology, in recent memory, has been to act almost entirely unilaterally and with apparent impressive disregard for the opinion of the community.
Despite the letters to the editor, incendiary debates appearing on social media and a recent vote of ‘no confidence’ in the Academic Senate against the provost, we are not going to pretend that the majority of the student body is wracked with indignant rage over this hiring — we aren’t even sure if a majority know about it. It isn’t the number of voices involved in the controversy; it’s about the nature of the controversy. There have been valid concerns of possible discrimination; and, fundamentally, this is a concern that could involve conflicting rights — of free speech and the separation of church and state.
That isn’t a situation where you put your hands over your ears and scream “LALALA” until everyone shuts up and goes home; it isn’t an issue where you let responses and assurances trickle out slowly.
This is the brand of controversy that you tackle head-on. This is the type of controversy where you are happy to answer our calls because you want to assure worried students and professors that there will be no discrimination or state-sponsored evangelizing allowed at your university.
Even if this response was a simple decoy to silence naysayers, at least it is something. Silence is so much worse. It tells concerned parties that the issue is not worth your time, and, by extension, the individual presenting the problem is not worth your time.
And this isn’t an isolated incident. Last year, during the selection process for President Tressel, the Board of Trustees was the only entity represented on the search committee. Though this is not unusual at other universities, it is an odd break from the YSU tradition to include Board members, professors and students on the search committee.
Then, on the same day that the YSU faculty union, YSU-OEA, was to vote on the tentative contract, YSU decided to fire Coach Eric Wolford. Part of Wolford’s contract stipulated that he receive a buyout of $100,000 upon dismissal unless he received a job within the next year. Wolford ended up receiving a job with the 49ers, and the sum of his salary there will reduce the sum of his buyout.
Nonetheless, the faculty knew one thing when he was removed — there was a possibility that YSU was paying $100,000 on athletics in the midst of accusations that YSU was more concerned with athletics than academics. It is pure foolishness to make this decision on the day of an important vote during an extremely contentious faculty negotiation.
No wonder that in every interview with Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, YSU-OEA’s chief negotiator and a professor at YSU, he says the same thing: YSU is depriving faculty of shared governance of the university. In addition, the total weight of the YSU community’s opinion seems to be diminishing.
If acting unilaterally is going to be the flavor of the next few years, you could at least capitulate to one demand and be more transparent with these decisions. Give us some warning of your intentions so it at least feels like our opinions could potentially have an impact — not just cannon fire after the battle has long been decided for us. Don’t get us wrong, this isn’t really enough, but at least, “no legacy is so rich as honesty.”
We hope that YSU just has an image problem, and they care deeply about the opinion of the YSU community; they remain silent or obstinate only because they have a masterwork plan that we plebeians could simply not understand.
To everyone looking in, though, it sure seems that YSU’s head doesn’t much care about the opinion of the rest of its body.