After an extensive five month wait, Eric Shehadi was appointed by Governor Kasich on Friday to fill the vacant student trustee position on the Youngstown State University Board of Trustees.
“I have had the opportunity to talk with Eric and am very impressed by his commitment to taking on the duties of a student trustee. He will be a strong voice for all the students of YSU,” said YSU President Randy Dunn.
The position was left empty by Joshua Prest, whose last day was April 30. Shehadi, a third-year mathematics major and employee of the YSU Department of Mathematics and Statistics, was chosen from a short list of six candidates to fill it.
He will serve beside Melissa Wasser, a fourth-year philosophy and political science major, as the liaisons between the student body and the nine other members on the board of trustees.
The board performs many responsibilities such as appointing the president and deciding on an operating budget. Along with the president, they serve as the most influential administrators in the university.
“I’m really excited for Eric; I think he’s a great choice,” Wasser said. “I think he will do really well.”
Shehadi plans to hit the ground running when he begins his two-year term. He has said that one of his goals is to increase collaboration between YSU and the city of Youngstown. Shehadi was exposed to the city while working an internship with the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation.
“I think that is one thing I would like to focus on: finding new ways for the city of Youngstown and the university to collaborate because we face a lot of the same challenges. YSU is seeing an enrollment, the city of Youngstown is seeing a population decline,” Shehadi said. “How can we attract people not only to our university, but to our city?”
Shehadi said that with the right people, we could start to see an increase in enrollment and more revitalization in the city.
As a representative of the students, Shehadi also plans to take a more active role in encouraging student awareness and participation in the workings of the university.
“Too often, we see people with leadership positions where they are like ‘well, I always have an open-door policy. People can come to me if they have issues.’ Now I hope to take the approach where I’m gonna hopefully get out there and educate you, tell you what you should be concerned about, and get you informed and involved,” Shehadi said.
As a student trustee rather than a standard board member, Shehadi will not be permitted a vote, but he may still serve on committees and task forces. His primary role is to make the board of trustees aware of the will and needs of the student body.
“I’ll be able to voice the opinion of the students,” Shehadi said. “One of my main responsibilities is going to be finding out what is important to the students, gauging that opinion, and relaying that opinion to the rest of the trustees on the board.”
The decision came suddenly after five months of a student trustee absence on the board, with only Wasser to represent the YSU students.
On May 28, the YSU Office of the President sent the application list to the Governor’s Office, where it stayed for nearly 4 months before a decision was returned. Applicants for the position were left mostly in the dark as the decision was made at the Governor’s office in Columbus.
“I didn’t really hear anything at all. It was slightly frustrating at times, because I knew there was a few other people who submitted applications also and none of us really heard anything,” Shehadi said, who sent in his application back in April.
This long of a wait for a student trustee for YSU is not unprecedented. Last year, Wasser was forced to wait until Sept. 13 before word of an appointment, with only Prest serving as a student trustee. Before that, Prest also waited until Sept 20.
“It is one person for 13,000 students,” Wasser said. “I don’t really think that is okay.”
YSU was one of the last universities in the state to receive the appointment. Kent State, for example, received their appointment in mid-July.
“If you do a quick Google search of ‘Kasich student trustee,’ you’ll see all kinds of other universities in Ohio pop-up. Some were appointed as early as April,” Shehadi said. “I guess YSU is one of the last if not the last.”
Other universities have also had to contend with unprecedented waits. In 2011, Miami University did not receive student trustee appointment until Oct. after a 10 month delay.
Eileen Korey, the Chief Communications Officer at Akron, said the University of Akron, whose student trustee’s term typically begins July 1, has not yet received an appointment.
“I never say that losing a member representing you is a good thing. It is always better to have two, because you see they miss an opportunity to be on a different committee,” said Harry Meshel, former State Senator and member of the YSU board of trustees. “Because we are assigned to various committees and that way we should have another student on the committees. I’ve always felt the student should have a major voice.”
The delay will cut into Shehadi’s time as student trustee, as it was with Wasser. His term will still end April 30, 2015, despite his appointment coming so late in the year.