Pinned to the wall of The Jambar’s conference room is a small blue business card. The design is simple; a muscular head of a long horned bull under the name ‘Harry Michelakis Meshel’.
Harry Meshel is 91 years old and only now ending his nine-year term serving the university. While legendary actor John Wayne was portraying a member of the naval construction battalions in his World War II drama “The Fighting Seabees,” Meshel was actually living the experience and earned two Bronze Stars.
He wanted to get into politics, so he did. He became a state senator in 1971, and eventually went on to chair the Ohio Democratic Party. He secured funding for a new building at Youngstown State University and got his name hung on its wall for his efforts. Later, he was appointed to the University’s Board of Trustees, where he spent nine years speaking his mind with vigor and volume, niceties be damned.
Meshel did not pull punches while he sat on the Board of Trustees. He was as quick to show appreciation as he was to lay into someone. He had no use for canned responses and would talk frankly and at length about nearly any subject.
The bull is the perfect icon for Meshel. It is strong, commanding and being on the wrong end of it is terrifying. Regrettably, the bull’s greatest strengths are also its greatest weaknesses. That’s why phrases like “bull-headed” and “like a bull in a china shop” exist; they describe a beast of enormous power exercising little nuance or control over that power.
The dual nature of the bull was never clearer than Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting. As reported on this issue’s front page, Meshel and students in the computer science major are embroiled in a fight with the administration over the use of the building.
The administration plans on moving communications labs from the basement of Fedor Hall to the first floor of Meshel Hall in an effort to maximize space efficiency. CS students currently have specialized research labs on the first floor, which would be moved to make room for the communications lab.
Meshel, and the CS students, argue that the hall — Meshel’s namesake and most immediately recognizable legacy at the university — was built for computer sciences.
In his defense of the building bearing his name, Meshel accused the school of foolishly ignoring computer science, of neglecting the building, of falling behind schools like Carnegie Mellon University and Penn State University, of allowing “punk schools up and down Belmont Avenue” to offer two year degrees in the field without offering any notable competition.
At one point, Meshel accused Martin Abraham, the current Provost and the former dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, of outright ignoring his request for the computer sciences to receive more attention in STEM programming efforts.
Whether that interaction between the men — or Meshel’s version of it — ever actually happened we have no way of knowing. Regardless, it was enough to continue fueling Meshel’s admonishment.
“I should have dropped you then,” Meshel hissed at Abraham before claiming no one at the university was worth a damn.
Samantha Anderson, a student trustee, attempted to reassure Meshel that reallocating the space might be of value to students, but was cut off when he snapped that she was “talking to him like a child talks to a grandfather.”
He packed his bag and walked out of the meeting. His final act at an official Board of Trustees meeting was chastising a student.
Before continuing, it’s important to recognize that Meshel’s anger is understandable — his namesake and legacy is not being used how he envisioned, and he feels it is to the detriment of a section of the student body. If the story about Abraham is true, then his frustration is understandable there as well. Even his annoyance with Anderson’s reassuring can be understood. There is a 70 year age gap between the two, and many — right or wrong — tie credibility to age.
Having said that, in the spirit of Harry Meshel’s unapologetic, tell-it-like-it-is style, Sen. Meshel, you need to apologize to Samantha Anderson if you haven’t already.
Regardless of whether his frustration is understandable, Meshel is still a representative of the campus. Yes, he’s 70 years Anderson’s senior. Neither that — nor being a veteran, a state senator or a wonderfully involved individual and a treasure to Youngstown — justifies treating someone with the disrespect he directed at Anderson.
Meshel was a force to be reckoned with at YSU, most often to the benefit of the university. He will be missed, but before he goes, it would honor his reputation to make his final act one of humility and grace rather than a furious rant.
DISCLAIMER: The Jambar is currently investigating the potential changes coming to Meshel Hall. Check future issues for more details.
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