Letter to the YSU Board of Trustees and YSU Campus Community:
Toward the end of 2016, YSU released the findings of the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Great Colleges to Work For” Campus Climate survey, wherein faculty, staff, and administrators were asked to voice their opinions and concerns about current conditions at YSU. The survey revealed an astounding array of systemic problems that warrant serious attention. In every category, YSU’s campus climate fared much worse in comparison to the campus climate of peer institutions across the nation. Even in our strongest categories, YSU rated only in the “Fair to Mediocre” level on the Great Colleges Scale. In our weakest categories, like those on faculty and staff relations with upper-level administration, shared governance, and campus collaboration, YSU rated 20 to 30 percentage points below the average of our peers. Faculty and staff have been given many opportunities to elaborate on the results of the survey and provide additional feedback, yet no meaningful measures have been taken to address the root causes of most of these problems.
These results should have the entire community concerned, not only because they highlight an unhappy working environment, but also because they reveal significant problems in many of the areas the Higher Learning Commission will use to evaluate YSU as part of next academic year’s accreditation review. Because the results reveal such wide gaps between YSU and its peers in these critical areas, there is a real risk of corrective action from the accrediting agency.
Employees on campus, including full-time and part-time faculty, staff, and the Administration, share a commitment to student success and desire to see the institution thrive. However, many full-time faculty, including all signatories below, are deeply concerned with the direction of YSU in recent years. Some of our most notable concerns are:
- YSU faculty opinions are too often ignored when making important institutional decisions
- The majority of hires in senior administrative positions in the past five years have been appointed without consideration of faculty and staff opinions, which is a violation of YSU standard procedures, and accepted best practices for higher education.
- In several instances, the recommendations of faculty and staff-led committees have been wholly ignored, and upper-level administration has acted unilaterally.
- YSU faculty is the lowest paid among comprehensive state universities in Ohio
- Despite having one of the highest teaching loads in the state, YSU faculty currently ranks lowest of all comprehensive Ohio public Universities in terms of salary. Compared to our peers, an assistant professor at YSU is paid about $10,000 less; an associate professor about $8,000 less; and a full professor about $20,000 less.
- YSU faculty has been falling further behind peers
- Since FY 2011, YSU faculty endured significant decreases in real compensation: Pay for summer teaching has been capped and reduced; Teaching loads have increased; Research and service time has been severely cut; Healthcare contributions have skyrocketed; Extended teaching for faculty near retirement has been eliminated.
- As a result, YSU spending on faculty salaries has been reduced by approximately $5 million, which represents an 11% decline.
- YSU’s budgets have placed academic affairs behind athletic and administrative spending
- Since FY 2012, spending on academic affairs has declined by 5.3%, or $4.7 million, while spending on intercollegiate athletics has increased by 26.8%, or $3.1 million.
- Spending on intercollegiate athletics is projected to exceed its earned income by $11.3 million this year, or approximately $1,100 per full-time equivalent student. This deficit is funded through a transfer from YSU’s General Fund.
- A 2013 financial audit showed that YSU spends significantly less of its budget on academic affairs, and significantly more of its budget on auxiliary/athletic enterprises compared to other public institutions in Ohio.
- This year, the Board of Trustees approved significant salary raises for many upper-level administrators. These included $10,000 annual raises for the Provost, the Vice President of Legal Affairs, and the Vice President of Finance and Business Operations. Several of these upper-level administrators were singled out specifically in the survey as directly contributing to failures in shared governance and lack of support for the academic mission.
As evidenced by the campus climate survey, this lack of prioritization of academic affairs and unwillingness to govern through collaboration has created a campus community that feels undervalued, disrespected, and overworked.
Moving forward, YSU’s Board of Trustees and Senior Administration can continue on the current path, forcing faculty to fall even further behind peers in pay and work conditions, further reducing employee morale, and diminishing our ability to hire and retain top faculty. This path will surely exacerbate the already feeble climate on campus, and this deterioration will be in plain sight of the Higher Learning Commission officials as they consider our re-accreditation.
Or we can choose a new path, one in which we make learning the priority by increasing support for our academic programs. Administration can start by avoiding contentious negotiations and offering faculty a fair contract with real increases in compensation and increased support for research and service projects. The Administration and Board of Trustees must also show a firm commitment to shared governance by heeding the majority opinions of faculty and staff on university committees when making institutional decisions, following best practices widely accepted across Higher Education, and by our accrediting body.
For the sake of this institution and the success of our students, we sincerely hope that the latter path is chosen.
James H. Andrews
Christopher M. Bellas
Frank J. Bosso
William R. Buckler
Joy Christiansen Erb
Eleanor A. Congdon
Thomas P. Diggins
Stephen Ray Flora
Stephen L. Gage
Jay L. Gordon
Cryshanna Jackson Leftwich
Denise A. Narcisse
Anita C. O’Mellan
Alicia Prieto Langarica
Carla Anne Simonini
Linda J. Strom
Albert J. Sumell
Stephanie A. Tingley
Mark C. Vopat
Robert E. Wardle III
Mary Lynn Yacovone