YSU’s Culture of Community
By Liam Bouquet
Administration gathered in Tod Hall on Feb. 24 to discuss President Jim Tressel’s plans to create a “culture of community” at Youngstown State University.
The culture of community initiative would create a vertically integrated collaborative that would report to the administration as well as a smaller council.
The specifics of the culture of community collaborative and its role is still under discussion, but Sylvia Imler, executive director of multicultural affairs and interim associative provost for international and global initiatives, said the fundamental goal is to increase diversity on YSU’s campus.
“Here we are looking at how we can increase diversity at the University, address barriers, capitalize on any opportunities present, stimulate a movement towards achieving the vision and positioning ourselves as a leader of diversity,” she said.
Tressel and Imler emphasized, both in the administrative meeting and in a meeting with YSU’s Student Government Association on Feb. 22, that this vision of diversity is not limited to just race or ethnicity.
“We have been talking about this for over a year transitioning from the old university diversity council,” Imler said. “We can create a more nurturing environment where all members feel a part of it. The vision here is that we would reflect the diverse population of our valley, the nation and our world.”
To realize this vision, Tressel and Imler said they had to collect members from all across campus. In the meeting with SGA, Tressel asked the student body to select two members for the collaborative, emphasizing the need for a persistent passion for the group’s goals.
“So who in your group would do a great job selling what we are trying to create?” Tressel asked the administrators present at Wednesday’s meeting. “And has an intentional, conscious awareness that we cannot truly become great until the entire institution appreciates each other and decides to learn how to create one another as we would like to be treated?”
Tentatively, the collaborative will have 65 members — including 13 faculty, 26 staff, 21 students and five community members — from the Academic Senate, the seven colleges on campus, the unions and the various administrative bodies.
“These are big units, and we want a lot of people. There are 14,000 students that we are trying to create a cultural community from,” Tressel said.
Tressel and administrators discussed the addition of other representatives from prominent groups.
“Under Greek life, you just got the two councils, and there is a third council — NPHC. If you depict IFC and PanHellenic, then I think you need to add NPHC as well, which is the historically black Greek organizations. IFC and PanHellenic might not represent them the way they feel they need to be represented,” Eddie Howard said, the associate vice president of student experience.
Tressel agreed. He has also been responsive to suggestions from students adding adjunct representatives after a student drew attention to their significant presence at YSU.
Martin Abraham, the provost and vice president for academic affairs, said it was imperative that the group maintained some consistency across the years. Encouraging the choice of faculty that would remain at YSU for the near future.
Tressel and Imler plan to approach deans and campus leaders about choosing representatives and continue promoting the initiative across the next month planning the first meeting for April.
“Our goal is by the end of March to have the delegates selected and vetted a little bit. We need to make sure we don’t have 60 men and five women or 63 grey haired white guys and nobody who looks different,” Tressel said.
The collaborative will meet once every semester with the smaller culture of community committee acting as handlers — presenting the representatives of the collaborative with ideas and information as well as managing the overall vision.
“This is really why universities were created. You bring people from lots of different vantage points, and you get to know them. It is not a new vision. We are not inventing the wheel,” Tressel said. “In creating that spirit, that belief, that tradition that you are at a great place … you want respect and well-being; you want inclusion and awareness.”