by Abigail Cloutier
Youngstown State University’s Board of Trustees passed a new budget, restructuring plan, and more for the 2020-2021 academic year in the wake of COVID-19.
The university’s restructuring plan was accepted by the board during their live-streamed meeting on June 3 and 4. The plan included consolidating the Beeghly College of Education and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences into one college, which eliminates multiple department positions. Trustee Capri Cafaro was the only dissenting vote. YSU-OEA, the university’s faculty union, also opposed the restructuring plan, citing a lack of communication or consultation.
Additionally, the university moved to merge the department of physics and astronomy and department of geology and environmental science, with Dr. Gregg Sturrus as chair and moving the former chair of geology, Dr. Jeff Dick, to program coordinator. The department of communications was also moved from Cliffe College of Creative Arts and Communications to the Williamson College of Business Administration.
With this restructuring plan comes a reduced budget, projected at over $26 million dollars less than the previous year. The board estimated that YSU will receive a 20% reduction in state funding and a 15% drop in enrollment. The changes come with a 2% increase in tuition for returning students, which is the maximum allowed under the Penguin Promise, and 4% increase for incoming students.
Though students will be returning to campus, Dr. Eddie Howard and Julie Gentile, director of environmental occupational health and safety, warn that it will look a little different than previous years.
“Our goal was to look at recommendations to either alter the calendar and establish safety protocols to establish campus guidelines around campus return, and establish safety guidelines for faculty and students,” Howard said.
Each department was required to come up with their own safety and health plans. So far, 55 departments have submitted, and 50 have been approved. Additionally, 10 portable hand washing units have been installed throughout campus, and face coverings are required on-campus at all times. The university will also adhere to social distancing guidelines set by the CDC, but details about classroom capacity and enforcement of these guidelines are still unclear.
For incoming students, things also look a little different. YSU will offer test-optional admissions through spring of 2021, and freshman orientation sessions will remain online. The university will also be offering increased scholarship opportunities in partnership with the YSU foundation for students and transfer students affected by the pandemic.
So far, 1,809 students received a payout through the emergency COVID-19 funds granted to universities by the national government. The Penguin Cares fundraising initiative has also awarded grants to over a hundred students and is still working through applications.