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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Alumni asking for transparency in search for new YSU president

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — After Youngstown State University Board of Trustees last week offered the president’s position to US Rep. Bill Johnson, five alumni met on a video conference call and decided to send a letter opposing Johnson’s selection and the process of picking him.

The five alumni who wrote the letter graduated from YSU between 2014 and 2017. One of them was Ashley Orr, YSU’s only Rhodes Scholar and graduate of the class of 2016.

“YSU gave us an incredible opportunity, and also give us power and and privilege with the degrees that we earned there and critical thinking and community that we built,” Orr said.

The letter called Johnson’s positions “highly contentious,” which “increases the need for public vetting.” It demanded the board “rescind its offer to Bill Johnson” and conduct a search that “involves the university at large,” and involves not only Johnson as a candidate, but “at least two other candidates.”

“The thing we are objecting to is the closed doors, undemocratic, non-transparent process by which they’ve offered the presidency,” said Daniel Catello, class of 2014 graduate.

“When you extend the presidency to a public official with a public track record, that may very well be controversial, you need to include the community,” said 2017 graduate Jacob Schriner-Briggs.

The letter, which used footnotes citing sources, stated that Johnson opposed gay marriage, supported a travel ban from majority-Muslim countries and questioned the validity of the 2020 election.

“This process was not transparent, and it didn’t allow us to ask Johnson what his vision is given his previous statements and given his stances and given what is known in the public eye,” said Orr.

“He is unconventional as a candidate for this position in the sense that he doesn’t have an experience in higher education administration,” said 2017 graduate Tyler Pabst.

“We’d also like to communicate to the board that this is an opportunity to involve the community and we would love to see that happen. This is an opportunity to correct a mistep,” said Madeline Grimes, a 2017 graduate.

The five alumni are aware the board of trustees is meeting again Tuesday, and the presidency is on the agenda.

The full letter from the students can be read below:

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