By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- State Auditor Jim Petro and his staff have years of experience crunching numbers, researching statistics and poring over hard data.
But in the auditor's office's eight-month examination of the major challenges facing Youngstown State University, it took more than a calculator, Excel program and an accountant.
A diplomat may have been more appropriate.
The problems: "There's a lack of spirit," Petro said. "There almost appears to be disunity among the components of the university. There are turf battles. There is mistrust.
"In the end, that really does detract from the university and its purpose to serve the region."
Petro released a report Monday that for more than 1,000 pages details how to improve YSU's operations, including 168 recommendations on a wide range of issues, issues, including financial aid and minority students.
But the auditor, whose office invested 14,000 hours piecing together the report, said success in implementing the recommendations depends on developing trusting relationships and a reinvigorated spirit on campus.
"There really does need to be a new era of trust," Petro said. "The economic success of this region will depend a lot on how Youngstown State does."
Labor relations: Improving labor-management relations is a major part of Petro's performance audit report, which suggests that YSU get an outside facilitator to help build trust.
William Bresnahan, president of Hynes Industries Inc. of Austintown and chairman of the YSU Operations Improvement Task Force, said he is confident YSU President David Sweet can work to improve the campus environment.
"There's one way to overcome the mistrust, and that's through enhanced communication," Bresnahan said. "[Sweet's] a listener, and not just of people up on the hill at the university. That's something that gives me a lot of hope."
Sweet said he sees the 168 recommendations in the report as opportunities, and he said the administration soon will begin prioritizing the suggestions and developing an implementation plan.
"This is going to take time, but it's going to be something that is going to be aggressively pursued," Bresnahan said.
Good things: In spite of the numerous recommendations, Petro said the performance audit reveals a university that is "physically strong, generally efficient and extremely competent in its principal mission of educating young people."
"It's a pretty lean organization," Bresnahan said.
"There isn't a lot of loose change," Sweet added.