YSU trustees meet this afternoon to get updated on contract negotiations.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Despite threats of two possible employee strikes, enrollment remains strong for the fall semester at Youngstown State University, the administration reports.
As of the end of July, YSU had registered 10,494 students for classes that begin Aug. 26, up from 10,317 at the same time last year, said Walt Ulbricht, university spokesman.
"I think it's positive that we're at this rate," he said.
Increasing enrollment has been a top priority of Dr. David Sweet since he took YSU's presidency two years ago.
After more than a decade of large, chronic losses, enrollment jumped nearly 4 percent last fall to 12,250, the biggest fall semester increase in 12 years.
The university hopes to increase that by 5 percent, or 613 students, this fall, boosting enrollment to 12,863.
But the possibility of a disruption of fall classes by strikes by the faculty and staff unions could scare off some potential students.
"If I was a parent, I would worry," said John Russo, president of the YSU faculty union. "But this is not a position that the faculty or staff wanted to be in."
Ulbricht said he knows of not a single student who has withdrawn from YSU because of the labor problems.
"We are receiving concerned questions about [the potential strikes], but at this time we don't see any tangible effects of it," he said.
"Students are being told that the university will be open and we are expecting to hold classes," he added.
The YSU-Association of Classified Employees, which represents about 370 workers ranging from groundskeepers to computer programmers, has filed a formal strike notice for 12:01 a.m. Aug. 16, the day before YSU's summer commencement. The university has said commencement will proceed even if there is a strike.
Bargaining teams for YSU and the classified union will meet with a federal mediator Tuesday, one other day this week and every day next week leading up to the deadline.
"We're trying to keep a very positive attitude because we would really like to get a resolution," said Christine Domhoff, ACE chief negotiator.
The contract for YSU's chapter of the Ohio Education Association, which represents about 350 faculty members, enters the fact-finding process this week. The current contract expires Aug. 21.
A fact-finding officer will conduct a hearing Wednesday and Thursday at YSU to hear arguments from both sides. He then will choose either the union's or the university's proposal.
The fact-finder's report, which is expected to come out about Aug. 15, is not binding. The faculty and university trustees will vote on the report.
The faculty will meet Aug. 15 to review the proposals and possibly set a strike date, which likely would be the first day of fall semester classes on Aug. 26, Russo said.
The university has said classes will be conducted Aug. 26 even if there is a strike. YSU's trustees board meets this afternoon to review the situation.
"I would really love to have some discussions with the board and see if they understand where we are," Domhoff said. "I'm not sure that anybody has informed the top administration of where everything is headed."