An urban planner is paying a portion of the cost of his three-week trip to China.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Some members of the Youngstown State University community are questioning the university's decision to spend about $29,700 to send 11 YSU administrators and faculty members to China this month.
"We really don't see what comes back from that at all," said Emily Eckman, outgoing Student Government Association president. "There are so many money problems at YSU right now. Sometimes you have to prioritize what you spend your money on."
In a YSU letter dated April 20, Hunter Morrison, director of YSU's Center for Urban and Regional Studies, said there are several direct benefits to the university for his attendance at the three-week East-West Center seminar and field study on "China's Contending Metropolitan Regions: Hong Kong and Shanghai."
Among them are developing relationships with Chinese universities to help grow enrollment and enhance offerings at YSU; to understand the needs of international students and help make YSU more attractive to them; and to understand the dynamics of the Chinese economy as he provides urban and regional planning here.
"I am responsible for providing advice and directing studies of the economy of the Mahoning Valley and the Northeast Ohio region," he writes in the letter, which requests university approval of the trip. "Our major competition is, and will continue to be, China. Our jobs and our mills are rapidly going East."
Morrison is in China from May 16 to June 6. He paid the seminar admission fee of $600. YSU will pay for his $1,226 airfare and $202 visa cost, said Ron Cole, YSU's manager of news and information services.
Others on trip
Also among those in China is a group of seven faculty members with Dr. George McCloud, dean of the College of Fine and Performing Arts, and Dr. Phillip Ginnetti, dean of the Beeghly College of Education. Five of the faculty members are from the Dana School of Music, and two are from the art department.
The group seeks to continue development of a partnership with Chinese institutions, including the Nanjing Art Institute, Cole said. The institute's president visited YSU last year, and YSU is working to finalize an agreement for faculty and student exchanges with the school.
The Dana professors will perform in Nanjing and conduct master's classes; in return, Nanjing performers will visit YSU in October, Cole said.
The group left May 15 and returns Sunday. It made a stop at the East-West Center in Hawaii on the way to China and is visiting the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Hangzhou and Nanjing. The cost is estimated at $2,980 for McCloud and $2,880 for each of the others, Cole said.
The 11th YSU representative in China is Dr. Sylvia Imler, an assistant professor in teacher education, who is giving presentations at two colleges in Gui Zhou. Her May 14 to May 30 trip is estimated to cost the university $2,250.
Eckman said a student trustee recently attended a university-sponsored trip to Salerno, Italy, which resulted in the development of a sister city and sister university relationship with the city and University of Salerno. That trustee made a report to student government representatives regarding the work done on the trip. Eckman said those visiting China should do the same.
YSU's fall 2003 international enrollment was 150 students, of which seven were from China. Of the total number, eight international students, of which one was Chinese, were in YSU's nondegree English Language Institute.
Although Christine Domhoff, president of the YSU Association of Classified Employees union, said diversity is important at YSU, she questioned whether the university could afford to send the representatives to China.
Upon hearing this month's $29,700 cost, Domhoff pointed out that the union currently has a grievance with the university for refusing to pay the mileage cost she accrues by driving from her relocated office at the Metro College campus in Boardman to the YSU main campus for mandatory meetings regarding union issues -- the cost is about $6 per trip.
Dr. Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, director of the Dr. James Dale Ethics Center at YSU, said he understands the academic aspect of visiting China but is unsure of other reasons.
"It is surely one thing for those involved in the academic affairs of the university to establish relations with the Chinese universities and students, but I find it puzzling that Hunter Morrison, who has hardly any involvement in the academics of the university, should be part of such a trip," Palmer-Fernandez said.
He added, however, that all faculty members have annual travel budgets to use for academic seminars as they see fit, and Morrison may also be afforded such a budget.
The seminar Morrison is attending explores the competition between regional rivals Hong Kong and Shanghai, according to an East-West Center Web site. Among the topics is an examination of the cities' historical and cultural backgrounds, economic functions under globalization, political systems and regional development. Morrison writes in his letter that he was invited to attend the event.