The majority of students eligible for graduation took part in the ceremonies.
By KATIE LIBECCO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State University's summer commencement came off without a hitch, despite a strike by nonteaching university employees.
Many YSU faculty members stood on the picket line to support striking Association of Classified Employees union members as the university's summer commencement began Saturday morning. However, their presence was not intended to disrupt the event.
In fact, faculty and picketing YSU-ACE members held signs saying "Congratulations YSU Grads" and "YSU-ACE Supports YSU Grads" as they congratulated graduates and their families on their way to the commencement.
"We are totally supportive and proud of our graduates," said Nancy White, a member of the university's faculty union.
Instead of attending commencement, some faculty members stood on the ACE picket line wearing the robes and hoods they would have worn to the commencement ceremonies.
Some of the graduates and their families attending commencement stopped to shake hands and share words of encouragement and support to the YSU-ACE members.
"We wanted to support their strike. They are picketing in a peaceful, loving and supporting manner," White said.
About 50 faculty members participated in the commencement, which is roughly the average number for a typical summer commencement, said Ron Cole, YSU spokesman.
"Thankfully, everything has been pretty smooth," Cole said.
University officials had prepared in case things hadn't gone smoothly: Police and additional security were visible at Saturday's commencement.
About 400 graduates took part in commencement, roughly 80 percent of those eligible, which Cole said is the typical percentage of students who participate in a summer commencement.
Liz Richardson was one graduate who did not participate. Richardson was to receive her diploma for a master's degree in counseling during commencement Saturday. Instead, she stood on the picket line in her cap and gown to show her support of the unions.
"I don't cross picket lines," she said.
Although her family was planning to attend the ceremony, she said that they were proud of her for "doing the right thing."
All diplomas, including Richardson's, will be mailed to the summer graduates. YSU-ACE union members were responsible for the printing of diplomas, so they were not available at the time of commencement. Instead, graduates received an empty folder in which they can place their diplomas when they are received.
Thomas R. Hollern, area president of National City Bank, Northeast Region, spoke to the graduates at the commencement. He received a doctorate of humane letters, an honorary degree, from YSU's board of trustees.
Representatives of YSU and the YSU-ACE negotiating team met for several hours Friday afternoon. No agreement was reached, but the sides will meet again Monday.
YSU-ACE union president Christine Domhoff has expressed her hope of reaching an agreement Monday.
Faculty union members will vote Monday on a contract offer proposed by YSU. Representatives from the union have said that if their members reject the contract, a strike vote will be held.
YSU's summer commencement included a record 46 students graduating from its master of business administration program, including 12 from YSU's Executive MBA program.
The Executive MBA program was established in 1990 for individuals with a minimum of five years professional experience. It consists of 18 months of day-length classes every Saturday and a mandatory international educational trip.