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Shed a tear for YSU employees



Published: Sun, December 12, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)


“Just when I thought that I was out, they pull me back in.”

— Michael Corleone, in “The Godfather III,” speaking of his Mafia rivals.

That comment aptly describes this writer’s relationship with the classified employees at Youngstown State University. Two weeks ago, the column headlined, “YSU’s future is bleak,” was meant to be the last one on the troubled institution for this year.

But then came the front page story Thursday on the bonus checks — that’s right, b-o-n-u-s — 400 members of the Association of Classified Employees will be cashing shortly, and once again “they pull me back in.”

But rather than rail against the greed that seems endemic of public sector employment, today’s column is offered as a condolence to those poor souls in ACE.

This Christmas will be the last for the bonuses. The gravy train has left the station.

Let us shed a tear for all those employees who are not administrators, faculty, professional staff or police officers. They will have to suffer (if such a word can be applied to employment at YSU) like the rest next Christmas.

Lighter this year

There’s another reason to sympathize with these harried public employees: The bonus checks they will receive in the next couple of weeks are lighter than the ones they got last Christmas.

Here’s a run down of their shake down: 2008, $1,125 each; 2009, $4,500; this year, $2,625. Grand total: $8,250.

Had more academic shlubs enrolled at Youngstown State for the 2010-11 semester, it would have been “Happy Days Are Here Again” in the sunny climes of the tropics. Winters in Ohio do chill the soul.

However, the $2,625 will allow for a trip to Florida – to scope out retirement communities.

The bonuses granted to ACE employees are the result of higher enrollments, even though members of the union had little or nothing to do with the increased number of students.

If anyone deserves credit, it’s former President George W. Bush, who drove the national economy into a recession, which created massive job losses, which resulted in the nation’s universities and colleges becoming havens of last resort, thereby enabling them to set enrollment records.

Why, then, was it necessary for former YSU President Dr. David Sweet and the board of trustees at the time to even consider a bonus plan for the classified workers? Because the administration and trustees wanted the union to drop a lawsuit pertaining to two additional personal days.

They figured it would be cheaper playing Santa Claus than agreeing to the additional time off — with pay.

Even so, the total cost of the bonuses is several million dollars.

Add that to the pay raises and other incentives all employees of the university received in the three-year contracts that expire next summer, and it’s clear YSU had dug itself into a deep financial hole.

And when the state cut back on funding for higher education, YSU found the hole getting even deeper.

Tuition, fees

So, the administration and trustees responded in the only way possible — they stuck it to the students through increases in tuition and fees.

Thus it is, that the “Ho! Ho! Ho!” of this Christmas and the Christmases past for the ACE employees will become “No! No! No!” next year.

It will be a cold day in hell before another bonus proposal is even considered by the trustees. Why? Because the customers of YSU — the students and parents — won’t stand for it.

Neither will the new governor of the state of Ohio, Republican John Kasich, and the Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly. Kasich has already served notice that the winds of change he will be blowing across the public sector will get rid of the dead wood and the inefficiencies built into government.

YSU will not be in a position to make a pitch for more money from Columbus if employees are pocketing raises and other financial sweeteners.

Indeed, all the state’s universities and colleges will be under the gun to demonstrate that they not only are operating as efficiently as possible, but that students are getting real value for the money they’re spending in tuition and fees.


Comments

1author50(1121 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

But no rants against the county and local governments - not to mention the non-profits when they rape and pillage the taxpayers for their goodies. Look at the library and what they are doing with increased taxpayer dollars for 2011. A 60% increase in salaries, perks and other expenses.

At least he didn't write about Traficant - so things are improving there.

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2mrblue(972 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

The students are going to continue to get the shaft in increased tuition and other fees.

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3BufordTJustice(7 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Not the Godfather; but All the President’s Men

In the movie All the President’s Men, Jason Robards (playing Ben Bradley editor of the Washington Post) tossed out the line "Does anyone have an ax to grind?" In saying this he was – in the film anyway – trying to uphold a high standard of journalism by preventing his newspaper from being used as a weapon by someone who had a private agenda against another party.

Freedom of the press is a wonderful thing. It prevents the higher ups from stifling open discussion and debate on important or sensitive topics. Unfortunately, responsibility of the press is largely self-policed, and newspapers are pretty much free to say almost anything they want about almost anyone or anything.

YSU has had more than its share of administrative blunders in the past decade, and these should certainly be, and have been, brought to light in the Vindicator. Bertram, however, has continually painted the most dismal portrait of YSU possible, trashing everybody including YSU trustees, administrators, faculty, support staff, and students. Yes students. In a prior article he referred to YSU as one of the "bottom-feeders." A not-so-subtle statement indicating that YSU students are the bottom of the barrel. In the current article he refers to YSU students as "academic shlubs." Think about this berating of students carefully. Does it make sense for the Vindicator to employ a reporter who labels so many (over 14,000) of the Mahoning Valley’s residents as academic shlubs? Does it make sense for YSU students and parents to subscribe to the Vindicator when it condones this type of reporting?

There is something damn peculiar about the Bertram-YSU saga. I don't know what it is, but something doesn't smell right. Does Bertram have an ax to grind?
1. Did he or any of his family ever work for YSU?
2. If yes, what was the nature of their separation? Was their parting amicable?
3. Is it the Ron Cole thing, where Cole got that "cushy position at YSU with a fat pension" and Bertram was left out in the cold?

If it turns out that there is clear evidence of a Bertram agenda for YSU, then it is the Vindicator that is to blame for allowing it. Journalistic standards demand that reporter integrity and independence are carefully monitored when that reporter is writing such harsh comments about one of the Mahoning Valley's major educational institutions.

Harrymuffin is right! We, along with our relatives, will not be renewing our subscription to the Vindicator. It's time for a change!

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4MrFixit(1 comment)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Let’s see I am one of those so called lazy YSU staff members who take offence to your labeling our students (including my own children) as academic shlubs…. Bash us all you want Bart or Bert whatever your name is but you have crossed the line of decency when you bash our valleys hard working students….
Here are a few facts or ya Bart…

1 We all are not making big bucks 39,500 after 15 yrs of service about $19.00 per hour started at $9.50 an hour back then No big raises here..

2 Stop by on Monday Bart when I am on the roof of a building fixing heating equipment see how your thin skin hold up in the bitter cold.

3 My check will not be used for a Florida get away since I am years from retirement rather it will be spent on my 3 children and extended family for Christmas presents putting that money plus more right back into the local economy..

4 My children one of who just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan are far from shlubs

lastly your writing has given me intestinal discomfort so time to hit the rest room where I plan to use your article with your picture to cleanse my hind quarters one I finish my business

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5frank(9 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

What does fixing a roof have to do with a diect impact on increased enrollment.That is the issue...if enrollment drops will you give your bonus back.

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6csky(10 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

The sad truth is that there was a real story behind the enrollment bonus, how it came about, and who was really responsible. Bert and the so called reporters at this "newspaper" could find it if they werent so occupied with writing puffery and so lazy that they write crap like above.

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7HaydenThomas(208 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Looks like all the "overworked" YSU ACE employees are posting on Vindy again.

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8walter_sobchak(1889 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

csky,
I wish someone would provide the real story behind these raises. I understand that they are in a collective bargaining agreement but, who in their right mind, would agree to such a thing? That is my question! The ACE workers, I'm sure, do there jobs and are compensated for it. But, what do they have to do with increased enrollment, except for sending their children to the school?

As far as calling the students schlubs, that is uncalled for but not unexpected. YSU is an open enrollment institution and indeed does accept the bottom feeders. If you have a HS diploma, you are accepted. Hopefully, with EGCC, they can change this status and lift their academics.

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9HaydenThomas(208 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

I expect the next collective bargaining agreement to provide bonuses for ACE employees if it snows in December.

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10dancinmoses(66 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Never comments about the administration and how everyone there got a lump sum in the base salary THEN got a 4% pay raise...mmmmmmm..never a mention of that or of how much they overpaid the current president.....this is a small town and they pay her 350k... REALLY? I remember when there were way fewer administrators, I heard it was a nicer place to work, now there are the assistants to the assistants. How many assistant deans, provost, and special assistants are there? From what I'm hearing it's WAY TOO MANY....but go ahead pick on the little guys, the ones that do keep the heat on in the cold and air working when it's hot.....I too am disappointed in the rag of a paper, let's ALL cancel the subscriptions to the paper, then Butham will have to look for work somewhere else. Think he will try YSU and rethink his thoughts?

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11bmanresident(597 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

The only people getting screwed, again, are the students. That's ok though, Uni of Pheonix is fairly cheap, and probably offer better classes anyhow. Ysu needs knocked back to Earth. How many Tuition hikes where there be while they continue to build unsightly useless buildings! Why does the rest of the country have to scale back spending but YSU keeps building crap? because they just raise tuition an Voila!

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12YSUPenguin(30 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

Was Burt complaining about YSU this much when Jain Savage was still employed there? I have a feeling the answer to that question is "no". I agree the ACE employees are all overpaid and definitely do not deserve these raises, but Burt really has some deep-rooted issues. Maybe he just needs a hug :)

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13RustOnMyBelt(114 comments)posted 3 years, 8 months ago

In giving up their union's "longevity raise" during their last contract doesn't YSU stand to pay out less in the long run?

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