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Concierge service at YSU?

Published: Sun, June 20, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Just as they did last Christmas, 400 employees of Youngstown State University will be laughing all the way to the bank this holiday season. For, while many Mahoning Valley families will again be sacrificing due to the economic recession, members of the Association of Classified Employees will be cashing their $2,000 bonus checks.

And just as they were unable to do last year, the ACE employees will again be at pains to explain why they received the money — other than the bonuses are a negotiated item in the contract.

Financially harried taxpayers can gain some solace from the fact that this year’s $2,000 “gift” is less than the $4,500 the 400 employees each received in 2009.

So, why the largess in the midst of a roiling economy that has seen this region’s unemployment rate consistently surpass the national average? Because YSU’s student enrollment has again increased. Never mind that the increase is a function of the economy — universities and colleges nationwide are reporting growth — and is not the result of our dear overworked public employees going the extra mile to recruit students. Indeed, ACE employees have nothing to do with enrollment.

However, to the credit of the union’s negotiators and to the shame of the administration of Dr. David Sweet, these folks reap the financial benefits of the enrollment hike.

Something for nothing

The 400 are no doubt embarrassed that they’re getting something for nothing (granted, that is the culture of public sector employment), and would jump at the chance to ease their consciences. Here’s how they can do that: Offer free concierge service to the students.

For instance, since many of the incoming freshmen will be unprepared for college life and will need to spend a lot of time taking remedial courses (13th grade of high school?), ACE members would make their lives a lot easier by doing their laundry, cleaning their dorm rooms, escorting them around campus, and even performing cafeteria duty so they can pick up after the newbies.

Being away from home is traumatic.

The projected enrollment for the fall semester is 15,058, compared with last fall’s 14,682 students. The 2.6 percent increase will generate $2.6 million in new tuition revenue. And of that amount, the ACE employees will pocket $800,000.

Dare it be said — again and again? Nice work if you can get it.

But here’s the kick in the pants: The money generated by the enrollment increase will not be enough to cover the increased costs resulting from the higher number of students on campus. The money has to come from somewhere — the state is in no position to give YSU a financial attaboy — and the administration and members of the board of trustees have shown little interest in seeking across-the-board pay reductions and other concessions to make ends meet.

So, the money will come out of the pockets of the students in the form of tuition and fee increases.

On June 11, nine of the 10 members of the board of trustees voted to boost tuition by 3.5 percent for the fall semester. It’s the second such increase in two years — following two years of tuition freezes.

The no-vote came from Harry Meshel, a long-time Valley politico and former president of the Ohio Senate, who objected to what he said was the Sweet administration’s view that the trustees were there to rubber stamp proposals.

Dr. Sweet will be retiring at the end of this month and will be succeeded by Dr. Cynthia Anderson, who has been on YSU’s payroll for more than 30 years and most recently was vice president for student affairs.

Chief negotiator

Anderson was the administration’s chief negotiator with the faculty union, and although she had no involvement in the ACE contract talks, the faculty did quite well in the last agreement.

Meshel should have an easier time with the new administration, seeing as how he was one of her strongest supporters during the presidential selection process.

Whether the new president will take a hard line in the next contract is anyone’s guess. But her background and experience suggest that employee sacrifice will not be her guiding principle.

And so, the pockets of the students will continue to be picked.

State funding for higher education is based on retention and graduation rates. At YSU, only 38 percent of students graduate — after six years.


1burford(95 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Typical Thursday for Bertram.

What should I write this Sunday?

The economy not turning around here.
Nope. Not important enough.

The Gulf oil crisis. Naw. Too far away.

The Gaza flotilla. Hmm. Too international.

President Obama's sliding poll numbers. No. Too temporary.

Violence in Youngstown. Hmmm. Too common.

The costs of Oak Hill. Nope. Tablack won't let me.

I know. I have a creative idea. Something I have never written about and something the public won't get weary of. I will bash the public employees. Let's see. City, county. Nope.

YSU. Man am I good or what.

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2author50(1121 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Her Burford... you forgot Traficant, Cafaro or Belinky's budget.

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3CompMan(125 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Bert has got a point to an extent. Better to pay an incentive bonus based upon the graduation rate rather than enrollment. The money being paid now is re-directed money: from base salaries so the community believes cost are contained to arbitrary "alive and breathing" bonuses. What he fails to see is 6 years is normal where many of the students must work, contribute to a family and get an education.

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4exposed(66 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

This is tiresome. How about some fresh takes on issues instead of the same old worn out commentary.

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5Nunya(1356 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago


Get off it already,..

Sure it's not good news but it's real, relevant, accurate and necessary to report without bias.

That is if that money sucking useless, worthless and deplorable outfit called YSU is ever going to be pressured to change and revert. From being nothing less than the grant guzzling, abatement absconding, stipend stealing, loan leeching check for local criminals and cronies operation that it is.

There's not a local politically postured criminal you can name that doesn't get financial favor from that hideout for criminals and corruption.

Which is nothing more nor less than a gravy train for has been's, never was[s] and a launch pad for more pilferers,.. try to refute it.

See I came from the area and my being inclined to be supportive of those that share the distinction.

I'd gladly be one of the strongest, biggest and more stalwart advocates of a fitting local outlet as you've ever came across or the world has ever seen.

But YSU is just indefensibly deplorable and when speaking of education or inspiration. The sad part is I have to leave any mention of the existence of that abject atrocity out of the delivery.

Sure Valley residents should be able to rally behind whats hailed as a local university to promote educational advancement.

However, YSU isn't and hasn't done it's part to deserve anything less than the horrible reflection it's given itself. As a didactic based dump that needs to be avoided at all costs.

I'd love to be able to support, commend, rally and or center an embrace for a local university as a pillar to build from. However, YSU flat out doesn't even come close to meriting any support or respect.

In fact my being one to promote knowledge based education, cerebral thought and sound judgment in open forum.

There's no way in hell I'd suggest any aspiring mind to waste their time, money or limited financial aide funding. To try attending that criminally ran dichotomy that's merely playing upon the field of education.

The latest departure in their long history is David Sweet. Who is a crafty and cunning little books cooking criminal that got ran out of Cleveland.

Just before arriving to roost at a YSU on his traveling road show because YSU is geared to his type of non educational money sucking shenanigans.

See if it's not for their past being prologue protocol of Fraud, waste, regulatory violations. Amidst were yet another criminal and or their cronies being announced and or discovered for being YSU check casher's.

Just what have you heard about YSU being mentioned as ensconced or reflective identity and function at all?,.. see that's to take opinion out of the equation.

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6Nunya(1356 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago


How about NO and we more realistically and responsibly. Man the hell up to face the facts and genuinely band together and fix the real problems.

See everybody relishes good news success stories and events. But to get more of them we have to not just make them happen but allow them to happen.

So lets face the fact that YSU is a criminal shame of no social, educational nor economic worth. That does no valley resident a bit of good.

That's unless the individual[s] are willing to compromise good character and integrity. In order to do or promote dirt in order to be accepted in the big ripoff to chisel a check in that line of crooks.

See putting blinders on or trying to keep rose colored shades on about it fixs nothing and it will continue to cost the valley.

There is a wealth of great people and minds that come from this area and if Youngstown is ever going to turn things around.

There has to be plans, ways, means and reasons to responsibly retain, re-appeal and keep them to provide service and leadership here.

Which you don't, haven't, and won't do that by allowing a YSU to get the lions share of city, state and federal funding and not bearing a shred of worth to deserve it.

Nor will you manage accomplishing such a feat by half baking pie in the sky feel good stories about deliberate failures.

That the truly intelligent minds that your areas quality, competitiveness, prosperity and respect mandates the need to keep.

Are the only ones willing to accept knowing better and makes the better choice to continue the mass exodus.

That's not just opinion it's the facts. It's also not a good trade off of squandering those minds and characters to keep a YSU status quo culprit.

Which if you take off those welders shields you're obstructing your view with. You'll see the area is reflectively losing that battle of attrition.

For which YSU is a finances funneling faction operating by criminal transaction. That plays a major role in voiding any efforts of local asset retention attraction.

See you don't have to like what I'm telling you here. But no way in the world can you factually discredit or deny it.

Now do you want to put your rose colored shades, paisley thoughts and artificially flavored taste away. To get to work on fixing things or not?

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7burford(95 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

After that rambling, syntax and grammar challenged rant or rants, I will side with exposed.

No one is calling for "good news." Readers want to have thoughtful commentary about a variety of issues. But to write about Cafaro, Traficant and YSU week after week after week is tiresome and vapid.

If Bertram is too tired, hire a younger, more creative person.

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8CandyfromCanfield(172 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Nunya, You write a whole bunch of words, putrid prose I'd call it, but say very little. From what I can glean from your writings, you hate YSU. OK, you're entitled to your opinion. But when you make comments like "those are the facts"...when referring to...umm, I'm not sure what you ARE referring to, you need to know you come across like a psuedointellectual blowhard that knows not of what he speaks. Again sir, you are entitled to an opinion, but from reading previous posts of yours when referring to YSU, you seem to have a MAJOR chip on your shoulder. You didn't at one point work here are were fired, were you? Just an observation...

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9walter_sobchak(2323 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Very simply, go to he11! Why trash YSU? It is a good educational value for the money at the undergraduate level. I am very proud of the education that YSU provided me and it has suited me well in my career! Only one question need be asked about an undergraduate program: Is the program accredited by the national board that oversees that particular program? That's it! A student can attend YSU for a reasonably small fee and graduate with little or no student loans to pay off. As one of my former employers would tell me; YSU is the best value for education in the country. A degree from an accredited program that is taught to you by full professors, not graduate assistants. And, this man had engineering degrees from Carnegie, U of Illinois and an MBA from NYU.

As for David Sweet, the university president of this day and age has the responsibility of funneling donations into the university coffers. He has most certainly done that. Not to mention that an incredible amount of money dedicated to research has also been funneled to YSU. My son was involved in some of it in biology over the last year. Now, while I am not happy about the bonus payments to these employees, they are a product of the collective bargaining agreement reached with this union. So, blame the Board of Trustees for allowing this to happen. My wish was that the university would select an outsider to be the new President, not someone from the same old system. I do believe that if YSU wants to move forward, new ideas from outside the current walls would be welcome.

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10BufordTJustice(7 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

In 18th century America life was difficult. Those who didn't work starved, and sometimes people starved regardless of how hard they worked. There were, however, some benefits: you got to keep the fruit of your labor, and there was a crude form of justice that winnowed out the slackers.

In the 19th century we became a little more civilized. Life wasn't quite as difficult for most, but only the clever, industrious, or very lucky had any hope to live comfortably. The 20th century saw the dawn of entitlement, and the notion that people have a fundamental right to the basics of life spread throughout America. Initial entitlements were modest and targeted the mitigation of gross human suffering. As we moved toward the 21st century, the attitude of entitlement expanded to include ever higher standards of living for the unlucky, unproductive, and those with marginal abilities. More and more people were able to achieve higher and higher standards of living without being productive. Politicians recognized that the surest way to get elected is to support free goods and services for everyone. Society smiled as we became even more “civilized.”

The attitude of entitlement has altered our educational institutions. Students are permitted a college education regardless of their academic abilities or effort (open enrollment). Students receive As and Bs with levels of work that would've yielded Cs and Ds a generation ago. The current state funding formula paints a target on the back of professors who fail a significant number of students regardless of how poorly they perform on examinations. Faculty must choose between maintaining academic integrity and receiving their pensions; thus, students achieve significantly higher grades with far less work. The students are happy; the parents are happy; and the politicians are happy. Employers, however, are coming to grips with the consequences.

Grease has recently experienced a small taste of what lies ahead for extremely “civilized” countries such as the United States and most of Europe. At some point in the not so distant future, paying people to be unproductive will reach unsustainable levels, and dramatic downdrafts in the standard of living will occur for almost everyone.

In the aftermath, the price will have been so terrible that significant changes are likely to occur:
1. Politicians will be limited to one or two terms so they aren't obsessed with saying and doing things to get them reelected.
2. Balanced budgets will become a mandate of the people.
3. Hard work and good judgment will again be rewarded.
4. We will become much less civilized.

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11WhatRUAfraidOf(85 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Buford - your comments would hold a bit more authority if you could write grammatically correct sentences (this includes the spelling of the names of countries).

I am extremely proud of the degree I earned at YSU. I am a first-generation high school and college graduate from an extremely dysfunctional family of origin. Neither of my parents finished high school, but both of them, regardless of many internal problems in our family, urged me on to finish high school and college. I have almost completed a masters degree and far surpassed, both personally and professionally, what the guidance counselors at my high school ever though possible for someone from my circumstances. Having Youngstown State University here gave me the opportunity to gain a college education, which I would not have otherwise had given my family situation. As one of my professors in graduate school is very fond of saying, education gives a person CHOICES.

After many years as a professional, I returned to my alma mater as an employee. Unfortunately, it has soured my opinion of the institution nearly beyond repair. Many of the individuals I have met since becoming employed at YSU have no concern whatever for what SHOULD be their primary goal - world-class service to students. They are far too anxious about how much money they can get from the university and whether they can retire and then be rehired so they can get even more. I must admit, these are not faculty members, but administrative and support staff members and not all are like that. There is no institutional ideal or objective that has excellence at its root. It seems that everyone is out for him- or herself and the bottom line is how much. Some individuals don't even try to hide their greed.

As for me, I am keeping my focus on quality service and process improvement because to do so keeps my sanity. It's the only way I can continue to function in this environment.

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12walter_sobchak(2323 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

My guess about Nunya would be that he couldn't get past English 500 due to poor grammar, syntax, punctuation, etc. Please, don't encourage Nunya or put your fingers too close to his cage!

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13CandyfromCanfield(172 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Walter, thank you for your concern! I promise I won't! (On a serious note, I do try to read what he writes, but I can't make heads or tails of it. I'm sure he's trying to make a point...I usually just get frustrated and give up.) And to WhatRU.., I hope Dr. Anderson's administration will cure some of the outrageous entitlement mentality. I have high hopes for her...I really do. She certainly has her work cut out for her!

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14NoBS(2315 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

WhatRUAfraidOf tars everyone with the same brush by writing: "They are far too anxious about how much money they can get from the university and whether they can retire and then be rehired so they can get even more."

Okay, when when I read that, my first thought was "What a crock!" Faculty can come back part time in emeritus status, but the secretaries, groundskeepers, parking people, cops, and so on - do THEY wait anxiously to retire so they can be re-hired? Hardly.

Then he adds:
"I must admit, these are not faculty members, but administrative and support staff members and not all are like that."

Then why make a sweeping generalization when you only intend to refer to one or two individuals? It's people like you who start false rumors and smear innocent, hard-working people.

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15CandyfromCanfield(172 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Support staff (ACE) is, for the most part, grossly overpaid. Many in clerical/secretarial are making in the 40's, 50's and 60's WITHOUT college degrees. And no, for the record, I have never retired, thus, not rehired, and do not anticipate any change in job status with the new administration. BTW, can't wait for your next contract negotiations. The administration's chief negotiator is already licking his lips in anticipation of give backs. And...you know as well as I the ACE union is in horrible shape right now...a house divided, if you will. Bottom line, ACE is in huge trouble going into negotiations. And, one last comment: I am so SICK of hearing that support staff (ACE) is the glue of the university. Think about it: The university is made up of STUDENTS! What I dislike most about some of ACE members (not all) is that they think it's always about them...You know that many in your union are horrified by the enrollment incentive, don't you? They don't feel it was earned and will hurt them in the long run. YSU is successful for the hard work done by those in administration, faculty, APAS, and even ACE folks who know what the mission of YSU is all about (and echoed by Dr. Anderson:) students, students, students. I look forward to some positive changes with Dr. Anderson's administration, and hope students and their families continue attend YSU for its exceptional accredited programs and value for the money.

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16crl(18 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

Candy, your comments are right on target. Most ACE employees are hard working individuals committed to doing their best for our students. But SHAME on some of the past 'leaders' of ACE, they have given that union a black eye. They are grossly overpaid. A nurse (ACE employee) in Student Health making over $100,000 per year??? That is truly disgusting. The problem is Dr. Sweet's administration was too weak and grossly incompetent to deal with the unions. By kissing the butts of ACE for so long they have skewed the salary system so badly that they had to make it up to those hard working mid level managers (assistant directors, etc) who now are so underpaid when compared with ACE. Hopefully, Dr. A will show herself to be a strong leader when dealing with this mess.

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17CandyfromCanfield(172 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

I don't believe for a second that you are not an employee crlblklxo. If you're not, you're being fed info that may or may not be accurate by some disgruntled folks. You should question why they are so disgruntled? Did they lose their job? Have they been arrested and face possible jail time? Have they been warned to seek legal counsel? Gee, I guess I'd be disgruntled too!!!! And for the record, I am completely 100% opposed to the retire/rehire practice.

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18crl(18 comments)posted 5 years, 3 months ago

crlbk1052, I too believe those people are innocent until proven guilty and I also agree with you and Candy and oppose the retire/rehire pradtice. But I also know that just as you say you hope Dr. A has a better understad of labor, some of the prior union leaders need to also have a better understanding of labor and realize it is not always all about them. They need to really work hard and in a cooperative and collegial way with Dr. A's team to make YSU a better place for all. And by the way, I disagree totally with your last comment. If the higher ups were running YSU like a fortune 500 company, they would not tolerate some of the crap and waste that goes on there because they would have a bottom line to be concerned about and stockholders to answer to.

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