YSU prez is right on SB 5

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The Vindicator columnist Bertram de Souza

They’re spitting nails in the land of make believe because their leader refuses to travel the yellow brick road to political suicide. Is the honeymoon over?

The faculty of Youngstown State University can’t be blamed for expecting President Cynthia Anderson to join them in opposing the new law that takes away a slew of collective bargaining rights from public employees. After all, when Dr. Anderson was vice president of student affairs she was so generous with the profs during contract negotiations that they’re still laughing all the way to the bank.

Many of the faculty members repaid Anderson with their strong support for her candidacy during the search for a successor to President David Sweet.

The unholy alliance between the YSU community and Anderson, who took the reins of the open-admission, urban university in July, prompted a column in this space with the headline, “Is YSU’s prez tough enough?”

Based on her refusal to succumb to pressure from her colleagues on the collective bargaining revision law (Senate Bill 5), the answer is yes, she is tough enough.

Before delving into why her not being a patsy for the folks on YSU’s campus is good for the future of the institution, let’s look at what her coming out against SB 5 would have meant.

Untrammeled power

First, it would have put her at loggerheads with Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican controlled General Assembly. Since the beginning of the year, Kasich and his GOP allies in the legislature have demonstrated what it means to have untrammeled power. The Republicans control every statewide office in Ohio and now view the opposition —the Democratic Party — as nothing more than an irritant.

Anderson’s opposition to one of the GOP’s key legislative initiatives — the weakening of public employee unions — would have been bad for Youngstown State.

Higher education in Ohio is under attack; the keepers of the public purse in Columbus view the 12 public universities and colleges as nothing more than bottomless pits where taxpayer dollars simply disappear.

Cuts in state funding are contained in Kasich’s biennial budget now under consideration in the General Assembly. But there’s more. The governor and the legislature are demanding that universities and colleges not only justify their existence, but prove that students are getting the best value for their dollars.

Indeed, Kasich has included in his budget a mandate that professors teach one additional course every two years.

Of course, the top tier institutions, led by The Ohio State University, aren’t the ones that have triggered the backlash in Columbus. The demand to do more with less, to put students first and the comfort of faculty second, are aimed at the Youngstown States.

Therefore, it would have been foolhardy for Anderson to have made the governor and the Republicans in the House and Senate her enemies.

Her decision not to go along with the faculty in opposing SB 5 is to be applauded.

As for the faculty and others turning on her, that’s good news for the stakeholders who are bracing for tuition and fee increases now that state funding is being slashed.

It’s contract negotiations time on the campus of YSU, and the only offer that management can responsibly put on the table starts with “no” and ends with “no.”

The three-year contract that’s expiring was so lucrative there even were bonuses for about 400 members of the Association of Classified Employees and for the faculty.

Harsh critic

One of Dr. Anderson’s harshest critics over her refusal to oppose SB 5 is Dr. John Russo, coordinator of the Labor Studies Program and co-director of the Center for Working Class Studies. Want to know how much he earns for doing what he does at YSU?

According to the Buckeye Institute’s web site link called “Higher Ed Salary,” Russo made $108,117 in 2010 — up from $104,461 in 2009.

Rather than pick a fight with the governor and legislature, the YSU community should be kowtowing to them.

It is noteworthy that even though Ohio State is in a class all its own when it comes to higher education in Ohio, the keynote address for its June commencement will be delivered by John Boehner, Republican speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

That’s how the game is played.

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