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At YSU, it’s all about parking

Published: Sun, August 21, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Two weeks ago, this writer speculated that the faculty union at Youngstown State University would reject a fact-finder’s report and vote to strike.

On Monday, the YSU chapter of the Ohio Education Association issued a 10-day strike notice — after it agreed to accept the fact-finder’s report and recommended language for a new three-year contract.

Why, then, the threat to hit the bricks? Because the board of trustees rejected the report on the grounds that the fiscally challenged university cannot afford the pay raises and other gifts bestowed by Howard D. Silver of Columbus upon the faculty members, who feel so put upon by the university.

The impasse has resulted in the two sides returning to the bargaining table — with the active participation of a federal mediator.

Winning hearts and minds

The clock is ticking — and there’s a news blackout on what’s taking place behind closed doors. But from the day the faculty voted to accept the fact-finder’s report, union leaders have tried to win the hearts and minds of the public by using the “reasonable (them) vs. unreasonable (the university)” argument.

“The YSU-OEA sought from the beginning of negotiations to assist the University during these economically-challenging times. Our initial proposal was concessionary and more than ade- quate to allow YSU to meet all of its challenges and obligations,” said Dr. Stanley Guzell, chief negotiator and professor of management, in a statement on Aug. 12. “We were immediately rebuffed and confronted with artificially exaggerated expenses and unrealistically understate revenues.”

For their part, the trustees made it clear that their responsibility is to the entire university community.

“These are unprecedented and uncertain economic times,” said Dr. Sudershan Garg, chairman of the board, in his statement. “It is our responsibility to ensure the fiscal health of the institution today and into the future. The recommendations included in this [fact finder’s] report do not allow us to fulfill that responsibility.”

Given the history of labor negotiations at YSU, and the fact that the just expired three-year faculty contract amounted to daylight robbery, why would YSU-OEA be so willing to accept anything less than the gold standard?

Here’s a one-word answer that reflects the mentality of the folks on the hill: Parking.

Yes, parking.

This what Silver had to say about the issue:

“The Employer now seeks a recommendation from the fact finder that parking that is otherwise provided free of charge to bargaining members by the University … be deleted from the parties’ successor Agreement as it is a benefit the University can no longer afford to provide

“The hearing record reflects that the University provides about $531,000 in free parking annually, of which about $212,000 in free parking is ascribable to faculty bargaining unit members. Summer school faculty also avail themselves of free parking provided by the Employer.”

So, if faculty, administrators and staff don’t pay for parking, who does?

The students, naturally. Yes, those same lambs-to-the-slaughter who will be paying a tuition increase of 3.5 percent for the coming semester, will pay $100 for the privilege of parking around the campus. They will also pay $100 for the spring semester, and will shell out $51 if they attend summer session.

According to the University Guidebook, “Costs for the provision, construction, and maintenance of parking facilities and related transportation services are funded by income from sources such as fees, parking permits, parking meters, daily and special events parking, fines imposed for violation of parking regulations, and debt secured by bonds.”

Social structure

As far as the faculty is concerned, free parking is a right — similar to taking off from teaching for a year under the guise of doing major research. It defines the social structure on campus: I am a professor, you are a peon.

Incidentally, the $100 parking fee this semester is $22 more than what students paid last year. They are also paying more in activity fees. But before you feel sorry for them — so what if students have to work three jobs just to attend YSU? — consider the fact finder’s contention that the faculty is making sacrifices.

That’s why the YSU-OEA union embraced his report.

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