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YSU prez mugs the faculty

Published: Sun, August 28, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Make no mistake about it, the president of Youngstown State University, Dr. Cynthia Anderson, is the administration. So when the faculty members bemoan the fact that the administration isn’t being fair in contract negotiations and isn’t showing them the respect they deserve, they’re talking about Anderson.

Yes, the former vice president of student affairs who brought tears of joy to so many on campus when she was named president, has turned out to be the slayer of the faculty dragon.

The decision Thursday night by the executive committee of the union — the YSU chapter of the Ohio Education Association — not to take the membership out on strike Friday morning should be seen as a feather in the president’s cap. Why? Because throughout the contract talks, Anderson remained so firm in her position that the university would not give away the store the way it had three years ago, that even her most ardent supporters for the presidency were taken aback. After all, the unions on campus thought they were getting a pushover in the executive suite — someone who was one of them, whose roots at YSU go all the way back to her days as a student.

Union spin

The YSU-OEA tried the tug-at-the-heartstrings approach in spinning why the executive committee decided not to hit the bricks.

“Just as the students stood up for us, we are now standing up for the students,” said Dr. Sherry Linkon, union spokeswoman and co-director of the Center for Working Class Studies. “Continuing to work will release financial aid for the students and ensure that the fall semester will start on time.”

(Look closely and you’ll find a tear- stain here.)

Classes will begin Monday. Because of the collapse of the contract talks, federal financial aid for those attending YSU had been withheld by the administration — on the advice of a U.S. Department of Education official in Chicago.

Linkon said that executive committee members, who met after the final- and-best offer from the administration was voted down by the membership Thursday evening, did not want the students to suffer any further financial hardship.

But here’s an explanation for why the strike was called off that has more credence than the “We’re doing it for the students” explanation: Anderson mugged the faculty and now the YSU/OEA is trying to find a little sugar to add to the bitter pill they will have to swallow by seeking to return to the bargaining table. Remember, they had insisted all long that a strike was the best bargaining chip they had. What happened?

The vote on the final-and-best offer from the administration contains the answer. Despite Linkon’s insistence that it was rejected by a “pretty substantial majority,” sources say there was an approximately 40-vote margin. In other words, a goodly number of faculty members were willing to accept what the administration had put on the table.

Had a substantial majority voted against the offer, the faculty would be on the streets today with pickets.

Since she has been president, Anderson has shown a willingness to stand up to the university community — as when she refused to repudiate the new state collective bargaining law, commonly referred to as Senate Bill 5. The unions on campus wanted her to join them in urging a no vote on SB 5 in the Nov. 8 referendum, but she refused to take a position.

Greatest challenge

By any measure, the contract talks with the faculty union have been her greatest challenge to date, and she has demonstrated that she will not be cowed by personal attacks or threats of a strike. Her salary and benefits have been the target of criticism and she has been confronted with the idea of “shared sacrifice.”

The president must know the people of the Mahoning Valley will not take kindly to her and other high level administrators dodging the bullet that everyone else must bite.

She has correctly judged that there is limited public sympathy for those who work at Youngstown State University. The last three-year contract was a boondoggle that exacerbated the institution’s financial difficulties.

Now it’s time to pay the piper — and Anderson is calling the tune.

Her tough stance against the YSU-OEA is a signal to the other unions on campus: Brace yourselves.

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