By Denise Dick
Youngstown State University trustees took more control in university hiring, reversing course for some positions, and now four former board members say the whole concept is a bad idea.
“It would be very unfortunate for the board to establish a personnel policy that would emasculate the new president from his basic presidential function of personnel appointment and management,” former trustees Richard P. McLaughlin, Paul M. Dutton, Bruce R. Beeghly and John L. Pogue wrote in a Monday letter to the current board. “Further, it would discourage the strongest candidates in the future from considering YSU, thus imposing a competitive disadvantage.”
Dr. Sudershan Garg, trustees chairman, agrees.
“I think probably they’re right in my judgment, and the board is looking into reversing some of the policies that they made probably in haste,” he said. “Some of it may happen [today] in the university affairs committee.”
Last April the board made several policy changes, requiring hiring to be approved by trustees. Previously, the actions were ratified by trustees but often after the individuals had begun working.
Later that same month, the board changed the policies again so it wouldn’t apply to faculty and coaches. Last month, a board committee opted to give the Rich Center for Autism an exemption to hire for two positions.
This afternoon, the committee is to consider yet another change so that board approval would be required only for upper-level positions including vice presidents and executive posts.
The former board members say they’re concerned about the changes they say “would apparently vest the board with increased power and authority over such personnel decisions. In addition, it would change the scope of the board authority by extending it to lower-level classified employees and staff. We all know the function of the appointed board is to establish policy — not to implement it.”
That’s why board members are appointed while workplace management is the function of the administration, the letter says. There’s always a temptation for a university board to micromanage.
“The temptation should be resisted because volunteer university board members are typically selected for reasons other than academic expertise,” the letter says.
Dr. Garg said some board members may not have realized the effect of the policy changes.
“I think most of the board didn’t understand what they were getting into,” he said.
Trustee Harry Meshel said he’s not sure what the four former members are concerned about.
The board always has approved appointments made by the president because of their potential impact on the budget, he said. Often, though, those appointments were brought to the board for approval well after the individuals had started working at the university, Meshel said.
“What good is that?” he said.
Meshel said he wants higher-level administrative positions to be approved by the board and the qualifications for those positions to be included in information presented to trustees.
“People who call it micromanaging — they don’t know what micromanaging is,” he said.
The former trustees’ letter also says the board and new president should work cooperatively.
“We should not tolerate the exercise of political influence over employment decisions or service contract decisions,” it says.
Meshel said politics isn’t something strange to university operations.
“I’m offended if it’s politically aimed at me,” he said of that portion of the letter.
Meshel said being a university trustee isn’t something that should be done lightly.
“If you don’t want to make serious decisions and you don’t what to spend the time to do the work that goes with being the trustee of a university that deals with millions of dollars, you ought not to take an appointment to the board,” he said.