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Academics, not athletics, must be primary mission of YSU

Published: Tue, August 12, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

Academics, not athletics, must be primary mission of YSU

In 1939 Robert Hutchins, then president of the University of Chicago, abolished the football team, citing the need to focus on academics rather than varsity athletics. This move came just four years after the first Heisman Trophy was awarded to a University of Chicago player. Football would eventually return to the university in 1969, but only as a Division III program.

Aside from athletics, the university instituted an innovative approach to undergraduate teaching. These included small discussion based courses, a focus on primary sources and an interdisciplinary approach to learning.

What were the effects of these decisions? The university transformed itself into a world-class undergraduate and graduate university.

What does this have to do with the current contract talks at Youngstown State University? Everything. For many years those charged with making decisions and setting priorities at YSU have lost sight of the purpose of a university — the collecting, creating, and dissemination of knowledge. To illustrate this we need only look at the supposed $6 million to $9 million deficit. While it is true that there is a deficit, it is a deficit piggybacked by a $10 million subsidy to the athletic program, which saw a nearly 5 percent budget increase this year.

And what has suffered due to priorities set by the board of trustees and the administration? Just those things necessary for an urban research university to function.

For example, the university library is one of the worst funded in Ohio. The university has been increasing class sizes while decreasing the number of full-time faculty. In some departments adjuncts provide 50 percent or more of the instruction to students. While the athletic program receives $17,500 for cellphones, 58 percent of stage spots and 44 percent of overhead lights remain unreplaced at the Bliss Recital Hall.

While student retention is deemed a priority, the university decided to spend $4 million to renovate a house for the university president instead of allocating it for a new or drastically updated student center.

If we want to increase our enrollment and retain students, we need to invest in those things that will increase the academic reputation and climate of the university — something a commitment to Division I athletics is not going to do.

Dr. Mark C. Vopat, Youngstown

Dr. Mark C. Vopat teaches in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at YSU.


1Logic1701(2 comments)posted 1 month, 1 week ago

My apologies to readers of the Vindicator. There are two errors in the letter posted above (assuming they have not been corrected by the paper). I mistakenly listed the cost of cell phones at $175,000. The actual number is $17,500. Also, it is 44% of overhead lights and not 48% that require replacing.

Once again, my apologies for the mistakes.
Dr. Mark C. Vopat
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Youngstown State University

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2barstoolie911(3 comments)posted 1 month, 1 week ago

The problem at YSU isn't athletics, it's professors like Dr. Vopat. As a graduate of YSU, I has Dr. Vopat as a student.

Reading this article I became very angry at athletics when I read they spend $175,000 on cell phone bills a year. I counted the number of staff officials and coaches at 80 on YSU's website. Quick math makes that an $182 a month bill, per staff member. Then I read the comments to see Dr. Vopat made an extremely outrageous error.

The fact that Dr. Vopat posted such misinformation in "the valley's newspaper" should be deemed enough to get him fired. However, because of the unions, he's safe.

Professors like him are the reason YSU struggle to bring in quality students and are the reason why students like me considered transferring.

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3Tigerlily(488 comments)posted 1 month, 1 week ago

barstoolie must spend a lot of times on bar stools. Fired for a typo in a letter to the editor of a small town newspaper? You're crazy and I see that your education didn't "take" very well. A lot of times students who remain ignorant want to blame their ignorance on their teachers, instead of looking in the mirror and facing the fact that they're maybe just incredibly stupid and can't learn anything because of that.

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4barstoolie911(3 comments)posted 1 month, 1 week ago

Sticks and stones tigerly. Dr. vopat's "typo" was maliciously done. A $17,500 cell phone bill is pennies to a University. What does this have to do with solving a multi million dollar deficit? YSU's problem is 2nd rate professors like Vopat. If I had a college aged child, I would never suggest they attend YSU and learn from professors who make intentional over exaggerated errors in an opinion piece.

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5Tigerlily(488 comments)posted 1 month, 1 week ago

Oh my, barstoolie is sitting in his own stoolie. A professor makes a typo and barstoolie shats himself and whines and cries over it, claiming it's an international incident. What a disgrace. Talk about 2nd rate anything--you're a 5th rate person. Your child couldn't even succeed at YSU, that place of such disrepute you claim it to be. Go away, and bury yourself in your own feces.

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6Tigerlily(488 comments)posted 1 month, 1 week ago

Oh, steivo, you sound like a man who thinks he knows something.

Which you don't.

Because: dumb duh dumb dumb dumb!!!


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7Seriouslee(100 comments)posted 1 month, 1 week ago

For the sake of argument,let's say barstoolie is right. Now how would YSU attract the kind of professors she/he deserves when its administration repeatedly cuts faculty pay? Do you suppose quality professors will flock to Youngstown, or stay in Youngstown for the highest workload and the lowest pay in the state?

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8barstoolie911(3 comments)posted 1 month, 1 week ago

No, YSU is very cheap in paying professors. It's the reason why Dr. Vopat's roam YSU. They make damning mistakes in published articles. Aren't known scholars, and cannot connect with students.

My 2 year old nephew connects better with 18-22 year olds than Vopat does. His whole class is "How great Canada is and how the USA is awful".

If I had a college aged child, I would pay more money to send my child to better professors. But 2nd rate ones like Vopat won't and shouldn't cut it. He's the reason why YSU is unable to obtain students. His class was taught in the realm, you should thinks, act and talk like me. If you don't, you're wrong.

What have professors like Vopat done to warrant a raise? He published a union opinion piece in the Vindicator that contained multiple errors. He published an 8 paragraph piece that a high school student could easily do, and once again, he had multiple errors in it.

Now he wonders why the administration doesn't want to pay him? Of course they won't! Tressel should fire Vopat!

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