By Denise Dick
Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel met with faculty behind closed doors and learned about their concerns including a lack of support for research and student success.
Thursday morning’s meeting wasn’t part of the ongoing contract negotiations.
It lasted about an hour with about 120 faculty members attending.
“I think it was good for faculty to be able to air their grievances,” said Mark Vopat, an associate professor in the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department. “People are upset.”
They’re not upset with Tressel, he said.
Vopat said emotions ran high at times, but faculty members also were measured and matter-of-fact as they explained their concerns. Some believe they aren’t getting adequate support from the university or that their research is not being recognized or even acknowledged, he said.
“I personally think YSU could be even better than it is,” Vopat said. “It’s a hidden gem. We have fantastic faculty.”
Many publish books and conduct research and complete other scholarship work outside of the classroom. They feel, however, that work is ignored and underappreciated, he said.
There’s also frustration that the university’s athletic budget is increasing while everything else is decreasing.
Some faculty members talked about the need for more diversity and improved student retention.
The professor, who started as a YSU adjunct in 2002 before becoming full time in 2007, said he’s never seen faculty morale so low.
Vopat said the meeting wasn’t a question-and-answer session. Tressel took notes, and some faculty members gave him reports or documents related to their concerns.
Rachael J. Pohle-Krauza, associate professor of nutrition, characterized the meeting’s atmosphere as subdued.
“Many comments that were made by faculty truly did not necessarily require President Tressel’s response. However, each speaker’s narrative was followed by applause from faculty in a spirit of cohesiveness,” she said in an email. “Furthermore, I noted that the president verbally expressed his individual appreciation to each person that made remarks after they were finished speaking. Many of his responses had a [refreshing] spirit of humility to them, where he acknowledged a need to increase his own understanding of key issues, and for that of faculty to be more proactively informative.”
Pohle-Krauza emphasized she was speaking for herself and not as a representative for other faculty.
There were few references to specific contract items such as salary, workload or extending teaching service, she said.
“Instead, many faculty expressed concern about student success, particularly in context of the significance of student learning that occurs through faculty-mentored research and scholarship,” Pohle-Krauza said. “Both parties [faculty and the president] acknowledged the need to increase an awareness and understanding of these activities by both university leadership and also of the nonacademic community.
“The president conveyed that this awareness is one of the most-important things that could facilitate greater support for student-faculty research and scholarship, and recognition of YSU’s ability to contribute notable expertise to the regional community and beyond.”