By Denise Dick
A consultant leading Youngstown State University trustees in a retreat regarding the relationship between university boards and presidents and the challenges facing the two divisions was surprised to learn how big of a role YSU trustees play in hiring.
“As I read your bylaws, it is the board of trustees that hires everyone,” said Larry Shinn of AGB Consulting, who served 18 years as president of Berea College in Berea, Ky. “I’m surprised by that. I think the president ought to live and die by his own team.”
AGB Search is the search firm YSU employed in its last two presidential searches that netted Randy Dunn in 2013 and found Tressel earlier this year.
Shinn, a graduate of Baldwin-Wallace College, has known YSU President Jim Tressel since Tressel was a boy, having been recruited by Tressel’s father to attend and play football at BW. Shinn also worked as Bucknell University’s vice president for academic affairs.
Friday’s retreat in the DeBartolo Stadium Club at Stambaugh Stadium at YSU covered three areas: major challenges for presidents and boards at universities, “best practices” for board/ president’s relationship at major universities and the organizational vision and structure for the YSU board/president beginning this fall.
In April 2013, trustees 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. It was later revised so that it applied to about 30 high-level personnel with multiyear contracts. Those affected include vice presidents, deans, associate vice presidents, executive directors, directors, associate and assistant provosts and deans, executive associate to the president and government associate to the president.
Trustee Leonard Schiavone, who is an attorney, said there is an Ohio law that says trustees have the ultimate authority in hiring.
Shinn said that by the time an appointment for an assistant director of admissions, for example, comes to the board, the individual has been through several steps in the hiring process.
“What’s your frame of reference?” he asked. “How could you possibly as a board of trustees be in a position to make a wise decision when you haven’t seen the pool?”
Trustees set the policies for the university but delegate the administration of those policies to university administrators, Shinn said.
Carole Weimer, trustees chairwoman, said the board’s previous policy gave all of the power to the administration.
“When the trust between the administration and this board became weaker — there was not the trust and the confidence in the administration — that’s when the board took some of the decision making,” she said.
Shinn suggested board members talk and think about the issue.