YSU officials counter union budget claims

By Denise Dick



Two Youngstown State University administrators disputed, in a memo distributed this week, classified employees and faculty union assertions about the budget, layoffs and administrative structure.

Neal McNally, interim vice president for finance and administration, and Kevin Reynolds, chief human resources officer, in a memo sent Thursday to YSU department heads and members of the executive and administrative staff council in response to recent news coverage and a news release from one campus union, say that while the administration has “refused to bargain these contracts in the news media, we are committed to ensuring that the administrative staff on campus is kept well informed of the facts and to setting the record straight when the facts have been misstated or omitted.”

The Vindicator was able to obtain the memo.

In a June 5 news release that followed an announcement of layoffs due to budget cuts, the Association of Classified Employees, which is suffering the brunt of the layoffs expected to begin this month, wrote that the positions abolished were chosen based on salary/ benefit amounts for the positions.

Both ACE and the YSU-Ohio Education Association, are in contract negotiations with the university.

“That is a completely inaccurate, out-of-context and counterproductive reading of what the ‘rationale’ actually says,” McNally and Reynolds’ memo says. “The identification of positions for layoff was based on a careful analysis by each division vice president and was not hinged on salary/benefit amounts. If ACE is going to quote administration documents in the future, we would appreciate that they would do so accurately and constructively.”

Connie Frisby, ACE president, stood by the statements in last week’s news release.

“I am not going to participate in a media smear campaign with the administration of the university,” she said in an email.

The ACE news release also refers to a joint task force formed last year with representatives of the administration and the unions to try to identify ways to save money and avert layoffs. The release contends the suggestions weren’t implemented.

“To the contrary, the task force did not bring forward a single, feasible recommendation that would in any way have any significant impact on addressing the university’s budgetary challenges,” the administration’s memo from this week says.

Annette Burden, president of YSU-Ohio Education Association, the union representing YSU faculty, said in an email that neither Reynolds nor McNally was a task-force member.

“Therefore, without the benefit of first-hand knowledge regarding what transpired in those meetings, I don’t see how they are able to make an intelligent or well-informed comment on those discussions,” she said in the email. “In fact, I would argue that ALL members [union and administration] of that task force believed that we had made significant progress. Collectively, the task force identified numerous instances where considerable savings could be made if the university were to consider modifying its spending habits. Further, we agreed that it would be extremely beneficial to continue meeting on a regular schedule.”

Reynolds and McNally’s memo also counters the news release’s contention that YSU has too many administrators.

“In fact, when you look at the ratio of faculty to administrative staff, YSU has one of the leanest administrative staffs in the state,” it says.

Only Shawnee State University has a lower ratio among the state’s 13 public comprehensive universities.

The memo goes on to mention the faculty union presented an analysis of university finances to the university last week and that by the following weekend it appeared in The Vindicator.

“Again, the administration believes it is in the best interest of all parties that the contract is not negotiated in the press,” it says and goes on to counter some of the points in the faculty’s analysis.

The faculty’s analysis found that YSU spends a higher percentage of its budget on administration, auxiliaries and building operations and maintenance than most other state universities and less on academic instruction, research and academic support.

“First and foremost, while we believe that many of the comparisons in the analysis are apples-to-oranges, the administration is heartened to see that the faculty union’s analysis acknowledges the university’s financial challenges and does not dispute the budget numbers put forth by the administration,” the university’s memo said.

The faculty analysis also shows that more than 55 percent of YSU’s revenue is allocated to instructional expenses.

Gabriel Palmer-Fernandez, chief negotiator for the faculty union, said in an email that spending is appropriate.

“We should not have to pat ourselves on the back for this,” he said. “After all, that’s what students, their families, and taxpayers are paying for — instruction.”

What should be examined, he said, is spending on noninstructional items, “as they tend to undermine the academic mission of the university, for example, the disproportionate increase in the number and salaries of administrative positions compared to faculty.”

The university must aim for academic success, Palmer-Fernandez said in the email.

“If we spend $55K in cellphones in athletics, we need to show that this expenditure relates to academic success,” he said. “If in comparison to the other Ohio public universities we overspend in administration by 50 percent, we need to do the same; indeed, we need to show to our students and their families that it is better to overspend in administration than to increase instructional cost.”

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