As last YSU candidate speaks, unions back another



Mary Cullinan, the third Youngstown State University presidential finalist, says if selected for the job, she’d be committed.

“A president can’t accomplish anything in less than five years,” said Cullinan, president since 2006 of Southern Oregon University, where she also is an English professor.

She foresees a five- to 10-year commitment.

Meanwhile, three of the university’s union leadership endorsed Jim Tressel for president. The other finalist is Gary L. Miller, chancellor of the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Tressel also is a finalist for the University of Akron presidency.

“We are confident that Mr. Tressel is the one candidate who will continue to build and nourish our efforts to establish an environment of trust, transparency and open collaboration that we, as union leaders, have worked hard to create,” said a statement from the leadership representing the faculty, police and professional and administrative employees’ unions.

The representative of the Association of Classified Employees didn’t attend the meetings between union leaders and the three finalists and didn’t participate in the endorsement.

YSU’s presidential search committee, made up of trustees, meet at 8 a.m. today with a facilitator from AGB Search, the firm that led the presidential search.

Dr. Sudershan Garg, trustee board chairman, said the panel will work with the search firm to identify pluses and minuses of each finalist. The facilitator then will determine if there’s a consensus among members about a choice.

If not, another meeting will have to be scheduled, he said.

If there is consensus, the search firm will contact the candidate to determine if he or she is still interested in the job. If interest is still there, attorneys for both sides will begin to negotiate a contract.

An announcement won’t be made until that process is complete, Garg said.

He said trustees may add a penalty clause to the next contract to discourage the president from leaving the post midterm without cause.

YSU’s last president, Randy J. Dunn, left after only eight months on the job, and trustees are looking for longevity in the next leader.

Last March, the faculty at SOU dealt Cullinan a no-confidence vote, a move she says stemmed from difficult and “confrontational” bargaining and a shortage of resources.

SOU didn’t have money to meet faculty salaries, but a faculty contract was resolved.

When cutting costs, people aren’t going to be happy, the candidate said.

“As president, I’ve got to make the tough choices,” she said.

Things have improved since then, she said, and the campus is in a time of healing.

Unlike both Tressel — executive vice president for student success at UA and former head football coach at YSU and Ohio State — and Miller, Cullinan said she isn’t a finalist anywhere else.

Miller is a finalist for two positions, president at the State University of New York at Buffalo and chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Cullinan said one of the challenges of dealing with shrinking budgets is determining where cost and revenue sources are.

“There’s no part of a university that people don’t care about,” she said.

Cullinan said she had positive meetings with YSU unions Wednesday. She has spent most of her carer in a unionized environment and she appreciates a unionized structure.

She believes in a constant need for communication and meets monthly with faculty and staff.

She said YSU’s challenges are similar to those at SOU. During her tenure, SOU had to rethink budgeting, human resources and marketing.

Under Cullinan’s leadership, SOU opened an honors college, something she calls her vision and proudest accomplishment.

It has raised SOU’s profile and increased out-of-state enrollment, she noted. It also helped to energize fundraising.

While she acknowledged that YSU is significantly larger than SOU, she said there are other similarities. That university is adjusting to the decline of the timber industry.

When Cullinan arrived at SOU, fundraising was among the things that wasn’t working well. She brought in a new vice president of development. Working together, she and the vice president strengthened ties with students, faculty and staff, emphasizing the benefits of relationships with donors.

“My legacy will probably be some wonderful bequests coming to SOU,” she said. “People are seeing the importance of scholarships. ... People want to support students.”

YSU has, in recent months, experienced an exodus of some of its top leadership. Both skill set and personal characteristics are needed to fill the vice-president vacancies on campus, Cullinan said, adding that people must engender trust.

She said she has no one she plans to bring with her from SOU to fill the cabinet, if selected.

“It’s really important to do it right,” she said.

She earned both her doctorate and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin, both in English literature, and her bachelor’s degree in honors English from the University of Pennsylvania.

Before going to SOU, she served three years as provost/vice president for academic affairs at Stephen F. Austin State University and six years as dean of the College of Arts, Letters and Sciences at California State University, Stanislaus.

Cullinan said that during the forums, someone asked if she was jumping ship at SOU during difficult times.

“Eight years is not jumping ship,” she responded.

If she is selected to come to YSU, she said she believes she’d be leaving SOU in the best situation it can be.

The Tod Hall meeting room was full to hear Cullinan’s presentation with a few people gathered in the lobby.

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