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Is 'bad habat' on his way out?

By Bertram de Souza (Contact)

Published November 17, 2005

There are fairly loud whispers on the campus of Youngstown State University that John Habat, the power behind President David Sweet's throne, may be on borrowed time. Habat came to YSU with Sweet from Cleveland and it quickly became clear that he would be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the university.

Thus, in the recent labor talks that resulted in a strike by classified employees and faculty, it was Habat who called the shots and who came up with the idea of an employee buyout program. The union representing classified employees did not ask for the buyout and was surprised it was even on the table.

To make matters worse, Habat miscalculated to cost because he underestimated the number of employees who would be eligible for the financial incentives. As a result, YSU is facing a huge burden it cannot carry. The university must deal with a budget shortfall of millions of dollars, and members of the board of trustees are reportedly unwilling to raise tuition.

So the question that the administration must answer is this: How will YSU pay for the new contracts, including the buyout program? No one has an answer yet.

Because it was Habat who directed the labor talks and forced the buyout plan down the unions' throats, there are demands for his head. The demands reportedly come from members of the president's special commission on labor-management relations.

Sweet formed the commission to first find out what occurred to trigger the strikes, and then to make recommendations on how such bloodletting can be avoided in the future.

Habat, who has been given the nickname "Bad Habat" by some on campus, may be sacrificed for the sake of labor peace. If there is a move to push him out, he will find he has very few allies.

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