90 YSU retirees, including professors, protest hiring of Bill Johnson

YOUNGSTOWN — Nearly 90 retirees and former employees of Youngstown State University, including several ex-professors, joined the list of those objecting to the selection of U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson as the school’s next president.

In a Monday letter to the board of trustees and Johnson, a Canfield Republican, the retirees and former employees wrote they were “expressing our serious concerns with, and strong opposition to, the board’s search process and the person designated to be the next YSU president.”

The letter states, “Our main concerns deal with how your decision will affect both the short-term and the long-term welfare of the university that we have been part of for a good portion of our lives. It is already clear that the good name and reputation of YSU has been severely, if not permanently, damaged as a result of the uniformly critical, scathing regional and national reviews of your decision. It is also clear that this and other actions have broken the bond between YSU and its employees, causing many to seek opportunities elsewhere and if not, disengage themselves from the university.”

The letter asks the trustees and Johnson, who starts Jan. 22 as YSU president, “to put away your selfish interests” by rescinding the job offer and going through the selection process again.

Johnson, who is resigning Jan. 21 from the U.S. House of Representatives after 13 years there, and Michael Peterson, president of the YSU board of trustees, have repeatedly said nothing is going to change the decision.

Johnson has said he will leave his personal politics out of the decision-making process as YSU president and will continue to make the university a place of inclusion.

In the letter, the retirees and former employees, who worked at numerous departments, wrote, “As to the often-heard refrain, ‘Give Bill Johnson a chance,’ we say to him, your voting record in Congress, your uniformed criticism of higher education, your total lack (except for eight trustees) of a constituency on campus and the absence of any demonstrated qualifications for the job do not bode well for the future. We are not afraid to say, ‘The emperor has no clothes.’ Should we take a chance only to find later that you were NOT, as you proclaimed, ‘What’s best for YSU?” We emphatically declare that the answer is NO!”

The trustees hired Johnson on Nov. 21 in an 8-1 vote with Molly Seals casting the lone “no” vote. The vote was taken five days after the trustees called an emergency meeting to offer the job to Johnson.

The retirees and former employees, with a combined 2,565 years of active service, join a large list of those objecting to the decision to hire Johnson, a conservative Republican with no higher education experience. That includes alumni, faculty, students, former YSU trustees, two former YSU presidents and donors.

Also, the YSU Academic Senate approved “no confidence” votes Dec. 16 against the trustees for the hiring and against Johnson.

The objections have been to Johnson’s politics, including his votes objecting to the 2020 presidential election — in which Republican Donald Trump, who Johnson supports, falsely claims was stolen — as well as his positions opposing gay marriage and abortions, and what he says is “indoctrination” at some universities.

Opponents have raised concerns about the confidential search process used by the trustees that includes the university’s refusal to release the names of the other candidates for the job and there not being an opportunity for public meetings with Johnson and the supposed two other finalists.


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