More than 2,000 Youngstown State alumni signed a letter of concern sent to the YSU Board of Trustees dated Saturday.

The letter stated, "We write on behalf of Youngstown State University (“YSU”) alumni who are alarmed by the Board’s recent decision to extend the University’s presidency to Congressman Bill Johnson. The Board’s refusal to incorporate the greater YSU community in its decision making flouts basic values of transparency, accountability, and democratic participation. These procedural defects are compounded by the Congressman’s polarizing track record in public office."

The letter also stated, "The fact that Johnson’s positions are highly contentious — and directly relevant to the diverse interests and identities of YSU’s student body — increases the need for public vetting of his candidacy."

The cover letter was signed by Daniel Catello, YSU 2014; Madeline K. Grimes, YSU 2017; Ashley E. Orr, YSU 2016; Tyler P. Pabst, YSU 2017 and Jacob M. Schriner-Briggs, YSU 2017.

The letter goes on to say, "As concerned alumni, we find the Board’s stance that this unilateral decision was made in the best interests of the University to be utterly incomprehensible.
Any questions regarding Congressman Johnson’s policy positions, if asked, were answered behind closed doors. The Congressman has opposed gay marriage, supported then-President Trump’s ban of travel from majority-Muslim countries, and, without evidence, questioned the validity of the 2020 presidential election."

The letter continues, "These issues cast doubt on his ability to lead YSU’s diverse student body. The Board’s choice to unilaterally move forward with no community input is fundamentally undemocratic in a moment that calls for more, not less, stakeholder participation. Simply, these recent events are beneath YSU."

The letter was followed by more than 2,000 names on 22 pages, with alumni agreeing with the concern of stating that the use of an emergency meeting designation, citing the Board’s bylaws provides that in “the event of an emergency wherein the best interests of the university require immediate official action by the board,” designated officials “may call an emergency meeting.”

The alumni stated, "If Bill Johnson is to be the next YSU President, then the Board must invite the community to publicly assess his vision and qualifications, as well as those of at least two other candidates. The Board's opaque internal process favored Johnson over potential alternative candidates with experience in higher education administration. The University community deserves an opportunity to understand why."

The letter closed stating alumni "demand that the Board rescind its offer to Bill Johnson and conduct a presidential search that involves the University at large, permitting input from faculty, staff, students, and alumni."

Also included in the letter were the responses from alumni survey that asked, “Is there anything else you would like to share with us or with the Board of Trustees regarding their decision?”

More than 400 people responded and can be read in the 48-page PDF below.