YSU Trustees met with boos after voting 8-1 to approve Bill Johnson as YSU president
Youngstown State University Trustees were met with boos at the end of a Tuesday meeting, which ended in Valley Congressman, Bill Johnson being approved for the new university president.
The meeting began at 2 p.m. with trustees acknowledging that they had received a petition signed by YSU students, faculty and alumni condemning the board for its alleged lack of transparency and not letting students and faculty weigh in on the selection process.
Following this, the board voted to go into executive session, but not before faculty union president and spokesperson Mark Vopat weighed in.
"Can I ask why you're having public comments after you've already made a decision in this executive session as opposed to taking as you can see a huge number of the academic community, faculty, staff and students, and you've just acknowledge that you got [their input]? The horses are out, and you're going to close the barn door," Vopat said.
Vopat's statement was met with applause from those in attendance. Despite this, the board still went into executive session with no public comments beforehand.
Following the executive session, which lasted a little over an hour, Trustees voted 8-1 to appoint Johnson as University president. Those attending the meeting immediately booed the trustees following this meeting.
Before that though, Trustee Chair, Michael Peterson acknowledged the passionate feelings of both sides on the issue.
"All of you can question [this decision] and it is your God-given right. But I ask this one thing: that you respect us as we respect you because what we heard in here today and what we've heard throughout the past few days is true lovers of Youngstown State University, whether you agree with it or not," Peterson said.
Once the announcement was made that Bill Johnson was approved a roar of boos and angry comments ensued.
"After what you just said about our community, shame on you! You don't love YSU, and you never will," one woman said.
"You're a stain on history that will be remembered," another man said.
At a press conference following the decision, Johnson introduced himself to the university community to explain his vision for campus going forward.
"Youngstown State is an educational university. It's not a political institution. We're here to educate people, not indoctrinate them, not politicize them," Johnson said.
Later on in the press conference, Johnson was asked about previous social media post he had made where he accused higher education facilities of promoting "cancel culture philosophy in their liberal halls."
He responded by claiming that college enrollment is declining and is projected to continue to decline in the future.
"Parents are keeping their kids at home instead of sending them to public schools. We don't know yet what that generation is going to do about going to college, but here's what I can tell you that I'm hearing from parents and families and lawmakers ... When they send their kids to college, they think about two things first. One, they want to know that they're going to be safe. Number two, they want to know that they're going to be educated, not indoctrinated," Johnson said.
Johnson went on to say that he understands students' and faculty's fears about him and whether or not he's fit to run the university, but says that's simply because they don't know him well enough.
"My politics never affected the way that I treated people and the way that we served the people and met the needs of the people that I represented. It didn't matter who you were, what your walk of life was, what your race was, sex was, gender was, what your pronouns were, it didn't matter. We treated everybody the same. That's the way I'll lead here at Youngstown State," Johnson said.
"Everybody's got their hair on fire because they think I'm going to bring my politics here, but if everybody else is allowed to bring their politics and ideology here and I'm not, how is that fair? I think everybody needs to leave their politics and their ideologies at home and let's focus on creating opportunities for our students where they could dream big," Johnson continued.
Johnson also promised to keep YSU a "First-Amendment-friendly campus" and promised to have open forums to listen to others who may not agree with him politically.
"If you look back at my career both current and past, I have always listened to the other side of whatever issue I was dealing with, and there has always been a diverse large number of decision-making table," Johnson said.
Johnson will begin filling his role as president by March 15 and must resign from Congress between now and then. He will be making $410,000 per year and the contract will tun from March 15, 2024 through March 15, 2027.