YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown State University’s Student Government President Alexander Papa expressed the importance of students being included in the hiring process of a new president at Monday’s legislative assembly.
Student Government representatives agreed to release a statement noting the concerns of faculty, staff and students in not having the opportunity to meet or question any of the university’s potential candidates, adding that they requested more explanation behind the hiring process.
The statement, which was agreed upon following an hour-long debate on its wording, comes days after the university’s Board of Trustees voted 8-1 Thursday to offer U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, the job as president.
Student Government representative Austin Browne is the campus’s Turning Point USA chapter president. Turning Point USA, founded in 2012, is a group that advocates for conservative politics.
Browne expressed his belief that despite what the initial SGA statement said, it was their way of disagreeing with Johnson’s stances on political issues without openly saying it in the early stages of debate.
“My opinion is that this is thinly-veiled partisanship,” Browne said. “I think that despite what this says, this is a way to say that you disagree with his involvement in political stances without actually coming around saying it. I think that’s the motivation behind a lot of the opposition to Congressman Johnson.”
Browne’s contention with the statement came following a letter he penned and posted to the chapter’s Instagram Sunday, where he expressed the desire of some to turn YSU into a “liberal echo chamber” and added that it was refreshing that the Board of Trustees gave Johnson a chance to lead without discriminating against him for political views.
“A large focus of YSU and the campus community is promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, but these ideals seem not to be afforded to conservatives,” Browne wrote. “Make no mistake, though. These criticisms seek only to rob YSU of an excellent opportunity so that individual politically-motivated agendas can be accomplished. It is our organization’s hope that common sense will prevail and the university will move forward with its plan to install Congressman Johnson as the next president.”
Browne expressed his frustration following the meeting, saying that the evening’s events was not the first time his concerns were not voiced.
“I have gotten emails that have been sent to me from faculty members trying to smear me for being a conservative journalist myself. And that was because I voiced my conservative opinion in the academic senate,” Browne said. “I’ve had things we’ve brought up in student government behind closed doors that never saw the light of day.”
“I’m not satisfied with it,” Browne continued later. “I did vote against the resolution and I’m proud to say that I did because I still think there was political motivation behind it.”
Browne said he intends to explore options to have Johnson speak at his chapter’s meeting so he can demonstrate his qualifications and what he can bring to YSU.
Former university Spanish professor Diana Palardy was one of many who commented on a petition posted on change.org. She expressed concern for having a politician in the position, saying that it would suggest to students the position was political in nature.
“There was no transparency in the process for hiring Johnson and he does not have any qualifications for the job,” she wrote. “Having a politician in this position sends a message to students that this is a political position, and those in the LGBTQ community will feel even further marginalized because of his public stance against the LGBTQ community.”
Another petition, spearheaded by alumni and promoted on the faculty union’s Facebook page, has 2,300 signatures. The union released a statement Saturday demanding the board rescind its offer to Johnson and conduct a search that involves the university at large and allowed input from faculty, students, staff and alumni alike.
They also invited supporters to join them and other wrongly excluded individuals at today’s Board of Trustees meeting.
Current interim president Helen Lafferty, who was at Monday’s legislative assembly, refused to comment on the controversy as she was not involved in the process. However, she praised the students for their efforts.