YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Members of YSU’s faculty union (YSU-OEA) and YSU’s Association of Classified Employees (YSU-ACE) voted “No Confidence” this week in YSU administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vote comes after a vote of no confidence motion was introduced by YSU-OEAs spokesperson and Beeghly College of Liberal Arts, Social Sciences and Education faculty senator Mark Vopat during Wednesday’s YSU Academic Senate meeting, a release said.

The meeting included a defense of the administration’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts by YSU Provost Brien Smith and an anti-vaccine mandate presentation by Professor of Engineering Mike Costarell.

After the meeting, the Senate Executive Committee postponed the vote until a later date, citing ‘procedural reasons.’

YSU-OEA has also filed an association grievance, according to a release, alleging that YSU has failed in its
contractual obligation to provide a safe and healthful working environment.

A hearing on the grievance will be held in a couple of weeks with union and administration representatives.

YSU-OEA President Susan Clutter said the university’s failure to implement a comprehensive testing and tracing plan, its failure to upgrade building ventilation and filtration systems it claimed in August had already been completed. She added its failure to respond to YSU-OEA’s request for a vaccine mandate for campus “shows that the university’s handling of the pandemic is dangerously incomplete, uncoordinated and irresponsible.”

After months of what they call “confusing and inconsistent messages,” YSU-OEA insisted administration institute a vaccine mandate across campus by December 1, among other requests.

However, YSU-OEA say classes have remained at capacity and approximately 10,000 N95 masks purchased by YSU remain undistributed.

“That so many other Ohio universities have managed to put an effective system in place while YSU is still ‘formulating its plans’ is alarming and unacceptable – administration’s entire response has been about taking unnecessary risks with the lives of faculty, staff, our students and our community,” Clutter said.

SU-ACE President Chuck Shaffer said its executive committee polled its membership about issuing a no confidence vote against the administration’s handling of COVID-19.

“While we do not support all of OEA’s demands, YSU-ACE decided to stand with OEA and the vote of no confidence in the administration for how they have handled the entirety of the pandemic response,” Shaffer said.

Currently, YSU has the following protocols listed on their website:

  • Individuals on campus are required to wear a face covering, regardless of vaccination status, in indoor public settings.
  • Individuals on campus are encouraged to physically distance according to their personal needs.
  • Disinfecting wipes/sprays will be provided in classrooms that are used for face-to-face course instruction
  • Faculty and students should wipe down their work areas at the beginning and end of each class
  • Any concerns/issues should be communicated immediately to EOHS

YSU also asks anyone coming onto campus perform a daily health assessment, including temperature check and symptom check.

On Friday night, YSU spokesman Ron Cole issued the following statement in response to the vote:

“For more than 18 months, in close consultation with our public university colleagues across the state, as well as local, county and state health officials, YSU has put into place protocols and procedures (all clearly enumerated on the university’s consistently-updated Coronavirus Information webpage) that have resulted in a safe campus and minimal reports of COVID-19 cases among our students and employees. In fact, in a meeting earlier this week with YSU officials, including the head of the Academic Senate, the commissioner of Health for the city of Youngstown, Erin Bishop, said YSU is the ‘gold standard’ in its overall response to the pandemic. In addition, Mark Vopat, who, as referenced in the faculty union news release is both spokesperson for the union and also a member of the Academic Senate, conceded at this week’s Senate meeting that YSU is, in fact, safe and not in a health crisis, as the union’s continued news releases and actions would want the YSU community to believe. We have been and will continue to be deliberate, thoughtful and transparent in our response to the ever-evolving pandemic, and we thank students and employees for their continued perseverance.”

Later Friday night, Vopat also issued a statement in response:

“No, I never said anything one way or another about YSU’s ‘crisis’ status. I was given 60 seconds at the end of the Senate meeting to respond to provost’s characterization of a video I put together to argue for the no confidence vote.

“Although I wasn’t at my most eloquent attempting to get my view across, what I did say was that we need to do more. There are two parts of my day at YSU when I feel truly safe: 1. When I am alone in my office with a fan pointed towards the door, and 2. When I am able to take my second class of the day outside as I have done for nearly the entire term.”