YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Youngstown State University students, faculty, alumni and community members held a rally Monday on the steps of Tod Hall on the campus as the search for a new president continues.

The board of trustees voted last week to offer the position to Valley Congressman Bill Johnson.
The Student Government rallied Monday saying it wasn’t a demonstration against Bill Johnson, but against the board’s decision and they believe more groups should’ve been included in the process of picking the next president.

“So we are trying to get across that the process was not managed well,” said YSU Math Department Professor Alicia Prieto. “We should have an input on who is going to lead us at YSU and who’s going to be the next president.”

They say trustees went behind the faculty, students, and the community’s back to offer Johnson the position. In fact, they call Johnson an extremist politician. The group of demonstrators said they hoped the YSU Board of Trustees would rescind the offer to Bill Johnson, start over, and include more people in the decision-making.

A student-led petition is also circulating the campus, calling out YSU’s administration. It says they do not agree with the choice and that their voices deserve to be heard.

At 4 p.m. Monday, 39 members of SGA met to draft a resolution concerning the offer to Johnson. The discussion was described as healthy. The resolution was amended several times as a way to demonstrate fairness.

The final resolution contained three items:

  1. SGA wants to be involved with the process
  2. SGA wants to meet and ask questions with the person chose
  3. SGA wants the trustees to explain why Johnson was chosen

“We are just upset with not being included in the decision-making process for Rep. Johnson,” said SGA President Alexander Papa. “We want to feel included whenever they’re selecting university presidents, because that’s the been the precedent in the past.”

The SGA resolution needed a 2/3 majority vote to pass, of which there were enough.

A group of five YSU alumni also spoke out on the decision, writing a letter to trustees addressing the lack of input those outside of the board have had on the selection of Johnson as a candidate.

The letter also criticizes Johnson’s stances on issues like gay marriage and immigration.

One group of students watching the demonstration had a different view. Some held up a sign that said ‘Bill for President’ and showed their support of the YSU Board of Trustees’ choice for Johnson.

While there was a social media post saying that a counter rally was set for noon Tuesday by Turning Point USA, the organization’s president, Austin Browne, said that is not happening. Browne was at Monday’s demonstration.

“Bill Johnson is a conservative and he’s up for president, and that’s the only reason he’s being opposed,” said Browne. “This has nothing to do with the process. This is a politicized issue seeking to gain towards an agenda. That’s all it is.”

Browne also said in a statement that the search for the president of YSU should not be a partisan effort.

“In an appalling display of partisanship, YSU’s Student Government Association recently posted a position statement opposing his (Johnson) appointment on its Instagram story while simultaneously refusing to post one endorsing him. The statement originated from the YSU-OEA, our school’s chapter of the National Education Association union, which is well-known for pushing left-leaning policies and encouraging educators to be activities,” Browne wrote.

Johnson supporters said they hoped there could be a rally in support of Bill Johnson to let the campus know why he’s qualified.

YSU’s Board of Trustees will give an update Tuesday afternoon on its presidential search.

Patty Coller contributed to this report.