YSU Board of Trustees Summary, Dec. 2 and 3, 2020

YSU sealStudent success, workforce development and COVID-19 were among the topics addressed during nearly 10 hours of meetings of the YSU Board of Trustees Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 2 and 3. This is a summary of the board’s actions and reports. For the full resolutions, and other background materials, visit the Board of Trustees website.

President’s Report

President Jim Tressel acknowledged Eddie Howard, vice president for Student Affairs, who is leaving YSU at the end of the semester for a vice president position at Northern Kentucky University. He said Howard did a great job, “met every challenge and took us to the next level.” Tressel also reflected on the past nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic, citing in particular the “amazing” work by faculty and the “number of different pivots they’ve had to make.” He also recognized Information Technology Services, university staff, administration and the Board of Trustees for “working extremely hard.” In addition, he acknowledged the assistance of the federal government (via the CARES Act) and state government, as well as local health departments and the YSU Foundation. He thanked students for their continued patience and compliance with COVID-19 protocols. Since March, the university has recorded 371 cases of the coronavirus, resulting in one hospitalization. Among the approximately 1,300 students living in university residence halls, there have been only 30 reported cases, he said. “We’re awfully proud of what everyone has done,” but he cautioned, “we know the next six months are going to be difficult; we need to stay vigilant.” While battling the pandemic, YSU must also remain committed to constant improvement, ensuring student progress, continuing diversity/equity/inclusion efforts, and staying engaged with various educational and workforce development opportunities in the region. He said the university must also stay committed to finishing the $125 million “We See Tomorrow” fundraising campaign and to the continued implementation of Take Charge of Our Future Strategic Planning initiatives. “I feel good about the team we have in place, and now we have to go out and execute the plan,” he added.

Academic Excellence and Student Success Committee


  • Approved a resolution to modify the policy on Honorary Degrees and Commencement Speakers. No substantive changes.
  • Approved a resolution to modify the policy on the Academic Senate. No substantive changes.
  • Approved a resolution to modify the policy on Access to Campus for Purposes of Commercial Solicitation or Advertising. No substantive changes.
  • Approved a resolution to endorse the University Completion Plan. State law requires each public university in Ohio adopt plans to help increase student completion. YSU’s plan was developed in coordination with the Academic Senate Student Success Task Force. The 28-page plan includes strategies for retention, persistence and completion, including implementation of a new degree audit system, a new case-management-based advising system and a commitment to align the university’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion with student retention, persistence and completion strategies. “We have to take the conversation to a new level,” Jeff Coldren, convener of the Academic Senate task force, said about student success.
  • Approved a resolution to modify the policy on Minors on Campus/Background Checks. Eddie Howard, vice president for Student Affairs, said the policy provides parameters and guidance to departments on campus sponsoring programs for minors.
  • Approved a resolution to endorse the University Remediation Report. The state-mandated report shows that the number of YSU students enrolled in developmental/remediation courses has dropped significantly, from 2,308 in 2017 to 528 this year. As a result, the overall cost of remediation to students has dropped from $2.4 million to $546,480 in the same period, and the cost to YSU is down from $961,214 to $224,400. Tom Wakefield, chair of Mathematics and Statistics, talked about various initiatives in his department over the past several years to reduce the number of students required to enroll in non-credit remedial classes.

Howard reported that he has accepted a position at Northern Kentucky University and will leave YSU by the end of the calendar year. He also announced that, given his departure, Elaine Ruse and Joy Polkabla Byers will serve as interim associate vice presidents in the Division of Student Experience. Ruse will serve as AVP for Enrollment Services, which will include the offices of Financial Aid, Admissions, Student Conduct, University Housing, Residence Life and Student Activities. Byers will continue to oversee the offices of Campus Recreation, Counseling Services and Veterans Affairs, in addition to Kilcawley Center, Student Outreach and Support and the other auxiliary services units.

Ruse told the board about adjustments that are being made in Enrollment Services to address the declining population of college-age students in Ohio and the impact of COVID-19. She discussed the work being done with EAB, the university’s enrollment partner, and what is being done on campus to attract and retain prospective students.  

Jeanne Herman, Registrar, shared with the board a report on the Penguin Service Center. A “one stop shop” for students, the PSC allows students one point of contact for any problem that students may face on campus. The center has five staff members that are cross-trained to be able to assist students in many areas of campus.

Adam Earnhardt, former chair of Communications, was introduced as special assistant to the provost to help coordinate admission initiatives across the Division of Academic Affairs. He introduced a new project that he is working on with Kati Hartwig, YSU Social Media coordinator. The project brings a new social media platform to campus to create a community for prospective students and allow them to engage with other prospective students and the YSU community prior to their arrival on campus.

Brien Smith, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, reported on the Academic Program Enhancement and Effectiveness Initiative and the Program Portfolio Assessment Workshop. The two-day workshop was held in October to evaluate the university’s current and potential new academic programs. The offices of Academic Affairs and Institutional Effectiveness collaborated with consultant Gray Associates to create the workshop, a step in an assessment process that will culminate in recommendations to the board in June 2021. Smith said “scorecards” have been developed for every academic program, based on factors such as student demand and competitive intensity.

Chet Cooper, Academic Senate chair, reported on various items, including the Senate’s new podcast that covers a variety of Senate issues, ongoing student success initiatives, initial conversations about revisions to general education requirements, and creation of a new University Curriculum Team. He also told the board that the university’s commitment to shared governance is not working as well as it should in practice, as reflected by a fact finders report issued in the recent faculty contract negotiations. Therefore, Cooper announced the reconvening of the Excellence Steering Committee to reevaluate shared governance on campus. He said he will co-chair the committee with Provost Smith.

Institutional Engagement Committee


  • Approved a resolution to accept 344 memberships to WYSU totaling $143,305 through the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2021.
  • Approved a resolution to modify the policy on Electronic Media Rights. No substantive changes.
  • Approved a resolution to modify the policy on Gifts for the Benefit of the University. No substantive changes.
  • Approved a resolution to modify the policy on WYSU. No substantive changes.
  • Approved a resolution to modify the policy on Endowment Funds. No substantive changes.

President Tressel introduced Jennifer Oddo, recently appointed executive director of Strategic Workforce Education and Innovation. Tressel said Oddo’s appointment is in response in part to the state’s call to close Ohio’s “talent gap,” i.e. a substantial shortage of working-age adults with the postsecondary-level credentials required to fill and succeed in current, evolving and future jobs. The state hopes that 65 percent of Ohioans ages 25-64 will have a degree, certificate or other credential of value by 2025. “With that in mind, we thought we needed to branch out,” Tressel said. Oddo will lead the YSU Center for Workforce Education and Innovation, a newly-formed entity that focuses on creating strategies, programs and services to develop employees with skills that are in-demand across various industries. In her new role, Oddo will work to advance how higher education partners with industry and the community to build resilient workforce leveraging programs like YSU's national Department of Labor registered apprenticeship program, pre-apprenticeship and industry training and credentials. Oddo, who holds a bachelor’s degree in International Marketing from the University of Akron, has worked in various talent and workforce positions at IBM since 2015.

David Sipusic, YSU associate general counsel and executive director of the Excellence Training Center, told the board that construction of the ETC is on time and on budget with a targeted completion date of March 2021 in order to be ready for Fall 2021. He introduced Jackie Ruller as the ETC’s new program director for Research and Workforce Development. Ruller comes to YSU from Kent State University where she was associate dean for Aeronautics and Engineering.

Finance and Facilities Committee


  • Approved a resolution to modify the university’s annual operating budget for FY 2021. Neal McNally, vice president for Finance and Business Operations, said the budget is being modified to reflect an updated revenue forecast based on changes in student enrollment and state funding levels. Specifically, the budget approved in June projected a 15 percent decline in enrollment and 20 percent drop in state funding. In actuality, enrollment ended up decreasing 4.4 percent and state funding fell 3.4 percent. In all, the result is a $13.6 million increase in revenue over what was initially forecast. McNally cautioned, however, that even-though the revised forecast is considerably better, revenues are still millions of dollars lower than in previous years. The modification also calls for the cessation of temporary furloughs for ACE and APAS union staff and excluded hourly staff, as well as salary reductions for management staff. The furloughs and reductions were implemented at the start of the fiscal year in July in response to initial revenue forecasts. McNally also reported that the university has received nearly $16.5 million in funding via the federal CARES Act for COVID-19 relief. Most of the funds have been used for partial student refunds of tuition and housing charges last Spring; emergency financial aid for students impacted by the pandemic; a robust campus COVID testing program; installation of Plexiglas and related signage campus-wide; technology enhancements to strengthen and expand YSU’s ability to deliver instruction remotely; and safety kits for all students, faculty and staff. McNally said the university has about $4 million in CARES funds that it has not spent; under federal rules, the funds must be spent by Dec. 30, 2020. McNally said the state is asking that that deadline be extended.
  • Approved a resolution to change student fees. The modification brings the fees in-line with the university’s realigned college structure.
  • Approved a resolution to approve the 2020 Affordability and Efficiency Report. Included in this year’s report is information on the impact of COVID-19, including the loss of state funding, lower tuition revenue due to decreased enrollment, the shutdown of campus in Spring 2020 and the cost of transitioning to online course delivery. McNally also pointed out a chart near the end of the 25-page report showing that YSU’s salaries for administrators are consistently below statewide averages in nearly all categories, which he said is perhaps the clearest indication of YSU’s commitment to institutional efficiency.
  • Approved a resolution to Modify Unmanned Aircraft (Drones and Model Aircraft) Policy, clarifying that the policy applies to all YSU activity on and off campus property.
  • Approved a resolution to modify the Fifteen-Year Plan for Energy Efficiency and Conservation Projects Policy. No substantive changes.
  • Approved a resolution to modify Development and Assessment of Student Tuition and Fees Policy. No substantive changes.
  • Approved resolution to modify Chargebacks Policy. No substantive changes.
  • Approved resolution to modify University Health and Safety Policy. No substantive changes.

McNally updated the board on the FY 2021 budget for the Rich Center for Autism. He also provided a quarterly update on the FY 2021 operating budget, noting that year-to-date revenues are generally tracking on or above target, noting that actual revenues are about $2.6 million lower compared to FY 2020. Despite declining first quarter revenues, the university has sufficiently realigned spending to help ensure a balance budget, he said.

John Hyden, associate vice president for University Facilities, and Rich White, director of Planning and Construction, reported on various ongoing construction projects on campus, including the $11.5 million Excellence Training Center, Fedor Hall renovations and the Covelli arched entrance. Renovation projects in development for 2021 include the Edmund J. Salata Complex, the Physical Therapy department in Cushwa Hall, parking decks and the Ward Beecher Science Hall. Hyden and White also presented an update on deferred maintenance on campus.  

The Audit Subcommittee heard a report from auditors Plant Moran on its audit of YSU’s financial statements for FY 2020. The audit provided a clean opinion absent any deficiencies. The board also reviewed the university’s 71-page financial report for fiscal years 2019 and 2020, including assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses. McNally reviewed YSU’s latest Senate Bill 6 ratios. The measure, which McNally said are essentially a “scorecard for the financial health” of public universities in Ohio, is the composite of three ratios: net income, viability and reserves. Scores run from 0 to 4. YSU’s score for 2020 is 3.1, down from 3.3 the previous two years. By comparison, Toledo and Bowling Green also scored 3.1, while three universities have ratios of less than 3 – Akron, Shawnee and Central State. In addition, Kelli Miller, YSU’s internal auditor, reported on a recent audit of the Rich Center for Autism. While the audit concluded that the center’s system of internal controls is operating effectively, it also observed several areas for improvement. Miller also update her office’s audit plan and the YSU Anonymous Reporting Hotline.

The Investment Subcommittee reviewed the university’s quarterly portfolio asset allocation and investment performance, presented by Clearstead. The subcommittee also approved a resolution to approve Clearstead’s recommendation to rebalance the university’s non-endowment long-term investment pool.

University Affairs Committee


  • Approved a resolution to ratify personnel actions for Intercollegiate Athletics, including two appointments, three separations, two reclassifications/position adjustments and two salary adjustments.
  • Approved a resolution to modify Public Use of University Grounds for Expressive Activity Policy. Holly Jacobs, general counsel and vice president for Human Resources, noted that the Ohio House of Representatives has approved SB40 regarding campus free speech. The Senate passed the bill in January. It now goes to the governor for his signature, if the Senate concurs with the House amendment. If that happens, the board will need to revisit this policy to determine if further modifications are needed, she said.
  • Approved a resolution to modify and Retitle Background Checks Policy. The modifications extend the policy to volunteers, as well as employees.
  • Approved a resolution to modify and Retitle Emeritus Status for Faculty and Excluded Professional/Administrative Staff and APAS Policy. The policy was modified to align with the awarding of emeritus status at institutions of higher education which generally confer emeritus status only upon faculty members and high-level administrative officers. Regardless, APAS retirees will continue to receive the privileges by virtue of their collective bargaining agreement, and the university will recognize retirees specifically in the board materials beginning with the June 2021 board meeting.
  • Approved a resolution regarding Terms and Conditions of Employment for Classified Employees Excluded from Collective Bargaining. The resolution extends to classified employees who are not in the ACE union the wages and other terms and conditions under the recently approved three-year contract with the union.
  • Approved a resolution to ratify Personnel Actions, including 13 appointments (four new positions and nine replacement positions), 13 separations, 18 reclassifications/position adjustments, 23 promotions, 11 salary adjustments, four transfers, two layoffs and 16 recalls.

Ron Strollo, executive director of Athletics, reviewed reports on educational outcomes, Academic Progress Rates and GPAs for university athletes. He also reported that the university now has 510 student athletes.

Governance Committee

Mike Sherman, vice president of Institutional Effectiveness and Board Professional, led a lengthy discussion focusing on strategic planning, student success, enrollment and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. He opened the session by reviewing with the board several charts outlining YSU’s fall-to-fall attrition rates and six-year graduation rates. He said the detailed data is an example of the kinds of information that the university is using to determine future actions.

Also presenting was Claire Berardini, associate provost for Student Success, reporting that early results of YSU’s new Student Success Seminar (YSU 1500) are promising. Nearly 1,900 first-year students enrolled in the 10-week Success Seminars this Fall semester, led by a “success specialist” who also serves as the students’ academic advisor for the year. The seminars are designed to help first-year students get off to strong starts in their academic careers. Berardini said the rate of students withdrawing from the university is much lower among students enrolled in the Success Seminars, while the rate of students registering for Spring classes is much higher among students enrolled in the seminars.

Phyllis Paul, dean of the Cliffe College of Creative Arts; Wim Steelant, dean of the College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics; and Jeffery Allen, dean of the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services, reported on initiatives and other best practices in each of their colleges aimed at improving student success. Lexi Rager, coordinator of student recruitment and engagement in the Honors College, reported on enrollment efforts in the College. Sal Sanders, dean of the College of Graduate Studies, and Jeff Coldren, acting chair of Psychological Sciences and Counseling, also reported. Coldren specifically talked about how faculty are working through limitations presented by remote learning to keep students engaged and successful. Betty Jo Licata, dean of the Williamson College of Business Administration, talked about program review, keeping students competitive with strong professional portfolios, streamlined curriculum, class sizes, internships and experiential learning. And Hillary Fuhrman, director of the YSU Institute of Teaching and Learning, talked about the challenges faculty, students and others face as the university continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the switch to remote course delivery.

President Tressel concluded the Governance meeting by saying that the university knows its financial limitations, and knows that there are certain areas that need investment. “The hard one is what are we no longer going to be able to afford to invest in,” he said. That discussion, he said, will be part of the March 2021 round of board meetings as the fiscal year 2022 budget is being developed. “We have some people who have been doing some amazing work,” he said, adding, “We just have to keep making good decisions.”


President Tressel recognized the following passings:

  • William and JoAnn Sweeney, parents of Shannon Tirone, associate vice president for University Relations.
  • Eyad Traish, a 2018 graduate of the Respiratory Care program.
  • Muctar Kamara and Nekian Sesay, students who died in a car accident.
  • Janice Schnall, retired director and head of Information Services, Maag Library.
  • Amos Walker, retired employee, Christman Dining.
  • Jay Gershen, retired president of NEOMED.
  • Edith DiGregorio, spouse of the late women’s basketball coach, Ed DiGregorio.
Board Chair's Remarks

Anita Hackstedde, board chair, expressed appreciation for students, faculty, staff and the administration for rising to the challenges over the past several months. She encouraged everyone to continue to pursue excellence, encouraged everyone to focus on their blessings, have an attitude of gratitude and keep their spirits up.

Upcoming Regular Meetings of the Board
  • 10 a.m., Thursday, March 4, 2021
  • 10 a.m., Thursday, June 3, 2021
  • 10 a.m., Thursday, September 2, 2021