ANALYSIS: Staff showed growing focus on DEI, but new president may reverse trend
Over a recent four year period, Youngstown State University’s full-time undergraduate enrollment fell almost 16 percent — even as the ratio of administrators to students grew more than 13 percent and tuition was hiked for four consecutive years, an analysis conducted by The College Fix found.
Amid these changes, a growing effort to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion was embedded at the public, Ohio-based institution.
It may be one reason why Youngstown State University’s Board of Trustees recently selected Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, a staunch conservative, as the school’s new president despite major objections from some faculty and others.
“Preventing Johnson from altering the culture and curriculum at YSU, as other right-wing ideologues have attempted to do in states like Florida, Kansas, and Alabama, ‘will take great courage’ on the part of the trustees,” YSU trustee Molly Seals, the lone nay vote against Johnson, told the Daily Beast.
Johnson is scheduled to begin his tenure as president in February 2024.
He takes over a campus that, during the 2021-22 academic year, had 132 full-time administrators and support staff per 1,000 full-time undergraduate students — an increase from 122 in 2017 — according to the most recent data provided by the university to the federal Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.
Administrators and support staff are composed of management, student and academic affairs divisions, IT, public relations, administrative support, maintenance, legal, and other non-academic departments, according to The College Fix analysis.
After much thought and prayerful deliberation, I have accepted the offer to lead Youngstown State University and will not be seeking an 8th term in Congress. As I’ve stated previously, I wasn’t looking for another job, because I love the one I have serving the people of Eastern…
— Rep. Bill Johnson (@RepBillJohnson) November 21, 2023
The growth occurred as Youngstown State faced decreases in full-time student enrollment. Only 7,428 full-time undergraduate students enrolled in the 2021-22 academic year compared to 8,834 students in 2017-18.
YSU did not cut administrative support at the same rate as its reduction in undergraduate enrollment, and what’s more, the increase of administrators per student ran parallel with an increase of DEI focus within universities and tuition increases.
Over the last four years, tuition increased 4.1 percent, 3.8 percent, 4.6 percent and 3 percent, respectively, according to Neal McNally, chief finance officer at YSU, as reported in the Jambar student newspaper in August.
A March 2023 report in the Jambar also noted that “the office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion on campus is working to grow its impact of making students feel accepted and included, respectful and aware.”
Susan Moorer, assistant director for Multicultural and Outreach Services at YSU’s DEI office, was reported as saying the DEI office aims to provide students with training events and mentoring programs. The DEI office’s coordinator for transitioning and mentoring programs, Donquail Mims, provides advertisements for activities and outreach, according to the article.
The focus in DEI is also embedded in YSU’s athletic department. Jaysen Spencer, director of Athletic Academic Services, also serves as a Senior Minority Administrator/Athletics Diversity & Inclusion Designee, according to his faculty bio.
“Everything we do needs to be done through a DEI lens,” he told the Jambar. “Whether it’s hiring more diverse coaches, recruiting a more diverse student-athlete population and hiring diverse medical staff.”
Additionally, a staff DEI committee group was formed in 2022 to ensure accountability for DEI within YSU athletics. The committee was tasked with developing hiring practices that ensure a diverse applicant pool and reviewing department policies and procedures for equitable outcomes.
Moorer earned approximately $65,000 and former assistant provost for diversity and inclusion, Carol Bennett, made more than $112,000 in 2022, according to the Buckeye Institute.
The Fix reached out to numerous university staff at YSU, including Becky Rose, assistant director of university communications, and Shannon Tirone, associate vice president for university relations. Neither responded.
The Fix asked why staff and administration cuts have not fallen at the same rate as student enrollment over the last five years. The Fix also inquired about the increasing administrator-student ratio being caused by new DEI efforts.
In addition to Johnson’s hiring, an anti-DEI bill, SB 83, is set to move through the Ohio House of Representatives in the coming weeks that, if approved, would ban mandatory DEI training and statements at Ohio public colleges and universities.
Moorer, the assistant director of DEI, did not respond to a request from The College Fix asking whether the bill, if approved, would affect their office or programs.
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