Backlash to the opaque presidential search process that led Youngstown State University to hire Congressman Bill Johnson continued this week, with frustrated alumni withdrawing pledges and the chair of YSU Foundation stepping down.
Johnson—a local Republican who questioned the outcome of the 2020 presidential election—was hired last month through a process that bypassed campus visits and other standard features of past searches. Campus and community critics have criticized the process as rushed and secretive.
On Tuesday, the Youngstown State University Foundation released a statement indicating that it had heard concerns from donors over the hiring process. Since then, numerous donors have taken to local media to denounce the process and announce plans to rescind pledges to the university, citing the way YSU’s Board of Trustees handled the presidential search.
One donor, Bruce Zoldan, who had pledged $5 million, told WKBN he is rethinking his commitment for the renovation of a student center, which was to bear his surname.
“Legally, I’m not sure what my options are because I made a commitment to the university and probably have signed some kind of a contract,” Zoldan told the local CBS affiliate about his pledge to YSU. “What’s important for me is helping the students now and in the future, and if it’s through scholarships rather than my name on a building, that’s the path I’m going to take.”
Trustees have since defended the process, noting that it did not violate Ohio’s open meetings laws and was necessary to hire the best candidate.