OAH Statement on Youngstown State University’s recent actions

We, the members of the Executive Council of the Ohio Academy of History (OAH), write to object to the recent announcement of the “non-renewal” of Dr. Jacob Ari Labendz’s contract as a tenure-track assistant professor of history at Youngstown State University.

While we recognize that the changing demographics of our state may produce challenges to higher education, including the loss of faculty positions, we note that financial exigency does not appear to be relevant in this case. We register our disagreement with the statement attributed to Dean Howell in Mahoning Matters that the history program has “too many faculty members.” We wish to stress that YSU itself ranked history a “grow” program. We therefore consider it highly contradictory to eliminate faculty positions from this department.

Furthermore, Dr. Labendz is a highly respected teacher and scholar. As the Clayman Professor and Director of the Center for Judaic and Holocaust Studies, which we understand is supported at least in part with endowments, Dr. Labendz produces scholarship, provides instruction, and facilitates programming that is vital to the mission of our society “to aid in the elevation of the general level of historical consciousness in the State of Ohio.”   In addition, Dr. Labendz publishes internationally, thus raising YSU’s global footprint.

Considering the Youngstown Jewish Community Center has been repeatedly targeted by bomb threats, including one as recent as November 16, 2021, we argue that Dr. Labendz plays a critical role in generating awareness about the historical roots of racism, anti-Semitism, and violence which is particularly relevant not only to YSU students, but to the greater Youngstown community.  By engaging in these important topics, the programs bring a wider community audience to the university.

We stand together in decrying the dismissal of Dr. Labendz and urge the reconsideration of this decision.

Take Action/Get Involved

A group of students and alumni from YSU have created a campaign in support of Dr. Labendz. Click here to join the Facebook group; and click here to sign the petition.


  1. Carrie Fitzsimmons says:

    I support the reinstatement if Dr. Labendz. He is an asset to this university.

  2. Steven Schwartz says:

    Bad decision. Needed department and professor. Please reconsider your misstep.

  3. Janet Kole says:

    This irrational decision seems to come out of nowhere. Keep Professor Labendz.

  4. Marilyn Labendz says:

    This is a near sighted decision that directly affects the students and the community.

  5. Aline Rowens says:

    Please reconsider this action regarding Dr. Jacob Ari Labendz.

  6. Kelly J. Baer says:

    Well said. I completely agree and this has my full and unwavering support.

  7. He role is very important for awareness in these troubled times.

  8. Aaron Bonilla says:

    This man is a treasure to our community. Get rid of too many appreciated professors now and you can act surprised about enrollment numbers later.

  9. Claudia Moss says:

    Jacob Labenz has shared his knowledge with the greater Youngstown community.

    We have always enjoyed the way he imparts information.
    We are hungry for his lectures that are fair with giving many sides on all points.
    He is in my estimation brilliant.

  10. Jacob Labendz says:

    Thank you very much! I appreciate your support for the center and for my work.

    Supporters of the center have created this petition: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/ysu-save-the-center-for-judaic-and-holocaust-studies/

  11. Helen Schwartz says:

    With anti-Semitism growing in this country at a frightening rate, it is hard to believe that Youngstown State would choose this time to eliminate Dr. Labendz and his program. It is needed now more than ever.

  12. Jill Mogg says:

    Dr. Labendz is an integral part of the YSU community both as a colleague, and as a mentor for our students. His scholarship, service, and research are among the best and most recognized in his field. To lose him and the Center for Judaic and Holocaust studies would be a travesty.

  13. Jennifer Stitt says:

    My daughter attends JCC after-school and my son attends YSU. They can only benefit from learning about other cultures, history, and the challenges faced by them if they are led by people with the knowledge, wisdom, and kindness to teach them. Thank you for standing up and writing this. I’ve also signed the petition. Please keep the Professor.

  14. Marissa McCabe says:

    Dr. Labendz is a crucial support not just for YSU students but for the Youngstown community.

  15. Beth Holloway says:

    I am just seeing this and would also like to support Dr. Labendz. I have had the opportunity to hear him speak on two occasions and was amazed by his knowledge and vitality. It will be a great loss to our community if he isn’t reinstated at YSU.

    Beth Holloway

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