Faculty Senate addresses budget, enrollment, Aramark in first fall meeting


President Beverly Warren watches Faculty Senate Chair Deb Smith as she gives her opening remarks at the Faculty Senate meeting Monday Sept. 11, 2017. 

Nicholas Hunter

The Kent State Faculty Senate came together for their first meeting on Monday, Sept. 11. One of the topics discussed pertained to the university’s new food vendor: Aramark. 

Edgar Kooijman, an associate professor of biological sciences, lamented the change in vendor, saying his budget for food would need to double this year if he were to use Aramark’s catering services.

“It’s been a pain,” Kooijman said, “and I think one of the conclusions is going to be … we’re not going to use our catering services.”

Darci Kracht, a mathematical science professor, also aired her grievances of Aramark, expressing concern that lack of reimbursement for food will have a negative impact on the department’s growing student clubs.

“Previously, we would order pizza from off-campus, and the department would reimburse us for it and that, apparently, is no longer possible,” Kracht said. “This is a real concern. We are trying to figure out how we can attract more people to the club meetings, and … you have to offer food.”

Senate Faculty Chair Deb Smith said she had received complaints from other faculty members and planned on addressing them.

“There are bound to be some growing pains with a new provider, and if your department or college or campus are experiencing some issues with Aramark, please let me know,” Smith said. “We do plan on raising some of these concerns with the president and provost.”

Smith also took to the lectern to make the Chair’s Remarks, which she used to highlight a concern she had with a hiring model that has been put in place in the past two years.

The practice, which involves reallocating funds from one department in order to assist paying for the salaries of new faculty and/or staff members in another department, left her with worries that this practice could lead to certain departments lacking funding.

“I believe that this plan is definitely in the best interest of the university as a whole,” Smith said. “However, it … won’t benefit every college equally; there will be winners and losers. I believe the same goes for individual regional campuses as well.”

After discussion between faculty senate members and President Beverly Warren alongside Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration Mark Polatajko, Warren took the stage to give her remarks.

Warren touted a number of facts that demonstrated forward movement for the university’s success.

First, Warren mentioned Kent State awarded over 10,000 degrees and certificates in the 2016-17 academic year, the most in university history.

“I dare say, there are few universities in the state of Ohio who can say the same,” Warren said.

In her remarks, Warren hinted Kent State “will be highlighted” in tomorrow’s World News Report’s best college rankings.

Warren also noted the incoming freshman class this year has the highest average GPA and ACT scores, calling them “the most talented class in Kent State history.”

While official enrollment numbers will be revealed at the Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday, Warren said she expects over 4,000 incoming freshmen this year.

“We also are enrolling our largest Honors College ever,” Warren said. While she could not immediately confirm the numbers, Honors College enrollment is expected to be over 1,500 students.

Even with these positive trends, Warren had to shift gears to address a decline in overall enrollment at Kent State.

“A part of educating really globally educated citizens … is the fact that we develop a microcosm of the world here at Kent State, and we believed in that,” Warren said.

She went on to say international enrollment is up in all countries except for Saudi Arabia, India and China.

“So with that downturn in the number of students who are declining to study in the U.S. who hail from those three countries, we are seeing that effect of a downward turn in our enrollment,” Warren said.

“The last thing we want to do is to say, ‘We will no longer focus on international studies or international students,’” Warren said. “But we have to determine, how do we hit that headwind with a very positive approach to our work?”

Along with losses in international enrollment, the university’s overall decline in enrollment is a result of fewer graduate students attending the university.

Warren stated these losses, along with a now-four-year tuition freeze that was extended from just two years in June and the freeze of State Share of Instruction funds, the university will be dealing with “pressure on (its) budget this year.”

Warren then moved onto goals she has for Kent State faculty this year, which includes an effort to attract students to the university by creating new programs, fostering a diverse group of students on campus despite a downturn in international enrollment and a fundraising goal of $45 million for this academic year.

Within her goals, she expressed interest in continuing to build what she called “cradle to career” partnerships. Specifically, a partnership that Kent State has established with Akron Public Schools to create programs that put high school freshman on “pathways” toward a number of college majors, including those within the Colleges of Architecture and Environmental Design, the Arts, Communication and Information and Aeronautics and Engineering.

Pan-African Studies professor George Garrison would later say about the program that, when implementing the program, a focus is needed on students who would not be considered the typical college student.

“There are groups who are left out, who are at the bottom, and it affects not only their individual lives, but it affects the lives of their families and the whole community,” Garrison said. “One of the most important things, I think, of a public institution is to be continuously engaged and involved with the improvement of communities.”

After the president’s remarks, the meeting moved onto the creation of two majors: one in musical theatre and another in theatre design, technology and production, which were both previously concentrations within the theatre studies major.

The senate passed the measure unanimously.

The next Faculty Senate meeting will take place on Monday, Oct. 9.

Nicholas Hunter is the academic affairs reporter. Contact him at [email protected].