President Warren: ‘I’ll be at graduation’

President Beverly Warren talks to students in the TV2 Studio after an interview with Kent State Student Media on Friday, April 29, 2016.

TV2 News: President Warren Interview from on Vimeo.

Kent State President Beverly Warren returned for a final interview just three weeks after announcing she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and subsequently underwent surgery. 

Warren opened up about her recovery process, the upcoming May 4 ceremony featuring the mother of Tamir Rice as the keynote speaker and her affinity for all things Kent State and ’70s acoustic rock.

And much like James Taylor—whom she jokingly suggested should serve as background music for future sit-downs—one thing is clear: Warren always has Kent State on her mind.

On changing her diet and cutting Diet Coke:

“You know, I thought it would be really hard, and it really wasn’t. I actually started January 1 as sort of a New Year’s resolution. I switched to sparkling and regular water, and it’s been fine. That’s part of- I had a physical in March and it was my way of looking at the new year and what do. I need to do to be an example and make sure that if we are declaring to be a healthy campus that I can serve as a much as possible as an example of that without being just totally a purist. I enjoy sweets every now and then. I don’t think it’s a bad thing.” 

On the May 4 Task Force’s decision to name Samaria Rice as keynote speaker:

“So, as I understand it, we’ve had other speakers on May 4 that have been controversial, that have been provocative, and I think we’ve allowed that to occur because of really starting with May 4 1970, I think was our commitment to freedom of speech. The ability to speak up and speak out is a part of really the DNA of Kent State. My stance has always been, and we’ve talked about this over the year, I don’t think it’s right for a president to step in and censor speakers, and I’m not going to do that. I think we should provide guidance—and I think the Division of Student Affairs has been doing that with student led organizations—but you can go back and look at some of our other speakers who have been invited by student-led organizations, and there have been controversies around what might be perceived messages. I honor the May 4th Task Force, I think they’ve been thoughtful over time in terms of how they’ve commemorated May 4.

In their point of view, they see the parallels of really struggling for social justice and racial equality. I think those who don’t see the connection are more focused on the May 4, 1970 was about political activism and really dissatisfaction in a war we didn’t believe in, at least some in America. So my point of view is I’m going to honor the May 4 Task Force for their thoughtful presentation around why they thought Black Lives Matter and May 4 activism. I think their thread is a spirit of activism, and if you look at modern activism, there has been a real strong support for (the) Black Lives Matter movement. But I think it’s about freedom of expression and allowing students at this university to be able to speak up and speak out.”

On concerns of protests arising during the May 4 ceremonies:

“I would hope we always have a spirit of civil discourse and a spirit of being able to disagree without being disagreeable. There may be protests on that day in counter to the Black Lives Matter (movement). I think that would be appropriate as long as individuals are engaging in appropriate protest. It’s been my experience since I have arrived at Kent State that people have honored the guidelines around peaceful protests.”

On the university’s plans for the summer:

“I think the initiatives we’ve already started in motion, the summer will be a time for us to think and plan. The healthy campus initiative is one, and how do we move forward? We’ll have a new dining contract that we’ll come up with a request for proposals, and we’re looking forward to that and how we might approach healthy dining, with a new opportunity for the same vendor or new vendors to embrace what we mean by a healthy campus. We’ve got the smoke- free/tobacco-free campus initiative where we’re really trying to be thoughtful about plans around smoking cessation, good communication and updates on where we are. We’re moving toward what we believe will be a full enforcement in July of 2017.”

On May 2016 graduation ceremonies:

“I am going (to be there). I was talking to my doctors yesterday. Well, actually I was talking to my doctors before surgery and I told them, ‘Look, I have graduation May 14. I shake every hand. I intend to do that.’ And my surgeon said, ‘You’ll be able to do that,’ and so then in post-surgery follow-up he said, ‘Shake my hand; Oh, you’re strong!’

You know, my only worry is the stamina on Saturday, but my plan is to be there and in full action.”

Ian Flickinger is the senior editor of The Kent Stater; contact him at [email protected]. Ian Klein is the news director of TV2; contact him at [email protected].