Our View: Warren’s visit shows personality

DKS Editors

Late last Thursday, as the temperature dipped to zero and the sky darkened over Risman Plaza, Beverly Warren ended a whirlwind day on campus — her second visit after being named the next Kent State president.

She finished a full day — “jam-packed” with mostly private meetings with administrators, faculty and student leaders — with reporters from the Daily Kent Stater, TV2 and Burr Magazine.

The president-elect sat in front of television cameras in the Alumni Suite and cheerfully fielded questions during a 45-minute session that was meticulously divided into 15-minute interview segments among the three organizations.

Warren’s impression on us was that of a genuinely eager student. She emphasized the nature of the presidential transition process, which requires that she learns as much as she can about the school’s current state and its biggest challenges for the future. (For that reason, she politely declined to answer questions worded too specifically.)

She admitted her campus visits this semester have been limited to “prescribed time,” being ushered from meeting to meeting by Iris Harvey, the school’s vice president of university relations. She wished she could have a “more opportunity for a free flow of visiting” with students.

The best analysis on a president who is four months away from office is largely based in personality, and Warren’s is a contrast to the current president. We believe the school considered this personality difference as a key component in the presidential search.

And personality can go a long way for a president in his or her ability to discuss and decide on important issues of an institution. During his eight-year tenure, President Lefton has repeatedly described the school as a business and himself a chief executive officer.

Outside performance reviews — which have netted him hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses — pined over his outstanding prowess in administrative areas such as fundraising, assessing his greatest strengths as “strategic thinking,” “leadership” and “persistence.”

But it acknowledged weaknesses of “concern for others” and “patience.” He scored particularly low in areas of “forming relationships with faculty and staff.”

In her interview with the Stater and TV2, Warren saw room for improvement in areas of campus morale, healthy eating options in the dining halls and advising. She named her top three goals of her presidency as accessibility, inclusion and engagement.

Why the three goals to be more open and friendly with students?

“I want to be that president that can deliver your message in really powerful ways because the quality of your experience actually depends on my ability and the ability of others to really garner support from donors.”

She never mentioned a long-term business strategy or spoke of herself as a CEO. Instead, she spoke of her duty to fundraise — a skill at which Lefton exceled — as a reason to interact with her primary constituents: students.

That’s the key difference we see in Warren. Students are part of what Lefton would call a long-term business plan. Under Warren’s leadership, we will be more included in the “strategic thinking” that helped expand campus under Lefton.  

With a finger on the pulse of the student body, we believe she’ll be a more effective leader.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.