Our View: Warren for a day

DKS Editors

The announcement last week of Beverly Warren as the next KSU president might have been sudden and surprising to many in the university community. About a hundred flocked to Rockwell Hall for the announcement, and many more saw her at the Flashes basketball game. She interacted with others at a two-hour meet-and-greet session in the Kent Student Center. 

But it wasn’t all unexpected for us.

Sure, we knew the announcement no earlier than everyone else — the 24 hours notice prior to any Board of Trustees meeting, as mandated by Ohio law. We had no confirmed knowledge of her name ahead of the announcement. We reacted along with the rest of the community.

But we were intimately familiar with the job search process the school used to find the 65-year-old provost from Richmond, Va. The presidential search committee, which did not name any of its serious contenders or host forums for students when they were on campus, consequently left us — and the general public — all with the same uncertain question: Who is Beverly Warren?

From the just more than 24 hours she was on campus, she was widely available. She pledged to continue and build on the accomplishments from President Lefton’s eight-year tenure. She eloquently fielded questions on topics of tuition, student involvement, faculty, the football team, retention and many others — all of which we heard and published in some capacity.

But the availability of Warren after her announcement is moot. There was no public debate about her qualifications and no chance for another voice to present a dissenting opinion.

Given the president’s massive jobs duties that impact all levels of the university — funded partially by taxpayer money — why did the trustees rely solely on the recommendation and advice of a little more than a dozen prominent university figures? The committee could not possibly represent everyone.

To us, it’s especially frustrating. The search for a new public official is a time when journalism typically spearheads and hosts the conversation for what the community is looking for in a leader. Without actual candidates, we followed on the search process from a distance and were often left to report on the fact that most people we interviewed in the community did not know or care what was going on.

Moving forward, it’s important to distinguish Warren’s qualifications and characteristics as separate from KSU’s decision to keep the search under wraps. The method by which she was hired should not reflect her own views.

But we wonder if she would have participated in the search had it been public, or perhaps part of Kent State’s appeal included the fact that her current employer, Virginia Commonwealth University, had no idea we was pursuing a job elsewhere. The private search means a slightly shorter honeymoon period for the new president — the questions surrounding her plans for KSU begin now.

It’s very possible Warren will be a tremendous and open leader — and, from her first appearance in front of the cameras, she seems to be a wonderful selection. But, to the public’s deficit, our view is limited along with yours.

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