Student group leaders disappointed with involvement in presidential search

Amish Patel

Madeleine Winer

More student involvement. More transparency. More interaction with the campus community.

These, among other demands, are what student leaders are saying they want from the administration as the search committee begins ensuring applicants of “full consideration” today. But leaders of student groups who represent large and diverse sections of the student body describe a disconnect with the committee charged with recommending a candidate to replace President Lester Lefton next July.

Despite a promise to hold forums for students during August and September, the committee has held just one in August — before students arrived on campus. Student involvement was emphasized at the forum, but the committee has since met personally with one student group, Undergraduate Student Government, which is already represented on the committee.

Online response from the search committee’s website had attracted 70 responses last month. The university is in the process of filling a records request for the online survey results and email responses.

Search committee chair and Kent State trustee Richard Marsh declined further interviews with the Stater during the search process. Marsh released a written statement on behalf of the committee Oct. 3 that reported “favorable” results from the search so far.

At the August forum, Marsh said students can follow the process through online feedback and news posted on the committee’s website but could not say if the committee would host another open forum for students.

The presidential search committee chair Richard Marsh and vice chair, Dennis Eckart, met in person with the following 12 groups on campus. Of those groups, Undergraduate Student Government is the only student organization.

  • Board of Trustees
  • Presidential search committee
  • Foundation board executive committee
  • Kent campus deans
  • Regional campus deans
  • Chairs and directors
  • Undergraduate Student Government
  • Regional campuses
  • Kent campus
  • Faculty Senate executive committee
  • Faculty Senate
  • President’s cabinet (interviewed individually by search consultant)

“There will be various materials on there,” Marsh said about the site during the Aug. 20 forum. “I think students can really get involved in the search and have a feeling like they know what will be happening as we go through this.”

At the forum, Marsh encouraged students to give feedback on the online survey and connect with its two student representatives, Amish Patel, the undergraduate, and Michael Allen, the graduate representative. He said the two “serve as a conduit” back to the committee.

According to Kent State policy for presidential searches, the search committee should include “as nearly as possible” one graduate and one undergraduate student on the committee. Ohio State’s presidential search committee is the same. The University of Akron’s committee does not include students or faculty.

Graduate Student Senate Chair, Michael Allen, declined to comment about the Graduate Student Senate’s involvement in the presidential search. Patel, a representative of 80 percent of the student body, said he has an “open-door policy” for students to come and talk about the search and anticipates more student involvement when finalists are chosen and brought to campus for interviews.

“I’m free for students to share their thoughts and talk during office hours,” Patel said. “Email me, tweet me with feedback. Down the road, we have tentative plans for candidates to meet face-to-face so that it is more open for everyone.”

The leaders of Black United Students, the College Republicans and Democrats, Panhellenic Council, Interfraternity Council, Kent State International Mentors and Kent Interhall Council all said their respective organizations have not been contacted by the presidential search committee. However, most have not tried to contact the presidential-search committee either.

KIC President Christine Francisco served on the search committee for the associate director of housing last summer. She said she hopes more student leaders can meet with finalists rather than funneling all student comments through Patel.

“It might be time for those attuned to what’s going on to be polled at one time so that feedback can be given to (the committee),” she said.

College Democrats President Jake Green said he understands that Patel and USG can provide a direct role in the search process, but doesn’t believe that is enough.

“I don’t believe one member of USG can represent 26,000 students on campus,” Green said. “There’s a lot of voices, and one being heard isn’t enough.”

Be heard!

The university has provided students with the following ways to get involved with the presidential search:

  • Email the presidential search committee with your suggestions and feedback at [email protected].
  • Take the online survey on the committee’s website at http://www.kent.edu/president.
  • Email [email protected] to submit nominations for the next president of Kent State.
  • Attend USG’s meeting Wednesday in the Student Governance Chambers at 5 p.m. and give your input. USG holds public meetings bi-weekly Wednesdays in the Student Governance Chambers at 5 p.m.

“I’d like to see an era of accountability,” Green said about the next president’s tenure. “I’d love it if the next president were open and cared about decisions on campus and what we spend money on and the way money is brought in. I want to know: What’s the reason behind the decisions we make?”

Some of these leaders expressed concern about the lack of knowledge students have about mechanisms for involvement in the search.

“It’s not getting promoted,” Black United Students President Roslynn Porch said. “They’re not letting it be known that we have the opportunity to have involvement. You can’t be effective at something you’re not aware of. They could be more proactive in promoting it.”

All student leaders interviewed said student involvement was the main characteristic they were looking for in the next president. IFC President Robert Lierenz and Panhellenic Council President Brianna Foraker said interaction with the students is key, especially the students in Greek life.

“We are looking for someone who is personable … someone who goes on campus and interacts with his students,” said Foraker, who gave her feedback online about what she would like to see in the presidential search. “We would love to see a presence in the Greek community during our large events because I do feel we contribute greatly to the university.”

Lierenz said he would go to another forum if the committee hosted another.

“I feel like with a lot of things with the university, they tells us something is going to happen but don’t tell us why,” Lierenz said. “It doesn’t hurt to extend the offer.”

Madeleine Winer is the administration reporter for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].