Board of Trustees to make decisions about the president at its May meeting

Alicia Balog

Kent State University’s Board of Trustees will focus on issues related to the university’s president, including starting a search committee for President Lester Lefton’s successor, at its Tuesday, May 14 meeting.

“When there is a vacancy in the president, they look at what is the kind of person we need to hire at this point and time, what characteristics should they have, where is the university going,” said Charlene Reed, secretary for the Board, in an interview February 1.

Jane Murphy Timken, chair of the Board, will appoint a trustee to chair the search committee, which will consist of other trustees, cabinet members, faculty and possibly city leaders, said Eric Mansfield, executive director of university media relations.

Once the committee is appointed, the members will decide how to conduct the search and whether they will conduct it privately, publicly or a mixture of the two.

The Board will also vote to establish the home where Lefton and his wife are currently living as the official presidential home, after the university entered into a lease agreement that began April 1 to lease the home from Shaker Heights attorney Edward W. Cochran.

The Board will vote on an amended contract for Lefton that will not include the $50,000 housing stipend that he has been receiving to pay for his mortgage, according to his 2009 amended contract.

The Board is known for voting on tuition increases, which it traditionally does at its spring meetings, but Mansfield said tuition will not be an item on the agenda for the May meeting, the Board’s second meeting this year.

In general, the Board has four regular meetings a year, one per quarter, and anywhere from one to four special meetings where they will decide on different policies for the university, including hiring and evaluating the president, Reed said.

For instance, at the March 13 meeting, the Board approved Lefton’s full performance bonus, which was $104,450 — or 25 percent of his salary — after evaluating his goals. For his bonus, Lefton wrote his own goals in a five-page letter that included 10 different metrics to measure his success.

According to the July 22, 2012, letter, one of his metrics intended for him to “develop a plan and demonstrate progress in focus areas for personal development, such as increasing the number of contacts with faculty members and students and providing more forums for communication and consensus building.”

In his end-of-the-year letter to Timken, he wrote that he had been meeting groups of 10 to 20 people from different departments on campus, including the English and history departments, and talking to them about the direction of the university.

“We then reviewed his performance based on those goals and metrics, and the Board came to the conclusion that President Lefton is exceeding or meeting all of those goals and metrics and is well deserving of his full-performance bonus,” Timken said at the March 13 meeting. She mentioned his work with campus renovations and a 13 percent increase in graduation rates as some of the reasons the Board awarded him his bonus.

Board members approve other items, such as new programs, including the Masters of Fashion Degree at its March 13 meeting, and property purchases, in order to keep the university running and moving forward with its goals for the future.

“They are supposed to take a long-term view of the institution and make sure that the university people at this point and time, administration, faculty, staff and students, are being consistent with the mission of the university within its broad scope,” Reed said. “That the institution is being well managed, that people are making good decisions and that it will ultimately survive and thrive for another hundred years.”

Contact Alicia Balog at [email protected].