Class or Obama?

Audrey Fletcher & Alicia Balog

Erik Heidemann, political science assistant professor, was not planning to cancel class Wednesday, despite the fact President Barack Obama is speaking at the M.A.C. Center.

When he asked his class who had tickets for the event, he said 32 out of 35 students raised their hands. He decided, then, to cancel his class.

Heidemann is just one of several Kent State professors who decided to cancel class so students can go see the President speak.

Heidemann said he thought about having his students come to the Tuesday and Thursday section of the same class, but too many students had conflicting schedules.

“I would rather cancel class and have people excited about a civic event,” he said. “It is a teachable moment. If it makes people want to participate in elections, I am not going to moan about it.”

If by attending the event students get more excited about voting, Heidemann said, that may be more useful than him teaching politics in class.

“How many times does a president come to your campus?” he said.

Having previously taught at The Ohio State University, Heidemann said he is almost desensitized to visits like this because they occurred so frequently at OSU. Here at Kent, he said, students seem to be more excited about this type of event than students at OSU.

“There is a reasonable chance that this is a more activist-oriented student body,” Heidemann said.

Freshman biology major Jessica Mulvany said she thinks the decision to cancel classes depends on the individual professor, what type of class it is and how many times a class meets a week.

For instance, Mulvany said a lab should not be cancelled but a class that meets four times a week can be cancelled without many problems.

Associate music professor Scott MacPherson also cancelled his class, KSU Chorale, a choir that meets Monday through Thursday from 4:20 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

He said he cancelled his class so his students could have the opportunity to see a sitting president in person, a once-in-a-lifetime event.

MacPherson said he feels students should be as informed as possible as Election Day is approaching.

“Maybe hearing him speak will be one of those ways in which they can make more informed choices if they choose to vote, and I hope they do choose to vote,”

MacPherson said. “I would be saying the same thing if the candidate Romney were visiting Kent and giving a similar event where he were to speak.”

He said unfortunately this event takes place during the day and not in the evening, where more students can attend without the fear of being penalized in class, so he cancelled class even though he hates losing rehearsal time.

“I’m urging them to do more work on their own outside the class on the music, so that they are better prepared when they come back on Thursday,” he said. “There’s a trade-off.”

He said if the visit was closer to their concert in late October, he would have had a harder time deciding whether to cancel class or not but that he would figure something out.

MacPherson is also attending the president’s visit. He said the only other time he saw a president speak, he had to travel to Berlin, Germany.

“I saw Bill Clinton speak at the Brandenburg Gate,” he said. “There were 90,000 people crowded there. It was in the heat of the summer. I think having a sitting president come to Kent campus, right to us, is just an amazing opportunity.”

Freshman zoology major Colleen Cosgrove said if professors don’t cancel class, they should change their lesson plans for that day.

“[They should make them] review sessions,” she said. “That way no one is missing a lot of notes or information and those who are struggling can get the extra help they need.”

Morgan Hall, freshman fashion merchandising major, said she thinks if professors had been more open to cancelling class, students would have been more open to attending.

“My roommate almost didn’t go because she was going to have a chemistry lab that night,” Hall said. “But at the last minute the professor cancelled and she was able to get a ticket.”

Hall also said she thinks it is important for students to attend the event.

“I’m not even a political person,” Hall said. “I just think it is a one-time thing.”

Contact Alicia Balog at [email protected] and Audrey Fletcher at [email protected].