Opinion: Kent State isn’t perfect, but you can help



Jody Michael

Jody Michael is the opinion editor

for the Daily Kent Stater.

Contact him at [email protected].

I’d like to extend a warm welcome to all new Kent State students. College is a really important time in your life, so hopefully you will find this to be a great place to work toward your degree. For what it’s worth, I’ve never regretted my decision to enroll here.

That said, while you’ve surely heard lots of people tell you how great Kent State is, by no means is it a perfect university. It has plenty of irritating flaws and drawbacks, and you deserve advance notice of those things as well.

For example, by now you have probably paid your tuition. It was really expensive. Unfortunately, it is almost certain to get even worse each year you’re here because the university continues to spend money on unimportant stuff knowing we have to pay for it.

Do you see that construction project happening in front of the Student Center? When it’s done, it will be a green space. Before construction began, that area was — wait for it — green space. We spent $2.8 million to turn green space into green space.

Well, most of it was already green space. Some of it used to be part of the adjacent parking lot. So if ever you have trouble finding an open spot where your permit allows you to park (which is a common occurrence), just thank our intelligent administrators.

By the way, our university president is Lester Lefton. He’s been here since 2006, and the changes here under his tenure have been a mixed bag. On the bright side, we now have the second-highest enrollment among Ohio universities.

Lefton’s administration has also spent several million dollars to contribute to ongoing downtown redevelopment, and that investment could be rewarding. It will assuredly allow the land to be put to better use, attract more business and bring more people to the city and university than a stupid green space ever could.

But the biggest blemish on Lefton’s record is that even when student tuition rates rise — which has happened all three years I’ve been here — he receives a bonus. The university can’t balance its budget, forces you to pay more and then hands an extra $100,000 to the president anyway.

This act of ignorance is an annual occurrence thanks to our dependable Board of Trustees defying all common sense to unanimously vote in favor of his bonus each summer.

It gets worse. Last year, the Board voted to rename our basketball court in honor of graduate and donor Jason Cope. No one told the trustees the government has fined Cope more than $19 million for selling fraudulent stocks worth $8.7 million. Oops.

In April, Kent State’s professors’ union nearly went on strike after Lefton’s administration had repeatedly violated its bargaining agreement with the faculty. Spend frivolously on things you can’t afford, lie about the past of your donors and show blatant disregard for the professors who educate us: That’s excellence in action.

Expecting any university to be flawless would be irrational, but these actions by our administrators are appallingly evil.

They get away with it because not enough students care to get outraged, but you should. This is what affects your tuition costs and the quality of your education and career preparation.

I don’t intend to mortify you and make you want to drop out. Rather, here’s an opportunity to make a difference. If you become aware of something you want the university to change, you have plenty of options.

Contact someone in the administration — all their email addresses are in the FlashLine directory. Write letters to the Stater. Campaign for an Undergraduate Student Government position. Organize a protest (like the several we had this past spring in response to the announced tuition hikes). Attend a Board of Trustees meeting.

College requires a lot of time, money and energy, so we all want to make the best of it. But students can’t fix all Kent State’s problems by themselves.

So it’s more important than ever to make your voice heard when you see an opportunity to make Kent State a better place. Plus, your impact might benefit not just yourself: It might benefit everyone.