Executive office renovations focus on eliminating potential health, safety concerns


Photo by Kristin Bauer.

Daniel Moore

The university is taking health and security risks into consideration as it renovates the final space of the executive office.

Tom Neumann, the associate vice president for university communications and marketing, said construction on the $100,000 project, which renovates the reception and waiting area for the president’s office, will begin mid-December.

“This area, which had not previously been renovated, will have a reconfigured entrance and more seating for visiting dignitaries,” Neumann said.

Such dignitaries as elected officials, businessman and ambassadors from other countries need to be provided a more secure reception area than the existing space just inside the glass doors, Neumann said.

President Lester Lefton said although various parts of the offices have been renovated in the past several years, the hallway hasn’t been updated in 30 years. The changes, he said, will benefit everyone in the area.

“What we’re doing is getting rid of the asbestos in the ceiling that’s a health issue,” Lefton said. “There are also safety issues involved in terms of creating access that creates a little more security in the president’s office.”

He said he has had problems with “rambunctious folks” in the past and feels a completely separate entrance would provide more protection.

“When you’re sitting out (in the waiting area), you can see all the way into my office,” Lefton said. “So at the request of some board members, at the request of some staff members, we’re creating a different entrance into the president’s office.”

Lt. William Buckbee of the Kent State Police Department said although he has no recollection of any such security incidents since Lefton became president, that doesn’t mean there isn’t risk.

“I don’t think anything has risen to the level where recently it has required the police to intervene,” Buckbee said. “That obviously doesn’t say it doesn’t demonstrate potential risk or potential problems that could occur.”

Buckbee conducted a “security vulnerability assessment” May 2007 with the Office of the University Architect during which he noticed the security risk in the openness of the president’s office and issued a recommendation.

“One of the recommendations we made at the time was to do what is apparently being done now, which is to create a second layer of security between the lobby and the president’s office,” he said. “We certainly, from a safety and security point of view, think that this is a very reasonable and practical step for the president to make.”

Although the police department has not performed an assessment since 2007, Buckbee said, he acknowledged increases in human traffic past the entrance of the executive offices.

“There are certainly a lot more people that are going up onto the second floor now with the Math Emporium being up there,” he said. “So I think all these things contributed to implementing this second phase of the security assessment we recommended before.”

Jay Graham, the project manager for the executive office renovations, was unavailable for comment.

Lefton emphasized the decision to renovate was not a direct result of any specific safety or security threat, but of Buckbee’s recommendation.

“It’s a modest project — it’s not a big deal,” he said.

Contact Daniel Moore at [email protected].