Coming soon: The Kent State Society

Ben Wolford

Brian Pizor is starting a new student organization.

When he told me about it, I was surprised it didn’t already exist. This is a university, after all.

The name of the group, initially the Kent State Philosophical Society, has been shortened to The Kent State Society because, ideally, it will be that closely identified to the university itself.

Pizor, a 33-year-old psychology major who spent time after high school in emergency services near Philadelphia, said his model for the group is Rutgers’ Peithessophian Society.

The goal of that centuries-old society is to give students a forum for intellectual discussion about the gamut of knowledge shared at the university, especially topics not typically covered in the curriculum.

And that’s what Pizor is trying to do.

“I’ve had this urge to grow a little bit of ivy on these walls,” he said.

But it’s not an organization yet. There’s still paperwork to submit and approval to gain. Pizor has five students interested.

I, too, became interested. Isn’t this something that should be at every university?

To quote President Lester Lefton from an interview I conducted with him in 2008:

“Isn’t it the point of a college education,” he said, “to create well-rounded individuals who are not uni-dimensional, who can see the world through different lenses?”

But Ohio’s higher education is in trouble. Consequently, the “university” in Kent State’s name is in trouble because the institution is changing the way it does business — it’s behaving more like businesses.

In the business world, if you don’t make money, you disappear.

In the new world of university businesses, if you don’t make money, you don’t get to be an elective anymore. Or you don’t get to be a department anymore.

The latter possibility hasn’t happened here yet, but it could. The former, unfortunately, is upon us.

Right now, students have 109 liberal education requirement options. That’s going to drop to less than half.

I’ve spent the semester writing about the culture of Kent State, and what I’ve found is that Kent State is a respectable university. It has all the necessary parts, in greater or lesser concentration: good professors, bright students and enough other stuff to give our brains a rest on the weekends.

But what happens if someday it is difficult to become “well-rounded” and “not uni-dimensional”? What happens if we don’t have much of a choice in electives?

Lefton again from 2008:

“Use every elective you’ve got to take courses in music and theater and religion,” he said, listing others. “You will never have another opportunity to have so much expertise in so many fields available to you … It will open your mind.”

That quote gives me hope.

So does Pizor’s Kent State Society.

I hope The Kent State Society helps fill whatever void Columbus forces Kent State to leave in its commitment to the idea of the university.

Most importantly, I hope Kent State never abandons that commitment voluntarily.

Ben Wolford is a senior newspaper journalism major and the editor of the Daily Kent Stater. E-mail him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter @BenWolford.