Who are we? I ask a long-time student

Ben Wolford

I’ve been stalking the grounds of this campus for nearly four years now, first as a senior in high school, considering myself a cut above my classmates because I was visiting my then girlfriend, a Kent State freshman.

Arrogance continued when I was drafted for the Summer Kent Stater, making the rounds on campus as a cub reporter.

I’ve taken classes with brilliant professors from Bowman Hall to Satterfield Hall to Franklin Hall to the Art Building.

I’m familiar with the decorations inside President Lefton’s office (did you know he makes stained-glass art?), and I can tell you where and what the “Partially Buried Woodshed” is.

I know a lot about Kent State, but if you asked me what I think of the university or what the university thinks of itself, I’d be at a loss. I would probably mutter something about the opportunities it offers Ohio’s middle-class, first-generation students, or I’d comment on how well I like the journalism school.

So I want to know, simply put: Who are we?

And although I feel like an authority on the school, given my tenure here, I know I’m not the authority; probably no one is. But I needed someone who’s been here more than four years — like, maybe, nine.

I called Ray Campbell.

If you don’t know him, Campbell is perhaps Kent’s only true socialite, a friend of more than 3,000 on Facebook, a Sigma Nu, an athletic department personality and now a student in the history department.

(As an aside: The Stater’s intent in Tuesday’s “Watch Out Ray Campbell” wasn’t to bash on Campbell. After chatting with him for the first time the other night, I think he’s a real good guy. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly after your class, Ray.)

I figured if there’s a student who knows what Kent State is as a community, it’s him. And I was right; he gave me some good insight about the place.

“It’s small enough where you can be somebody, but big enough where that matters,” he said.

He’s right. I think that’s an important aspect of this university that sets us apart. It’s not a Hiram College, and it’s not an Ohio State. It’s a little bigger than Ohio University, without the utter isolation of Southern Ohio.

Campbell pointed out that Kent State athletes are in a good place to get noticed. They’re Division I, but they play in the manageable Mid-American Conference, not the Big 10.

And we talked about the nightlife here, which is certainly important. (Socrates and his interlocutors were aware that life’s unanswerable questions were better contemplated with help from a carafe of wine.)

“We party differently here,” Campbell said. That is, we’re more hospitable, he said, than other schools.

To use my own words, not his, students here are just happy to have a beer in their hand while meeting new people.

I think friendliness is a legitimate aspect of Kent State’s culture. And other than the occasional, isolated, arbitrary violence (see page one), this community fits the label.

So that’s one thing we are: friendly. Check back next week to see if I’ve found more.

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