A quest to define Kent State’s culture

Ben Wolford

What is Kent State? What defines us as a university and a student body?

Ohio State is a massive university with a championship-caliber football team, a great band and a lot of spirit.

Ohio University is a nationally recognized party school, but it also has the serenity of Southeast Ohio, with Georgian-style buildings set in the Appalachian foothills.

Miami University has a reputation of being somewhat pompous and populated by wealthy students.

But what is Kent State? What defines us as a university and a student body?

That’s what I want to find out with this column this semester. I want to talk to all the Kent State stakeholders, including students and Kent residents, professors and administrators.

And I want to talk to people who don’t know us so well. I have a feeling those who haven’t spent much time here have a very different impression of the university than we do.

Students who go to Harvard know why they’re going to Harvard: It’s the best.

And students who enroll at community colleges know why they picked their school: It’s quick and cheap.

Kent State isn’t the best and it’s not the worst. It’s big but not too big. It’s far enough away from where you came from — Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago — but not too far. It’s middle class and Midwestern.

I know why I came to Kent State: It has a great journalism program, it’s close to home and they threw a convincingly large amount of financial aid at me.

I didn’t pick it for the prestige of the school (I knew “Kent read, Kent write…”), although I think the idea of Kent State’s mediocrity is fading. It’s moved up in the U.S. News and World Report rankings since I signed up here three years ago.

Mostly I’m curious to find out why other students picked Kent State, especially the ones from outside of Ohio.

This is the Rust Belt. It’s the Midwest. Kent State’s good but not great. Campus is getting prettier, but it’s not beautiful. The Flashes aren’t the Buckeyes, and let’s be honest, Northeast Ohio doesn’t have a lot going for it these days. That’s what LeBron told us anyway.

I’m going to try to keep my biases out of this column. I grew up in Hartville, Ohio, and moved to Randolph five years ago, 10 minutes up the road. So I’ve lived here all my life and although I love my hometown, I have my opinions about this place.

So I’ll try not to let them show here.

And anyway, the point is to find out what you guys think Kent State’s culture is — because I don’t know.

I’m sure there’s something here that unites us. There must be common reasons for being proud to be Golden Flashes. Are we proud?

You tell me.

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