Our view: preparing for more grim days at the pump

DKS Editors

Pumps pinching pockets. Gas woes. The pain at the pump.

By now, anyone semi-glued into American society has heard or seen these clichéd phrases being tossed around by news anchors or splashed across the front pages of newspapers for days on end.

The news coverage surrounding the soaring gas prices ramped up once again this past week with another record high – the national average exceeding $4 per gallon. In Ohio, that’s more than half the amount of minimum wage.

Let’s go a step further and put it into even more perspective: A person working a 10-hour shift on minimum wage in Ohio – $7 per hour – will earn $70. But to fill a 17-gallon fuel tank for a sedan, that person will have to shell out more than $60 at current gas prices.

That’s awful, horrifying, abominable and any other derogatory adjective you would like to fill in that blank. Of course, we all already know that.

The oil crisis – as Washington bureaucrats like to call it – has propelled Americans to think green and get creative to save unnecessary trips to the pump. Kent State did the same recently.

Kent State has, on a trial basis this summer, given custodial workers the option of working 10 hours, four days a week as opposed to eight-hour shifts, five days a week to help them save gas money.

It’s an idea with a simple premise but one sure to please many employees, especially considering the already hard-hit economic climate of Northeast Ohio. Clearly, the university cannot grant a four-day workweek to all of its employees, but Kent State should continue to expand this option to as many people as possible.

But come fall, we doubt any significant decrease in fuel costs. If analysts are correct, the problem is not going away anytime soon.

That means the university community must react to the needs of students – especially commuters – strapped by the rising prices.

In April, Provost Robert Frank told the Faculty Senate that the university needs to use facilities better by, among other things, scheduling classes more evenly Monday through Friday.

Although there may be merit to this idea, special consideration should be given to keeping many classes scheduled in the coveted Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday time slots. Three-day-a-week classes will no longer be desirable for those making the commute to and from Kent.

We can’t forget about on-campus students either. Like it or not, Kent State has the reputation of being a “suitcase campus” – meaning students pack up and head home on the weekends.

Given the gas prices, campus organizations are in a unique position to turn that reputation around. The Center for Student Involvement and Residence Services have a prime opportunity to show students what they may have been missing. Take advantage of it.

But let’s face it: Sometimes we all just need to get off campus for a day. Cleveland and Akron are within reach via transportation provided by PARTA for a small fare on certain days. Many students barely know PARTA’s on-campus bus routes, let alone those outside of Kent.

Now is the time for PARTA to increase its advertising efforts to entice students who will be itching to leave Kent, yet hesitant to fill up the gas tank.

Gas prices may drive up costs for the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean they have to inhibit the educational opportunities and experiences at Kent State. It just means everyone needs to think outside the box.

The above editorial is the consensus of the Summer Kent Stater editorial board.