An open letter to President Lefton

Beth Rankin

Editor’s Note: After this column ran, President Lester Lefton agreed to meet with Beth Rankin at 1 p.m. Thursday. If you have a question you’d like to ask Lefton, e-mail it to Rankin at [email protected].

Dear Dr. Lefton,

At the start of the semester, I dropped you a line (at [email protected]) and introduced myself as Beth Rankin, a senior photojournalism student who also writes a column for the Stater. I have a few questions, I said, as a student of this University who wants to better know the guy who calls the shots. After all, your decisions affect the institution to which I’ve given most of my time and money for the last five years, and I hardly know you at all.

I know your schedule is busy, I said, but my handful of inquiries will take no more than 10 minutes. I can even follow you to a meeting or walk with you on your way to campus engagements.

I was pleasantly surprised when, a few days later, I received an e-mail from lester.[email protected] telling me that, yes, a meeting would be fine. All I had to do was e-mail my schedule to your assistant and she would set something up.

Look at that! A personal e-mail from the man many said was inaccessible to students. Maybe this guy’s not so bad after all, I thought.

Do you have a question you’d like to ask Lester Lefton? E-mail it to [email protected]. or [email protected]. with “Question for Lester Lefton” in the subject line. And, naturally, “. if you have an idea or an opinion, please feel free to write him an e-mail at your convenience” at [email protected].

As soon as my class and work schedules were set, I sent your assistant a day-by-day report – broken down hour by hour – of when I am available. That was in February. I never heard back from you or your assistant.

Last week, I decided to e-mail you again to schedule the meeting you promised me. This is the response, verbatim, I received, from Yank Heisler ([email protected]):

“Thanks very much for your recent contact with Dr. Lefton. His schedule is exceedingly tight. You may already know that he meets regularly with a reporter from the Stater and with students in Town Hall meetings whenever the student government asks him. He also writes a weekly e-mail to the Kent State community which expresses his views on a wide range of topics, including diversity. I am sorry that he will be unable to meet with you for an interview, but if you have an idea or an opinion, please feel free to write him an e-mail at your convenience. Thanks”

The word “Stater” was in bold, as if to infer that any questions I have as a student must be routed through the Stater’s administration reporter, who is given only 30 minutes every other week to discuss campus issues with you.

Mr. Heisler (who gave no job title in his e-mail) also wrote, “He also writes a weekly e-mail . which expresses his views on a wide range of topics, including diversity.” I suppose I am to infer that he (and you by proxy) believes your vague reference to “controversial ideas” in your recent In a Flash e-mail message was your way of addressing the recent forum with Black United Students and myself, as well as the controversies surrounding it. In that e-mail you, as usual, did a great job of addressing an issue without actually addressing an issue.

It’s too bad the questions I have had since January have nothing to do with diversity on campus.

So here we are: You promised me a meeting, then changed your mind and, instead of dropping me a line to tell me, had one of your employees do it for you.

You’re telling me you don’t have 10 minutes to answer a couple questions from a student at your university – a student whose tuition dollars pay your salary?


I’m not one to give up easily, so I thought I’d give you another chance. I will do whatever it takes – walk beside you as you head to campus engagements, video chat with you from your office, even stand outside your office with a bullhorn asking the questions you, as the leader of this university, should feel obligated to answer.

I am not the only student with these questions, and if you ask me, you could use an opportunity to drop the fa‡ade and talk to your students like people instead of treating us like inconveniences undeserving of your time.

After all, what do you have to hide?

Beth Rankin is a senior photojournalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].