Kent State: a suitcase campus

Kristine Gill

ILLUSTRATION BY CHRIS SHARRON

Credit: DKS Editors

Car after car pulls up against the sidewalks and parking meters on Friday afternoons.

Students lug baskets of laundry and backpacks fit to burst from their dorms.

After a long week of classes, it’s time to head home. Meanwhile the halls have grown quiet, save the murmur of a lone TV or the flush of a toilet. The Hub is almost empty, and leaves tumble across campus.

Maybe you’ve heard the term and maybe you haven’t. You don’t need to have heard it to have noticed that Kent State is a suitcase campus.

The freshman

Lindsey Whitney, freshman interior design major, lives in Independence and says home is only a 45-minute drive away.

“I go home probably every other weekend, or every two weekends,” she said. “I hang out with my family and my dogs.

“Last weekend I went shopping at the mall. I do homework and stuff too and hang out with my friends if I have time.”

Whitney chose Kent State for its interior design program. Despite a good academic program, she doesn’t’ feel the campus offers enough entertainment.

“There’s not too much here on the weekends,” she said. ” I mean I’m sure there is but by Friday at like 3 p.m. it’s dead.”

Whitney said she sometimes goes home in anticipation of an uneventful or lonely weekend without other floormates around. But going back and forth to school so often does have its disadvantages.

“It’s a little weird on a Sunday, coming back,” Whitney said. “It’s like staring all over again.”

Whitney realizes that as the year continues and her workload increases, she’ll probably have to stay on campus more often to keep up with things. She’s not looking at that prospect as a negative one.

“I feel like I should stay here because it’s college,” she said. “Just being here is part of the experience; being on your own and adjusting.”

The would-be commuter

Freshman marketing major Adam Recktenwald is from Stow. He lives on campus because scholarship money has covered the cost of room and board. Otherwise, Recktenwald said he’d most likely be a commuter.

Recktenwald finds it easy to drive the 10 minutes home each weekend to spend time with his girlfriend, who still goes to high school. He said that he goes home mainly to see her and not necessarily to see family.

“I say, ‘Here’s my laundry, see you later,'” he said, adding that he assumes his parents and brother enjoy his company on the weekends when he does see them.

Recktenwald also thinks the campus is dead on the weekends. He compared coming back to campus on a Sunday to coming home from vacation.

“I didn’t realize so many people went home,” he said, adding that he doesn’t feel like he’s missing anything by leaving campus.

Like Whitney, Recktenwald recognized academics as having priority over weekend trips home.

“As much as I want to go home, if I know it’s going to affect my academic performance, I won’t,” he said. “If it’s too demanding, you gotta do what you gotta do.”

The homebody

Beth Zupancic, senior technology education major, is from Pittsburgh. She lives off campus in an apartment and drives herself the two-and-a-half hours home every other weekend.

“Freshman year, my first semester here, I didn’t have a car and couldn’t go home as much,” she said. “Once I got a car I could. I’m a homebody so I probably would go home like whenever I could.”

While freshman like Whitney and Recktenwald say they’ll probably go home less as the years pass at Kent State, Zupancic experienced the opposite.

“My freshman year, I barely went home,” she said. “All the girls on our floor went out together. Our RA set up things on the weekends to do.”

Zupancic said she wanted to be there to experience those things the RA planned. As a sophomore, however, her RA didn’t plan things for the residents to do. Zupancic said that made it easy to say, “Peace out, I’m going home.”

“The buzz of being at college, parties and people and things to do wore off,” Zupancic said, adding that the longer she was here the more homesick she felt.

Zupancic said that after nearly four-and-a-half years at college, her parents want her to come home more often.

“They miss me. They bribe me to come home,” she said. “No, they’re funny though. They try to support me as much as possible with food and gas. It’s a bonus to come home.”

Zupancic said coming back to her apartment on a Sunday feels strange and that the readjustment is a definite downfall in her routine.

“You feel like you missed something almost,” she said. “I feel like I’m resetting up my room even.

“(My friends) get mad at me because every time they call me I’m at home,” she said. “They’re like, ‘Geeze you’re in Pittsburgh all the time’.”

The RA

Sophomore economics major Alex Kokkinakis is a Resident Assistant in Centennial C. He works with other RAs to organize activities for residents mainly during the week.

“A lot of people go home on the weekends so it’s hard,” he said. “Rarely will we organize something then because we know there’s a low turn out.”

At the beginning of the year, Kokkinakis planned gatherings in the hall lounges for students to watch major sporting games together or to play poker and other games. He said there were good turnouts at those events with about 15 students showing up at each from a floor of 45.

“We organize groups to go to on-campus events like football games and comedians,” he said. “Those people who do stay actually do show up.”

Kokkinakis said that weekend activities still succeed in building community

“Its all quiet (on the weekends) but it gives us a chance to get a lot of work down, like hanging up posters,” he said. “It’s pretty low-key.”

The out-of-state student

Sophomore Russian translation major Anastasiya Spytsya hasn’t been home since August, but she said she’s not complaining.

“I’m not homesick but my parents are,” she said. ” My mom started counting down the days from August until I come home.”

Spytsya lives in New Jersey and said she chose a university seven-and-a-half hours away from home because of her major. But the distance does create a problem.

“It’s expensive to go home on top of out-of-state tuition,” she said, adding that in addition to cost, spending two days on the road driving isn’t worth the hassle.

“It’s pretty quiet on the weekends with no freshmen,” she said. “It’s good and bad when everyone goes home. I get to study, but sometimes I wish there was someone here when I get bored.”

The senior

Senior German major Karl Hopkins-Lutz lives in College Towers and stays in Kent on the weekends. He gets upset when his friends leave.

“I honestly tell them they suck,” he said. “They’re cutting into my fun. If they stay, we can do things.”

Hopkins-Lutz said he thinks the suitcase reputation began as a rumor that students now believe is fact.

“Personally, I think that spreading that idea is what causes the condition,” he said. “That is to say the tail wags the dog.

“I stay in Kent most of the time and I have fun. I get bored, sure, but I find things to do.”

For Hopkins-Lutz those things include taking walks around campus, catching the bus to Wal-Mart, and walking to Susan’s for coffee.

The expert

Tom Simpson, assistant director for the Center for Student Involvement, said Kent State has had its “suitcase campus” reputation since his days as an undergraduate student here in the 1970s.

“I think part of the reason is the folks in residence halls live within a relatively short distance of Kent State,” he said.

Simpson said it’s different for more isolated universities such as Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and Ohio University in Athens.

“The suitcase stigma that hangs with Kent State has to do with its geographic location relative to (students’) home towns,” Simpson said.

As chair for the late night/weekend programming committee, Simpson works with student groups to plan events and activities for students, including comedy events at the Rathskellar, speed-dating and movie nights. Simpson said extended hours for the Student Center Hub and Cybercafé offer students a place to meet and hang out. Simpson said other successful events include ice-skating nights at the rink and weekend events at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

“People say there’s nothing to do at Kent State,” he said. “That’s not true. There are all kinds of things to do at Kent State. It’s whether or not you want to do them.”

Simpson said it’s difficult to build a sense of community with weekend programming when people aren’t there to partake, but he isn’t discouraged by the enormity of the task.

“As we develop more activities on campus and as downtown Kent develops more activities downtown, a synergistic effect could happen,” Simpson said. “More people would come to Kent from other places to hang out, and that does happen on the weekend when the weather is nice.”

Contact student affairs reporter Kristine Gill at [email protected]