Lefton announces plan for boosting campus tolerance

Jackie Valley

When people step foot in an elevator at Kent State, President Lester Lefton said he hopes they greet each other with a smile – whether or not they come from different backgrounds or hold different beliefs.

Using that situation as an example, Lefton announced his plan to build a more inclusive environment at Kent State with the creation of a presidential Commission on Inclusion during the Board of Trustees meeting yesterday.

Lefton said Kent State should be a place where “everyone feels included” and people are “safe to be who they are and what they want to be,” regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or disability, to name a few.

Lefton said the Rev. Ronald Fowler, senior pastor of Arlington Church of God in Akron and a 1959 Kent State graduate, will chair the commission and provide an outside perspective.

“I think it’s important we have a voice that isn’t mired in our day-to-day activities,” he said.

Fowler said it is a privilege to work with the university to create an inclusive and tolerant environment.

“One of the things that motivated me to say ‘yes’ to the invitation was the president has already shown a strong initiative toward promoting diversity,” he said.

Lefton said the commission, which is not in response to any specific event, will be comprised of a committee of about 25 members and several work groups with an unlimited number of participants targeting specific areas of inclusiveness.

Lefton said the Commission on Inclusion will go a “step beyond” the diversity plan created last year by acting as an umbrella over the entire diversity initiative.

He said the commission will study ways to create the most inclusive environment and then submit recommendations to him about the best practices, a few of which may include a financial commitment on behalf of the university.

Lefton said Yank Heisler, special assistant to the president for community and business strategies, will help Fowler organize the commission. Nomination forms will be sent to faculty and student organizations within a week.

Heisler said his goal is to have all the nominations by Dec. 10, so the commission can be selected and underway by spring semester.

Prior to the announcement, the board also approved the university’s strategic plan. The strategic plan includes the university’s mission statement, vision, core values and strategic goals.

Lefton proposed revisions to the strategic plan last spring and asked for faculty feedback. In October, the Faculty Senate approved the changes after reinserting the concept of academic freedom into the core values section of the strategic plan.

The board also approved a six-year comprehensive capital plan for the fiscal years between 2009 and 2014, which estimates the needed state appropriations for projects deemed the highest priority by Kent State split among three, two-year time periods.

The suggested state appropriations for the 2009-2010 biennium total more than $21 million, with a majority of the funding going toward a reimbursement for the Oscar Ritchie Hall renovations and additional funding for the Music and Speech Center renovations and addition.

David Creamer, senior vice president for administration, said he expects the university to receive the 2009-2010 state appropriation in May or June.

Creamer said many of the projects outlined throughout the six years involve necessary improvements for the science buildings on campus.

BOARD OF TRUSTEES’

MEETING HIGHLIGHTS

• President Lester Lefton announced the creation of a Commission of Inclusion to provide a more tolerant and inclusive environment at Kent State.

• The Rev. Ronald Fowler, senior pastor of the Arlington Church of God in Akron and a 1959 Kent State graduate, will chair the commission.

• The board approved the creation of an entrepreneurship major within the Bachelor of Business Administration degree, effective Fall 2008.

• The board approved the six-year comprehensive capital plan totaling more than $21 million for the 2009-2010 period.

“These facilities are really not consistent with research or instruction,” he said. “We’re very much behind in the quality of our science buildings.”

In addition, the board approved the purchase of the Tonge property at 425 College Ave. for $120,000 to provide more parking near Franklin Hall. The board approved the purchase of an adjacent property on Lincoln Street at the last meeting in September.

Creamer said the property purchase aligns with the university’s goal to create a “gateway to the campus” near downtown Kent. The university is discussing building a welcome center in that area.

“One of the ways we envision connecting more with downtown would be to have the college expand more on Lincoln Street,” he said.

On the academic front, the board approved the establishment of an entrepreneurship major within the Bachelor of Business Administration degree program that will go into effect in fall 2008.

Richard Kolbe, associate professor and chair of the department of marketing, said the major will be very hands-on, such as during sophomore year when students run their own businesses.

“We think it is a great opportunity for students simply because it gives students an opportunity to think like an entrepreneur,” he said. “We hope this will ultimately lead to students running businesses in downtown Kent.”

Kolbe said tremendous interest in an entrepreneurship minor last year prompted the creation of the major, which is currently only offered at the University of Dayton and the University of Cincinnati in Ohio.

The Board of Trustees also approved:

• The Business Administration entrepreneurship classroom and lab provided by a $400,000 gift made to the university by John Brinzo.

• The naming of the Emilio Ferrara Family and Herb Page Golf Training and Learning Center.

• The naming of Vacca Office of Student Services in White Hall.

• Trumbull Campus science laboratory renovation provided by $1,086,365 worth of state capital funds.

• A new Ohio Edison easement to accommodate utility poles on the north side of Summit Street in front of the Student Center and Williams Hall.

• A resolution of support for the Kent State University Museum as it seeks accreditation from the American Association of Museums.

Contact administration reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected]