Lefton, faculty travel to Capitol

Jackie Valley

President Lester Lefton will speak to alumni and members of Congress on Capitol Hill today with one goal in mind: to get monetary support to save Kent State money.

About 80 guests, including Sen. George Voinovich and Rep. Tim Ryan, will hear from Lefton why supporting Kent State is a good idea. Lefton’s speech will be like his State of the University Address, but shorter.

“This is important because our Washington delegates are often able to attain additional funds for Kent State,” he said.

Lefton said the additional funds often come in the form of Congressional earmarks — additions to bills that give money directly to Kent State.

Lefton said the earmarks — although typically “brick and mortar” projects — will improve the academic environment for students by providing “real money that we don’t get from tuition” for better buildings, laboratory facilities and equipment.

However, politicians do not automatically submit earmark requests for Kent State.

“This doesn’t just happen,” Lefton said. “We have to talk to the legislators.”

Lefton said the event, the first of its kind, aims to engage Kent State supporters in a social environment where they will also be thanked for past contributions.

“We’re bringing everyone together,” he said. “We think it’s a more effective way of reaching them.”

Kathy Stafford, vice president for University Relations, said Provost Robert Frank, Gene Finn, vice president for Institutional Advancement, and several faculty members will join Lefton in Washington.

Connie Hawk, director of federal relations, said every year, the university submits a list of earmark requests, which cannot be funded by any grant program.

“We ask for things, such as special research equipment that helps us to compete for grant money,” she said. “It’s just to level the playing field to compete with other institutions that have more money and more equipment.”

Hawke said Kent State’s earmarks total nearly $1.5 million this year in regional campus initiatives, such as buildings and equipment, as requested in the Labor, Health, Human Services and Education Appropriations Acts of 2008.

However, she said the money is not guaranteed until final versions of the bills are passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Bush.

“We don’t start celebrating until it’s signed into law,” she said. “There have been years, such as last year, that earmarks in the bill were taken out last minute.”

If the earmarks pass, Hawke said Kent State will receive the money mid-year in 2008.

Likewise, Hawke said six faculty members from social science and traditional science fields will meet with three federal agencies to discuss what Kent State has to offer in those areas in hopes of receiving more federal grants.

The faculty members will meet with the National Institute for Standards in Technology, the Department for Homeland Security and the National Science Foundation.

In addition, Lefton said maintaining relationships with alumni helps boost donations when the alumni donate money or know other people willing to donate money to the university.

“You can’t ignore your alumni,” he said. “You have to keep your alumni engaged in the university.”

Contact administration reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected].