Cheers and jeers for President Lefton

In anticipation of President Lester Lefton’s first State of the University address this afternoon, we have compiled a list of items that we would like to see him expound upon. Some are positive changes the university has seen in the last 14 months. Others are issues we think need more attention.

? President Lefton should commend Ohio’s government officials for taking steps to control students’ tuition, and we commend Kent State’s officials for doing the same. Rising costs make getting an education more difficult for many students, and any time those hurdles can be removed or lowered, it’s a positive move.

? It’s great to see Kent State’s enrollment increased this year, especially because most officials were expecting a decline in new students. Lefton has been emphasizing recruitment and retention, and it’s good to see those goals being realized.

? The installation of a unisex bathroom in the Student Center was an admirable effort, but more needs to be done to ensure that Kent State has a safe and welcoming atmosphere for all. Women should feel safe walking alone across campus, minority students should not face prejudice and non-traditional students should feel just as at home here as recent high school graduates. We hope that Lefton uses his role as president not only to posture Kent State among highly regarded schools, but to improve the quality of each student’s experience here.

? As students at Kent State, we fully understand the importance of seeing academic programs grow, but this growth should not be at the expense of other programs. Members of the history doctorate program had a right to be angry last year when cuts were made to their studies. To truly demonstrate “excellence in action,” Kent must cultivate its smaller programs, as well as its larger programs.ÿ

? Keeping Carol Cartwright around was a great idea. Keeping her around as a consultant at her same exorbitant salary was simply ludicrous. Yes, she did great things for the school, and her knowledge and experience were extremely valuable. But such a large salary raises some questions. Then there’s the $2 million renovation of the second floor of the library in order to house two new vice presidents, as well as an update for Lefton’s own office. This is one decision we would really like some answers for.

? Under Lefton’s watch, Kent State popped up on a bad list — the top 25 schools in which illegal downloading of music is most rampant. The contract with Ruckus shows that the university is committed to at least providing an option for students, instead of simply telling us to stop or else.

? Parking continues to be a problem that should be taken more seriously. If recruitment and retention strategies continue to work, parking will be an issue the administration can no longer ignore. Some people park their cars at least a mile away from their nearest classes and have to rely on the campus bus system, which can have an unreliable schedule. A mile walk or a 15-minute wait would not be too unreasonable, but one has to consider Kent’s extremely cold winter weather. Many commuters arrive at school to find their respective lots full, and a parking deck should seriously be considered.ÿ

? President Lefton’s attempt to raise the value of a Kent State education is moderately impressive. “Excellence in action” may not be our first pick for a university slogan, but it is comforting to know our president has Ivy League dreams for Kent State. Lefton must realize, however, there is more to a good university than outstanding research. Kent State has a certain flavor thousands of students travel to taste. We don’t want our quest to become competitive with Ivy League schools to result in the loss of Kent State’s distinct atmosphere.ÿ

? President Lefton’s insistence on working closely with the city of Kent is commendable, but Kent State needs to be more proactive in fostering community between the city and the university. Lefton said he believes one of the keys to retaining students is ensuring downtown Kent’s appeal. We’d like downtown Kent to be made into more of a destination spot. It needs to keep its local vendors to protect its originality, but those shops could be incorporated with new restaurants or stores.ÿKent’s overall economy, not just its bars, could benefit from students’ business, and students would receive a more rounded education by participating in a vibrant community with people of all ages and backgrounds — not just other college students. Let’s begin encouraging off-campus students and members of the community to participate in more on-campus and stadium activities, and let’s find ways to get the on-campus students downtown.

? Lefton needs to encourage the Kent community, and Kent State’s students in particular, to address race issues. Diversity does include more aspects than just race. Overall, Kent State is a diverse area in terms of class, gender, religion, etc. but the issue of race is one that permeates our community, and tensions have become near palpable in the past few years because everyone is afraid to address it. This issue is not going away, and it’s one that is important to Kent State’s future. Lefton is in a good position to encourage an open dialogue about it.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.