Other faculty and staff deserve more praise

Raising the level of academic excellence at Kent State.

Ensuring the success of our graduates once they leave the arms of the university.

Making Kent State more attractive to potential students, faculty and staff.

Can a price really be put on these kinds of goals?

Apparently so.

The Board of Trustees approved a 5 percent salary increase and a one-time performance bonus of $70,000 for President Lester Lefton yesterday at its first meeting of the semester. That’s $5,000 for each of the 14 months he has spent serving Kent State thus far.

The board justified this by citing improvements at the university since Lefton has arrived, from this fall’s increased student enrollment to a major uptick in the amount of money being received for research.

Sure, these are important to Kent State’s success, and we recognize and support those efforts. However, how much of the success of these initiatives, or the eight others mentioned by the board, can really be attributed solely to Lefton?

Some, such as an increase in enrollment, can hardly be his doing just yet. Most potential students have an idea of where they want to go to college before they enter their senior year of high school. This year’s freshman class was already done with its junior year when Lefton took office.

According to the board, Lefton has already begun enhancing the image of the university in the region and the state, but in reality, it takes awhile for a school’s reputation to change. That work was most likely done before he arrived.

Retention is a different issue. Lefton has been encouraging faculty and staff to increase their efforts to make students feel like an integral part of the Kent State community, to make them feel involved and at home here.

That’s great.

But who’s doing the work behind this initiative? The professors who take an extra half hour everyday to talk with students about how they are adjusting to campus life. The cafeteria workers who make an effort to smile at every student who passes through their lines. The advisers who encourage their student groups to schedule more events, even if it means they’ll have less free time.

Where are their bonuses?

We appreciate that Lefton does want to move Kent State forward. But even he has said his goals of academic excellence take time to come to fruition. We need results before we start passing out public funds, (i.e. tuition and state funds) like this, especially in times of economic crisis.

The state of Ohio recognized this crisis by encouraging universities to participate in a tuition freeze. Kent State took that challenge to make do with what we had so students could save some money. Now, we’re taking a larger portion of that money and giving it to the president.

Lefton is already one of the best paid presidents in Ohio; he came into this job earning $80,000 more in his first year than Carol Cartwright had been in her 15th.

Shouldn’t these funds be going to something that more directly affects the students of Kent State? Maybe Lefton should use them for one of the initiatives aimed at actually helping students succeed, rather than keeping them as a bonus for saying he wants to do that in the future.

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