Allerton, downtown Kent discussed at third Coffee event with Lefton

Tim Magaw

A Kent State parent attended last night’s Coffee With the President in Eastway to voice her concerns about the living conditions at Allerton Apartments where her daughter lives.

Cyndy Collins of Lima told President Lester Lefton that the complex is referred to as “the ghetto,” and that her daughter tripped on the steps while pregnant.

“It’s absolutely deplorable,” she told Lefton, asking him to personally look into the issue.

Lefton intently listened to Collins’ concerns and said he would look into it.

This was just one of the many issues raised during last night’s Coffee With the President in Eastway. About 40 people attended the event and addressed Lefton about various issues, ranging from bolstering weekend activities on campus to managing university spending to strengthening relations with the city of Kent.

Lefton said one of the ways to strengthen the university’s relationship with the city of Kent is to get its constituency to recognize Kent as a college town.

“You should be seen as an asset,” he said to the students. “They should love you.”

One of the ways Lefton said downtown Kent could be further developed is by adding a hotel, which would spawn more business. But he said students are his main priority, not downtown.

“We are not responsible for downtown,” Lefton said. “We’ve got to fix Satterfield first.”

He said the university has gone far beyond that of downtown with community outreach, citing students’ recent trip to Biloxi, Miss., where they helped rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Another way the university has been successful in outreach is through its regional campuses.

“I think our outreach to the community is unparalleled,” he said.

Lefton said community outreach and increased service learning opportunities are one of the new provost’s goals. Lefton said Robert Frank, the incoming provost who will start July 3, is looking at the university with a fresh viewpoint, especially when it comes to keeping students at Kent State.

“(Frank is) already thinking of ways to attack the retention issue and make a better first-year experience for students,” he said.

Lefton fielded a question about some of the obstacles he’s faced since he began his tenure as president. He said the state legislature has been a major one.

“The politics in Ohio are complicated,” he said. “The decreased funding is a big challenge for us because my goal is to do more for Kent State.”

A few students asked questions about on-campus entertainment and about some students’ reluctance to attend school-sponsored activities.

“People are afraid to step out of their comfort zone,” he said. “It’s very important to do that as a college student.”

Of the three Coffee With the President events this year, Christen Coppola, senator for student relations, said this one was the most successful.

“It’s good for students to hear things straight from the horse’s mouth,” she said. “I think that (Lefton) appreciated the students’ effort that they came to this.”

She said this would be the last one of the year, adding that she was hoping for a fourth, but Lefton’s schedule was full.

Lefton said he appreciated hearing students’ concerns and their interesting perspectives.

“(The audience) seemed to be thoughtful and understand my responses, especially when the issues seemed complicated,” he said.

Contact administration reporter Tim Magaw at [email protected].