Last semester, as students were preparing for finals and the summer, Lester Lefton was announced as the new president of Kent State. That same week, Lefton attended an event in Risman Plaza so faculty, staff and students could meet him. A friend and I attended this event, and when we met Lefton, my friend asked him about his position on domestic partner benefits.
Lefton said he supported partner benefits, and that, unfortunately, Ohio’s marriage amendment prevented him from giving these benefits.
What a great politician; claim that you want these benefits, and then claim that your hands are tied by the law. This was an empty attempt at appeasement.
Ohio State, Miami, Cleveland State, Ohio, Youngstown State and the University of Cincinnati offer some form of same-sex domestic partner benefits. Yet Lefton’s hands are tied?
Ohio’s marriage amendment applies to marriage, not to employment. Benefits can be given in such a way so they do not constitute marriage.
On Nov. 8, there was a small protest for domestic partner benefits. Lefton happened to walk by, and when students demanded partner benefits, he waved and walked inside.
A wave is not enough. Kind words of support are not enough. We need to see action. The fact is, Lefton can say whatever he wants, but it is action that truly matters.
Other groups have acted. Queer Liberation Front acted by having the protest, the International Socialist Organization acted by joining the protest, the Graduate Student Senate and the Undergraduate Student Senate acted by passing resolutions supporting the benefits, and professors on this campus have acted by asking for partner benefits in their contract negotiations. Some professors have acted by leaving this university for other universities that offer benefits.
Lefton has stated that a main goal of his is increasing student retention. Why would students want to stay at Kent State when high-quality professors might leave because of a lack of partner benefits? Perhaps Lefton should also focus on faculty retention.
Lefton cannot be blamed for the lack of progress during Cartwright’s era, but he can be blamed for the lack of progress since he came to Kent State.
From what I have seen of his time here, his job is not to tackle difficult issues such as partner benefits, but rather to serve as propaganda minister for Kent State. Lefton’s FlashLine messages read more like a typical Disney story in which everyone lives happily ever after, instead of a representation of reality.
This is not Disney World.
Faculty and staff are suffering financially, emotionally and physically because of a lack of domestic benefits. Some of them may leave this university because of this.
It was time for partner benefits years ago under Cartwright, and any further hesitation is an offense committed against the faculty, staff and students here at Kent State.
Loopholes should be exploited; solidarity with other universities needs to be shown. The time of words is over; Lefton will show his true colors through action. From what I have seen, he is actually anti-partner benefits, and thus, anti-faculty and anti-student.
Lefton: Prove me wrong!
Chris Kok is a senior political science major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected]