Dear Mr. President

Welcome to Kent State University, President-elect Lefton. We’ve been waiting.

Your July 1 arrival here is just two weeks away, yet you’re still largely an unknown to the students, faculty, staff and alumni who will be affected by your tenure.

This newspaper has reported quotes from you and the search committee. Words and phrases such as energy, enthusiasm, scholar and commitment to diversity have been offered. So bland that we might as well be reading corporate jargon lifted from a memo on NBC’s “The Office.”

First impressions can be crucial. They set the tone, and surely you’re aware of this. Even with the few snippets we’ve heard since your announcement and from scarce information about you on the Internet, we’re hesitant to give you better than a mixed endorsement.

You can hardly blame us for being suspicious – we know almost nothing about you. In that regard, the search committee didn’t do you any favors. By operating in secrecy, the committee left major questions about transparency and accountability. This paper reported just a few weeks ago about faculty concerns regarding the search – concerns that we share.

And then there’s the matter of your comments when you were considered in 2005 for the position of president at the College of William and Mary.

“There were only a few places I felt I would be willing to be college president,” you said. “I was not willing to go back to the University of South Carolina or a large state institution.”

Welcome to a large state institution.

To date, we have not heard you adequately explain how those remarks fit your current situation. Have you changed your beliefs in just a year? If not, then why are you coming here?

Without that further explanation, you sound a bit like a double-speaking politician. The kind willing to do anything to land the job. The unsavory type who holds no personal beliefs aside from those he thinks his audience wants to hear.

That first impression is so important. And so far, this is all we have.

In Washington, pundits often talk of the importance of a president’s first 100 days. We’re pretty certain you have a little longer than that.

But here’s our suggestion for what to do during your first 100 days: Do nothing.

New leaders are often tempted to make sweeping changes upon their arrival. The lure of setting your legacy can be strong.

But Kent State is not a university in crisis. Carol Cartwright provided 15 years of stability, and she is leaving an institution with no looming threats to torpedo your future here.

So, take your time. Begin with those meetings you ballyhooed during your first public appearance here. You know as little about us as we do about you. Those first 100 days, or more, should be a time for learning. Just think of all the people you need to meet and understand.

Faculty, staff, alumni. Students of all types. Commuters, residents, traditionals, non-traditionals, Greeks, athletes, blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, straights, gays – that’s just scratching the surface.

And then, when you’ve met all of your constituents, including the noisiest of all – this newspaper staff – then, maybe then, make your first move.

Make it a small one.

Welcome to Kent State, President Lefton. We’re waiting.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Summer Kent Stater editorial board.</>