Graduate program changes approved at Faculty Senate meeting

President Todd Diacon reaffirms Kent State’s commitment to following health guidelines and creating open dialogue at February’s Faculty Senate meeting.

Wyatt Loy

President Todd Diacon reaffirms Kent State’s commitment to following health guidelines and creating open dialogue at February’s Faculty Senate meeting.

Wyatt Loy Reporter

Between shifting academic requirements and upheavals of the Kent Core, academics took the spotlight on Monday’s Faculty Senate meeting. 

Graduate students will see a couple major program reforms. The Faculty Senate announced a new college, the Graduate College, which is a renaming and restructuring of the Division of Graduate Studies. The new college, Associate Provost for Academic Affairs and Dean, Division of Graduate Studies Manfred van Dulmen said, will provide graduate students with their own space and programs unique to their needs.

“Really the most important thing, when you start thinking about graduate education on campus, is not treating graduate students as older undergraduates, but really think about them differently,” van Dulmen said. “And I think that’s really critical as we’re moving forward in the future, that we really look at graduate students as a different group with unique needs.”

Van Dulmen added that Kent State is the only public university in the state of Ohio that offers graduate education, but not an academic school or college to support graduate students. He also said that it contributes to graduate students’ sense of belonging. 

“Of course, changing the name will not do that, I recognize that,” van Dulmen said. “But this is really the first part of the step to develop a place and space for graduate students.”

Senator and Philosophy Professor Deborah Smith questioned the elections and administration process for this new college, and van Dulmen responded that those details were still being worked out.

Another change for the graduate program is the reduction of some of the admission requirements to get into a graduate degree program. Interim Associate Vice President for Admissions Lana Whitehead said the minimum university-wide GPA for unconditional admission would be lowered from 3.0 to 2.75, consistent with the other public universities in Ohio.

“That enables our programs greater flexibility in making their admission decisions and offering funding to students that have been admitted,” Whitehead said.

The university-wide requirement for standardized test scores would also be dropped, as well as a requirement stipulating that applicants must present official transcripts from institutions at which they did eight or more credit hours of courses. However, any individual graduate degree program may require additional transcripts, official or unofficial, as needed by that program. They can also set their own GPA and test score requirements if they choose to.

Finally, van Dulmen announced that the university will be starting the process for “re-envisioning the Kent Core,” and promised details at next month’s meeting.

“This is long overdue,” he said. “I know it’s been attempted before and failed, I’m hearing from my colleagues at other universities that this is not unusual,” he said. 

Van Dulmen noted that similar initiatives at other universities in Ohio have failed four or five times before they succeeded. The process of creating what the new Kent Core looks like will be van Dulmen’s goal for the spring semester. 

On the agenda there was an item from the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and to coincide with that and Black History Month, Chair Pamela Grimm’s remarks highlighted the “gaping holes in our knowledge” of Black Americans’ importance in the founding of the United States, recommending the 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones. 

Afterwards in his remarks, Diacon said that in a time where unanimity is not possible as to how to address COVID, there must be opportunity for open dialogue and listening to members of the community. 

Diacon then announced four “bedrock commitments” to guide Kent State’s COVID-19 policies. The first and second points are to follow both CDC and the university Pandemic Leadership Committee’s guidelines whenever possible. 

“Third, we commit to transparency and communicating key data and key results and our COVID-19 dashboard is updated weekly,” Diacon said. “Fourth, and finally, we are committed to making changes to our policies and procedures as the pandemic evolves.”

Senator Dave Kaplan expressed concern for Kent State’s lower vaccination rates for students compared to universities like Miami, Ohio University and Ohio State.

“It probably has to do with regional campuses, and whether those institutions have any or many regional campuses, and whether they report them out differently,” Diacon said. “OU would have several, Miami has two, maybe, but they’re fairly small. I just don’t know how that impacts their numbers.”

Other items included:

  • Approved the name change of the Department of Sociology to the Department of Sociology and Criminology,

  • Established Bachelor’s of Social Work major/degree hybrid online/in-person program at Ashtabula, Salem and Tuscarawas campuses,

  • Created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion statement for syllabi university-wide.

Wyatt Loy is a reporter. Contact them at [email protected].