September 23, 2014

The 1 University Commission results from noble intentions and practical considerations. We long have known that Kent State University is greater than the sum of its parts. We know also that we must be something more than a collection of semi-autonomous campuses. In her Listening Tour President Warren is hearing the uplifting stories of Kent State University, and she understands that we can make Kent State stronger by emphasizing that as an institution we value each campus for its unique contribution to our mission and vision. 

The idea for creating the 1 University Committee was born from a very practical need to address issues that have emerged over the last decade or so due to the “flattening” of our higher educational universe, in a Thomas Friedman sense. First, the emergence of Distance Learning at Kent State, and its expansion so that this semester 40% of our students are taking at least one course online, creates the need for us to be more intentional in our administration of the Kent and regional campuses, as students often enroll in online courses at multiple campuses. Who decides who should teach online courses, who authorizes a course for teaching online, should we coordinate online offerings across our campuses more closely than we do face-to-face courses, and the need for coordinated training in online pedagogy are some of the issues we need to resolve.

In addition, the implementation of RCM budgeting on the Kent campus now adds a revenue component to online course taking for the Kent departments and colleges, which before RCM it did not. In the past, when only a few Kent students traveled to other KSU campuses for face to face instruction, who was credited with the revenue for these students made little difference. With growth in distance learning, students on one of our campuses taking an online course from another campus can have a substantial budgetary impact, and it is now time to consider a revenue sharing model for online instruction. These are some of the issues that will drive a practical and policy agenda for the 1 University Commission.

The 1 University Commission is NOT an assertion of equality, if by equality we mean that each campus should be the same, and that each campus should offer the same things. Our campuses are not “equal” in this sense, for each is shaped differently by its region and population, by the size of enrollment, and by the mission of each campus. President Warren’s and my choice of a 1 University branding is an assertion and reminder that we value all our employees equally across all our campuses. It is a reminder that we recognize and respect each of our campuses and their communities. Moreover, it is a recognition that we can be ONE UNIVERSITY, yet each of our campuses can, and do, look very different from one another.

The main goal of the 1 University Commission is to make recommendations on a series of very practical matters. To those listed above, I have added questions about what we should call the leaders of our regional campuses, who currently are known as Dean and Chief Administrative Officer,  and the size of a staff needed centrally to service our regional campuses. Finally, the Commission will also address student matters, and seek to determine how our regional campus students see themselves vis-à-vis Kent campus students, and how we might improve their university experience. 

Thus the 1 University Commission will be charged with researching and opining on very practical matters of limited scope. The commission also reaffirms the University’s commitment to our multi-campus system.  We are one university, we are greater than the sum of our parts, and are a force to be reckoned with in Ohio and the world.

Todd A. Diacon

Todd A. Diacon Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost

1 University Commission