Respect, Kindness and Purpose in All We Do
Dear Kent State University Students, Faculty and Staff,
Why do we do what we do? Who are we?
What are our values?
How does who we are now shape
who we want to become?
Even in normal times, these are fundamental questions for all of us at Kent State to consider and answer. But these are not normal times, and in a pandemic, the answers to these questions, which together define our culture, become even more important to examine and resolve so that we can successfully navigate through the pandemic.
Fortunately, our journey is aided by a map to guide us this year, and in all years. I’m speaking of our Kent State core values. And just as the navigation device in your car relies on 31 satellites circling the earth to calculate where you are at this moment and charts the path to your destination, our nine core values tell us where we are at any moment and guide us to our destination.
Reopening and operating during in the COVID-19 era presents challenges, and our core values provide direction. I am immensely proud of the breadth and depth of our reopening plan, which speaks volumes about the dedication of students, faculty and staff to fashioning the safest year possible during the pandemic. And today I am thinking in particular of six core values and how they are shaping our actions, aspirations and attitudes this year.
A distinctive blend of teaching, research and creative excellence.
The word “blend” is the operative word here, as this fall we are offering approximately 40% of our courses in person and 60% online to ensure appropriate physical distancing. Safety is top of mind, combined with our commitment to excellence in learning. More than 800 of our faculty members this summer completed, voluntarily, extensive training in the best practices for online teaching, as driven by our commitment to this core value.
Life-changing educational experiences for students with wide-ranging talents and aspirations.
Where else but at Kent State can students excel in areas ranging from fashion design to epidemiology? A team of Kent State students recently became one of just 10 teams nationwide invited to design spacesuits for NASA’s Spacesuit User Interface Technologies for Students (SUITS) Challenge. And as we strive to create the safest possible environment for everyone in our community, students who are formally trained in contact tracing and investigation will have the opportunity to get real-world experience with the COVID Response Team in supporting the local health department.
A living-learning environment that creates a genuine sense of place.
Inspired by this core value, we created the Flashes Safe Seven principles this summer, and we know that when we follow them, all of us will be safer. A genuine sense of place is created not just by the physical beauty and inviting areas of our campus where we connect and build meaningful relationships, but also by our community’s commitment to protecting each other. This is what we mean when we say Flashes Take Care of Flashes.
Diversity of culture, beliefs, identity and thought.
We are ever mindful that members of our community have historically been discriminated against because of their race. Our core value asks us to place ourselves in others’ worlds. Our core value asks us to consider how discrimination, and in particular discrimination against African Americans, impacts and threatens the well-being and mental health of many in our Kent State family. As Flashes Take Care of Flashes, we will do well to consider how different experiences lead to different levels of trust, anger and demands for change.
Freedom of expression and the free exchange of ideas.
At Kent State, we know better than others what happens when the free exchange of ideas is attacked. And in this election year, we will be guided by this core value, which calls on us to express our ideas and beliefs, even while we allow and encourage others to express their ideas. If hate is to have no home here, we must commit to engaging others whose views do not reflect our own thinking. Simply put, our core value tells us to not shut down others when they are speaking, and our history tells us that uncontrolled rancor and bitter divisions can lead to tragic results.
Respect, kindness and purpose in all we do.
But in the end, our nine core values come down to just this one core value: Respect, kindness and purpose in all we do. Every other value can be found in this value. Everything we need to know and do this year to learn, thrive and stay safe can be found in this value. When you practice the Flashes Safe Seven, you are practicing this value. When you express empathy and support for those experiencing the odious effects of racism, you are practicing this value. When you speak your mind while allowing others to speak theirs, you are practicing this value.
We have our roadmap for a successful opening of the academic year. We have our roadmap for learning and the creation of knowledge during the pandemic. We have our roadmap for practicing tolerance and empathy. We have our roadmap for taking care of each other so that each of us is made safer. We have our roadmap and our collective commitment to our core values because we are Kent State. Flashes Take Care of Flashes.
We are ready. You are ready. Here is to a successful, meaningful and epic 2020-2021 academic year.