We’re All In This Together

Dear Kent State University Faculty and Staff,

I don't know about you, but on occasion I find myself thinking how great it would be if things were different. And even though we all probably have these thoughts, at the same time, I am looking forward to a fast-approaching fall semester when we can welcome students back to campus and focus on our mission of delivering a world-class education.

As we think about all we wish were different, we can also be proud of all we are doing in the face of adversity and unwelcomed change created by COVID-19. While much is out of our direct control, at Kent State we are leaning into this storm. We have been preparing for a "new normal" so that we can have a safe and successful semester.

Our phenomenal health experts at Kent State have helped us navigate the complexities of the virus and address the challenges it presents. Our remarkable reopening committee members have come up with a detailed plan for a safe return to campus, and we are confident in our ability to adapt as the situation demands. Our stellar staff in Student Affairs, Enrollment Management, the Bursar's Office and University College have worked around the clock to address student concerns and well-being. All have worked tirelessly to ensure that our students can continue their education and earn their degrees.

Still, I wish things were different across our campuses. Students desire more in-person learning, and yet many of our classes will have to be delivered remotely. The need to reconfigure our classroom space according to the best advice from scientists and public health experts, as well as our governor, has limited the number of in-person classes we can hold. We are confident, though, that we have created safer, physically distant classrooms that feature 6 feet of separation between each student, and our great team from Academic Affairs and the Office of the University Architect has identified new spaces for instruction, including the ballroom in the Kent State Hotel and Conference Center.

We face the same challenges and uncertainties that the rest of the world does. Some of you are parents of young children. Some of you have aging parents with the kinds of pre-existing conditions that generate additional problems for those stricken during the pandemic. Many of us are in high risk groups. Flashes take care of Flashes, so those of you who wish to teach only remotely are doing so. More than 600 Kent State professors completed an intensive, voluntary training in online pedagogy this summer. This speaks to your commitment and dedication and helps ensure an excellent student experience in remote courses this fall.

Even in the best of times, many of our students struggle to make ends meet—and these are far from the best of times. Students lost the part-time jobs they depend on to pay for college; many of their parents lost their employment, as well. Kent State's funding has been reduced by the State of Ohio, even while we are spending more in making our campuses safer from the virus and investing in internet and technology enhancements, such as putting cameras in all classrooms, so that students can attend an in-person course remotely, if needed.

In response to these needs, our great donors quickly provided more than $1 million in emergency funding to help students in the early months of the pandemic. Rents were paid, computers were purchased, and hot spots for internet access were provided. We will do everything we can to help support our students at this time.

While this fall semester won't be everything we'd hoped for, we will still have many meaningful opportunities to engage with one another in and out of the classroom—whether virtually or at a safe physical distance, as we all follow the Flashes Safe Seven principles. We look forward to seeing the creativity you and the students will bring to this moment, and I thank you in advance for all of your efforts to date, and in the future.

I wish things were different, and yet I am proud to work with each and every one of you, and to observe the remarkable work you are doing as we continue to confront the coronavirus and its dramatic repercussions. I ask for your patience as we address multiple challenges. Flashes are tough and resilient, and we will get through this together.

Stay safe, and GO FLASHES!


Todd Diacon

POSTED: Thursday, August 6, 2020 - 3:33pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, August 11, 2020 - 12:10pm