‘Our Students Graduating Today Are Tough. They Do Not Live in an Ivory Tower.’

President's commencement address underscores what some elected leaders have gotten wrong about Kent State's students

Kent State University President Todd Diacon delivered his commencement address to the thousands who gathered on Manchester Field on May 13 to celebrate the academic achievement of this year’s graduates.

However, Diacon’s message was aimed at an audience that went far beyond those physically in attendance. 

“There is in Ohio, among some state elected officials, a growing ivory tower accusation being leveled against our state’s public universities and against, quite frankly, Kent State University,” Diacon said.

President Diacon Greets Graduates During Spring Commencement, 2023

An “ivory tower,” Diacon explained, was a term his father used as an indication of someone who lives in “a state of privileged seclusion or separation from the practicalities of the real world.”

Diacon pulled no punches in outlining what he believes some of the state’s leaders have gotten wrong by implying Kent State and its students live in an ivory tower.

“Our students graduating today are tough,” he said. “They do not live in an ivory tower. They are not pampered. They exhibited impressive grit as they persevered through the early semesters of COVID-19. They do not live in a secluded world marked by an aloof attitude.”

View the president’s remarks:


He noted that thousands of students work full time in addition to taking a full load of classes, and that the experience prepares them to be successful in life beyond college. Diacon also shared an anecdote from the business community that Kent State graduates are applauded for their work ethic and their preparedness. 

“Hard-working people dedicated to improving themselves in society? Yes,” Diacon said. “Students graduating today have overcome all kinds of obstacles to graduate on this special day. Having to overcome a sheltered life in an ivory tower has not been one of their obstacles.”

President Todd Diacon During May 2023 Spring Commencement

Diacon’s comments come at a time when students across the state, including some from Kent State, are facing possible curriculum changes and other prescriptions aimed at higher education under the proposed Ohio Senate Bill 83.

“If living in an ivory tower means that we pursue the life of the mind, then so be it,” Diacon said. “If living in an ivory tower means that we believe in the transformative power of higher education to improve lives, then so be it. If living in an ivory tower means that we embrace facts, we embrace data and we embrace the scientific method, then so be it.”

POSTED: Wednesday, May 17, 2023 08:22 AM
Updated: Wednesday, May 17, 2023 01:17 PM
Eric Mansfield