Public relations, the Akron Beacon Journal and Kent State

Well, this should be interesting. I finished my five-mile run this morning and then began scanning the Akron Beacon Journal. Two things grabbed my attention.

First, is it just my imagination or did the Beacon Journal print the same stock market results today as it did yesterday? It is Friday. Right? Anyway, as best I can tell the Dow fell about 193 points yesterday (Thursday). But the Beacon Journal lists the Dow this morning as being up 2.36 points – which was Wednesday’s close. Then I checked some of the individual listings. In Friday’s paper: Goodrich, $73.47, off 58 cents. In Thursday’s paper: Goodrich, $73.47, off 58 cents. From what I have read and heard, times are a little tough these days at the ABJ, but…And by the way, anyone know what happened to the Cavs?

Then – Kent State University is featured again on the editorial page. The Beacon Journal editorial board wrote about what it considered to be the best, worst and most galling decisions in 2007.

Kent State made the “most galling” list, checking in at No. 4: “King Lester doles out our treasury.” I’ll try to add the link to the story later. It’s about 8:30 a.m. Friday — but the Beacon Journal’s Web site still has yesterday’s editorials posted. Maybe the Beacon Journal has shut its doors and left on holiday until the new year. In Akron, how would we know?

Anyway, the King Lester reference is to Kent State’s President Lester Lefton. And the story involves (among other things) his trip to Europe last summer at a cost of $40,000 and a more recent decision to pay another senior executive at Kent State $88,000 to get his Ph.D. in business at another university.
This is a topic that I’ve commented on in past blogs. And it is one that my KSU colleague Bill Sledzik wrote about in some detail and received a number of excellent comments about on his ToughSledding blog. Read Bill’s essay, if you haven’t already. Besides, Bill has tenure. I don’t.

But I’ll comment anyway – and I’ll assume you have read either Bill’s blog or the Akron Beacon Journal story, or both.

I argued several weeks ago that the Kent State administration should have addressed this situation by taking some kind of specific action (modifying the tuition payment, rescinding it, apologizing for it, anything) and then talking about the situation honestly and completely with at a minimum Kent State students, staff and faculty. As best I can tell, the only communication has been to Akron Beacon Journal reporter Carol Biliczky, via e-mail. I wrote about that previously as well on this blog.

I’ve mentioned this before. I’ll say it again. I’m a supporter of Kent State. I’ve received two degrees from the university, I’ve been an alumnus for nearly 40 years, I try my best to contribute at least a modest amount to student scholarship funds and now for the last five years I’ve been teaching public relations and communication ethics courses. Part of my responsibility in the classroom is to help students understand how to handle these kinds of situations correctly. I guess that’s at least partly why this situation at Kent bothers me as much as it does. (That and the fact that I’m tired of going shopping and having someone I know ask me when his son/daughter is going to receive free tuition.) It also bothers me because it unfairly hurts the professional reputations of some friends and colleagues of mine in Kent State’s office of University Communications and Marketing. I don’t know this, but my guess it that they have not been involved in these decisions. Or that their advice has been ignored. Come on folks at Kent State. We can do better.

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