In his annual State of the University address, President Dr. Dan Papp said KSU will strive to become known as "Kennesaw State: Georgia's Engaged University," by redoubling its efforts to understand the public and help the public understand what it does.
Without directly mentioning the recent decision by Kent State University's Dr. Timothy Chandler to turn down the KSU provost position amidst public debate over a paper with Marxist overtones he co-authored, Papp told a packed lecture hall that now is a good time to start the dialogue as KSU develops its 2012-17 strategic plan.
"It may be because we academics have spent too much time talking with each other and not enough time talking with people in the broader community," he stated. "We have not spent enough time, nor devoted enough effort, to talk with folks in the broader community about what it is that we do. Consequently, in the eyes of many we have become, to borrow a phrase, 'pointy-headed academics who don't have a clue about what goes on in the real world.'
"So my proposal is this," Papp continued, "we at Kennesaw State University will continue to strive for the goal that we set last year of becoming a nationally recognized university by the beginning of our second half-century, only four years from now, and we will do this by, among other things, being a university fully committed to engagement - engagement with our local community, with our state, with our nation and with our world."
For the first time publicly, Papp waded into the consequential debate among faculty members about academic freedom and the idea of being an academic contrarian, by suggesting the debate itself is healthy for a university.
"Each professor argues for points with which I agree and each also argues for points with which I disagree. But this is not the place to discuss my personal views about the debate," he said. "Rather, I refer to this debate because it well illustrates what should take place at a university. Ideas and outlooks get discussed. They get debated. They get dissected. And sometimes the discussions, debates and dissections get heated. Sometimes the discussions, debates and dissections even take place in the public media. But all of this is OK, because a university should be a marketplace of ideas and outlooks, and people should be free and able to discuss, debate and dissect them. This is what academic freedom, and more generically, freedom of speech and the other First Amendment freedoms, are all about."
The bulk of Papp's address highlighted KSU's achievements of the past year and goals.
He stated that the university on Friday had raised $70 million of its five-year capital campaign's goal of $75 million, with more than a year left to go. The campaign, he said, generated the largest private contribution and largest grant to the university in its 48-year history.
After receiving support to start a football program, KSU's football fundraising campaign will launch after the arrival of a new athletic director, Papp announced.
"Hopefully, we will be able to name a new AD within the next couple of weeks," he said.
To address it growing enrollment of more than 23,000 students, Papp said he is "cautiously optimistic" the university will receive funding to expand its Bagwell College of Education building. He said future building projects include more residence halls, another dining hall, Phase III of the Sports and Recreational Park, a new student activities and recreational center, an academic learning center, and a business education building.
In August, KSU opened the $56 million Prillaman Hall, which houses the WellStar College of Health and Human Services. A new College of the Arts dance studio opened at Chastain Pointe earlier this semester. Recently, it broke ground on a $21 million, 73,000-square-foot science lab for its College of Science and Mathematics.
Construction of the Big Shanty Connector underpass, a proposed shuttle system and a 2011 county SPLOST project that connects KSU's East Park Deck off Frey Road with Busbee Parkway via an Interstate 75 overpass, will all help the university deal with the increase in traffic that has resulted from KSU's growth, Papp said.
The latter project received applause from the audience of faculty, students and staff.
In his address, Papp also praised the awards and funding that KSU has received, including: a $2.5 million National Science Foundation Noyce grant to recruit and train lead physics and chemistry teachers; a $2 million challenge grant from KSU benefactor Bernard Zuckerman to build an arts museum; a $2.9 million U.S. Department of Defense grant to study how to overcome the effects of brain trauma; and a $1 million Osher Foundation endowment for scholarships to students who return to KSU to complete their degrees.
In addition, Dr. Sabine Smith, an associate professor of German, was awarded the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents Teaching Excellence Award on Saturday night at an annual gala.
"Over the past year, we have received quite a bit of national attention, although not always in the way that I would have hoped," Papp said. "I want to praise the faculty and staff of Kennesaw State University for the fine work that all of you do in educating our students, in conducting research, scholarship and other creative activities, in service and in providing for the diverse needs of our almost 24,000 students."
Papp will present his State of the University address again at 9 a.m. today at the Dr. Bobbie Bailey & Family Performance Center on campus.