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Diacon urges respectful free speech during ‘Talking with Todd’

Screenshot from Adriana Gasiewski
President Todd Diacon speaks during his online session, “Talking with Todd.”

With tensions rising from the Palestine-Israel war, Kent State President Todd Diacon took the time to explain the university’s core values of kindness, respect and free speech in this semester’s installment of his online session, “Talking with Todd.”

This is not the first time Diacon has spoken about these core values as earlier in the semester he spoke to the freshmen about them during his convocation speech.

“I urged these new students to embrace our identity, to embrace this commitment and to learn how to agree and to learn how to disagree, and to do so in a respectful and kind manner,” Diacon said.

With the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip, Diacon said he has received respectful messages through email from individuals either encouraging him to denounce or ban certain things.

As a result of these messages, Diacon said he supports individuals to say what they think. However, the goal is for individuals to do so in a kind and respectful manner.

“I know this approach is easy to say, easy to explain, but it’s a pledge,” Diacon said.”When you put it into action it can be far more difficult.” 

One of the reasons this approach can be difficult to follow is because of the localization of national and international events, Diacon said.

“Localization includes how the reporting of events taking place on campus nationwide will lead people to assume the same things are happening here,” Diacon said. “When they may not be happening here.”

Localization can also pressure students to behave a certain way, and the information from social media and the 24-hour news cycle can overflood students with information, Diacon said.

Diacon said a similar localization effect will play out next fall with the presidential election, and he will continue to encourage students to respectfully engage in free speech. 

He then acknowledged how several individuals are hurting from the conflicts in the Gaza Strip.

“I know that many among us are hurting, our Jewish students have expressed concerns for their safety,” Diacon said. “Our Muslims likewise, they fear a backlash against them and both groups can point to very real acts of violence in our nation.”

Eboni Pringle, the interim senior vice president of Student Life, and Taléa Drummer-Ferrell, dean of students, have met regularly with students to hear and address their concerns surrounding such, Diacon said.

Students who feel they are in imminent danger should call the university’s police department and reach out to counseling services, he said.

Regarding speech that is not kind or respectful, Diacon said the university will advise individuals who made the remarks to do better, even though it cannot be banned on public buildings like the university. 

“If that speech is coming from students, usually it will be our student life personnel that will reach out and ask to speak to people, in person, to remind them of our values,” Diacon said.

The university’s police also partakes in regular briefings with state, local and federal law enforcement officials to learn about specific threats in northeast Ohio, Diacon said.

For the upcoming semester, there are plans for Amy Reynolds, dean of the College of Communication and Information and nationally recognized freedom of speech expert,to help individuals understand free speech better, Diacon said.

Adriana Gasiewski is a staff reporter. Contact her at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Adriana Gasiewski, Staff Reporter
Adriana is a sophomore majoring in journalism with minors in Italian and creative writing. Before becoming a staff reporter, she was a general assignment reporter last semester. She enjoys writing about current events and issues that Kent students face. Adriana is a second-year member of Her Campus, where she serves as Philanthropy and Community Events Coordinator, and she is a member of the editorial team. Contact her at [email protected].

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