Kaitlin Bennett to continue with rally; university policy causes confusion


Greg Fisher from Kent, OH. argues with a demonstrator during the open carry demonstration on Friday, April 27.

Kaitlin Bennett, a Kent State alumna whom some refer to as the “Kent State Gun Girl,” announced Aug. 9 on social media she will be holding an open-carry rally on Kent State’s main campus.

The university issued a statement three weeks later, on Aug. 29, telling Bennett to “cease and desist” all advertising of the event because it wasn’t properly registered and didn’t comply with university regulations.

The statement outlined a policy that requires non-university affiliated speakers to be sponsored by a student organization and registered with the University Scheduling Office.


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However, according to the policy, non-university speakers may hold demonstrations, including rallies, without registration if they do not use sound equipment and students and faculty can proceed with their normal activities.

Bennett said she received a phone call from Lamar Hylton, the dean of students, to discuss the upcoming event hours prior to the university issuing the cease and desist letter. 

KentWired called Hylton’s office to ask him about the alleged phone call.

Hylton’s office referred KentWired to Eric Mansfield, the executive director of university media relations, who then referred back to the statement.

KentWired asked Kristin Anderson, the director of external media relations, via email about the policy exception and whether Bennett had expressed if she would bring sound equipment to the rally. Anderson also referred to the statement, which cited Bennett must register the rally, but did not describe the exemption from registration also described in the policy.

Tim Smith, a retired Kent State journalism professor and former attorney, viewed the issue as determining the difference between a rally and a demonstration.

Kent State defined a demonstration as a “person or assembly of persons engaged in a rally, march, sit-in, fast or other public manifestation of welcome, approval, protest, or disapproval but does not include social, or athletic exhibitions or events,” according to the university policy.

While the word “rally” is listed in its definition, Smith suspected Bennett shouldn’t use the term in her event because the word gave the university a reason to issue their statement.   

“Kaitlin appears to be using a term that triggers registration,” Smith said in reference to the name of the event. “If she drops that term and calls it something else, she should be OK.”

Bennett posted her response to the statement on the political organization Liberty Hangout’s website, saying she’s still going forward with the event.

In her statement, Bennett accused Kent State of being “unprofessional and inconsistent.” She cited open-carry rallies held on campus in September 2016 and April 2018, when she was an undergraduate student, that were not sponsored by a student organization.

Bennett also said Michael Heil, the president of Liberty Hangout’s Kent State chapter, obtained permission from the university to set up a table, have microphones and will share the space with Bennett.

She said the rally does not violate university policy, and her and “hundreds of gun owners” will show up as planned.

Brandon Bounds is TV2’s enterprise producer. Contact him at [email protected].

Laina Yost is KentWired’s enterprise editor. Contact her at [email protected].