Soup and Substance 2.0: The next 50 years


Donald A. Thigpen Jr. listens to students during the Soup And Substance 2.0 event that was part of the Student Multicultural Center’s 50th anniversary week.

Madison Brattoli

Students and faculty enjoyed soup while discussing future goals for the Student Multicultural Center (SMC) as part of its 50th anniversary Thursday.

“The title tells you everything — we have soup and the substance could be [various] topics,” said Talea Drummer-Ferrell, the director of the SMC. “This week, we have been celebrating SMC’s 50-year anniversary. Now, we want to talk about the next 50 years.”

Soup and Substance is a semesterly tradition on campus that gives students an opportunity to speak up amongst faculty of the SMC.

Donald Thigpen, the first program coordinator for the Office of Minority Affairs, now known as the SMC, appeared as a special guest for the discussion. Thigpen spoke about his experience starting the organization as well as his goal to have the university gain a greater understanding of diversity. 

He started the organization during his last semester as an undergraduate at Kent State.

“One of the greatest challenges was to get people to accept (that) what you are sharing with them is valid,” Thigpen said. “We needed (the university) to be open to change. The reason we exist is because they weren’t open at all. We were the only resource for people of color at the time.”

Because Thigpen lives in Maryland, he does not often get to see the process at Kent. He said he is in awe of what the university has accomplished since he first started spreading his message.

During the meeting, students spoke with Thigpen and gave feedback on SMC to Drummer-Ferrell. They focused on what they wanted to bring to SMC in the future.

Loreal Hawk, a senior political science and paralegal studies major and the director of political affairs and grievances of Black United Students, stated her concern for the SMC’s scarce resources.

“We need our own mental health resource,” Hawk said. “There should be separate mental health counselors at the SMC. Often times, people of color with mental health are looked at differently or not taken seriously by people who do not look like us.”

Thigpen then asked the audience if they were happy here, and the audience asked for clarification on if he meant at Kent State or with the SMC. He wanted to know both.

Multiple hands were raised and students agreed that they are happy at Kent State because of the SMC.

Makhyla Eppinger, a freshman deaf education major, stepped up and expressed her gratitude for the SMC. As a freshman, she got involved in the Kupita/Transiciones (K/T) program.

“I never knew what genuine happiness was until I got to K/T,” Eppinger said. “I went to a private Christian school with a majority of white students, and I never felt like myself. I would dress like they dressed and talk like they talked. Then when I came to K/T, I could trust everyone. I want other people to feel what I felt.”

The group continued sharing their feelings and expressed how they felt disconnected to Kent State’s campus.

“During K/T, when we took a picture together, we got so many dirty looks,” Amaya Landingham, a freshman criminology major, said. “One time, we were walking downtown as a group after K/T, and we heard someone say, ‘Do a lot of black people go here?’ People need to understand that we are here to stay. I feel like our school needs to be more informed.”

One student suggested the SMC should merge with other organizations. Another stated, as minority students, they need to branch out into other organizations to be advocates for people of color.

He gave examples such as becoming a FlashGuide on campus. Seeing diversity in leadership positions will spread into other organizations on campus.

At the end of the meeting, Thigpen shared his appreciation for the SMC.

“You folks are well on your way thanks to SMC,” he said. “You do not have to wait 50 years to make change. The future is now.”

Madison Brattoli is a diversity reporter. Contact her at [email protected].