Diversity Week participants build wall, encourage discussion of social issues

Alec Slovenec

As part of the College of Communication and Information’s Diversity Week, student volunteers built a large wall in the middle of the Student Center on Monday.

At 11 a.m., students gathered to set up the “Wall of Oppression,” which represents a variety of relevant social issues that Kent residents face. 

Next to the wall were colored paper bricks, each color representing a different social issue. Students and faculty were encouraged to tape bricks concerning issues they care about to the wall.

Some of the issues included racism, LGBTQ and religious intolerance, military or veteran issues, sexism, human trafficking and economic inequality.

Amanda Leu, the coordinator of the Office of Academic Diversity Outreach, ran the event. Leu approached anyone who passed the wall and encouraged them to participate.

Leu said she hopes CCI’s Diversity Week will become a yearly event during the spring semester.

“Really, the main goal with this (is) that I want people to start to recognize the fact that we can’t just represent our commitment to overcoming oppression; we actually have to do something about it,” Leu said. “And so, sticking a brick up on the wall  that’s great. But that’s only the first step. During this whole process, we’re handing out flyers about different organizations that you can get involved in that actually work to overcome these oppressive issues.”

Volunteer and junior pubic relations major Charleah Trombitas helped promote the event. She spoke with students, and like Leu, encouraged them to add bricks to the wall.

While supportive of all issues brought to the table, Trombitas said she was most interested in issues like sexism, mostly because she is a woman who plans on heading into the workforce. 

Of the student participants, sophomore managerial marketing major Jay Kanapesky said veterans deserve to be part of the Wall of Oppression. 

“Well, I feel like with all the issues that are heavily reported on by the media, things like veterans are swept under the rug,” Kanapesky said. “I didn’t see any of the colored bricks with veterans on it.”

Viewing the wall and its array of colors is meant to bring to light the issues people of Kent State care about.

“You can kind of see what people care about more so than other things just by looking at the colors,” Kanapesky said.

Leu said the most important idea to take away from the Wall of Oppression is its issues are not limited to just issues heavily discussed. She added many more people are underrepresented by society.

“My main message that I care about promoting to people is that diversity is not as narrow as we’ve been focusing on for the past decades,” Leu said. “It’s a lot more diverse in its definition than what we really realize. And we can really help a lot more people and do a lot more impactful things when we recognize that holistic comprehensive definition of what it means to be a diverse person.”

The wall was up all week between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the Student Center. On Friday at noon, CCI Diversity Week participants destroyed the wall on the third floor of the library. This meant to symbolize the goal behind the wall: to figuratively, and literally, tear down oppression.

Alec Slovenec is the university diversity reporter, contact him at [email protected]