Students unite to petition for sanctuary campus status

Matt Unger’s drone captures the university from above the MACC Annex.

Students from several organizations have collaborated to push Kent State toward sanctuary status. The petition, titled “Make Kent State University a Sanctuary Campus!” has been growing rapidly since it was first posted on Jan. 27.

The petition was founded by the university’s Student Power Coalition (SPC), an organization that formed just last semester. The SPC is made up of several different student groups that fight for equality, such as the Ohio Student Association, Black United Students, the Spanish and Latino Student Association, (SALSA) the Muslim Students’ Association and many others.

What happens if Kent State becomes a sanctuary campus from KentWired.com on Vimeo.

Brianna Foraker, faculty leader of the United Students Against Sweatshops and member of the SPC, spoke with several students following the election. During this time, many feared the future.

According to Foraker, safe space events had record turnouts.

“We knew this was just the start of people feeling unsafe,” Foraker said. “I think a major fear is just feeling like they can’t walk across campus without comments … I think it comes from a lot of hateful rhetoric that is being thrown around right now.”

Foraker and other students began writing the petition in November 2016. The draft went through countless tweaks and was passed back and forth between students and staff.

Rachel Mason, president of SALSA, was one of the first supporters of the petition. Mason believed that the petition is “the only way to come together and fight against inequalities within our own campus and our own communities.”

“Instead of isolating these students, we would be able to provide them with what helps them best succeed,” Mason said. “That is in line with the mission of the university: Students first.”

Earlier this semester, the petition began to take shape into its current state. The petition calls for the university to stand by students currently threatened by the political climate, particularly Muslim and Latino students.

“This is a problem that people are seeing,” Foraker said. “We at Kent State want to protect you, and this is how we’re going to protect you.”

In addition, the petition calls for the university to proactively support its other student minorities before they ever feel threatened in the future.

“They do not need to fear further action that could be taken down the road,” Mason said. “There would be resources on campus for students. They would have space carved out for them where they could talk to someone from diversity equity and inclusion.”

If the petition is accepted by the university, it may offer some comfort to those students feeling distressed by the current political climate.

“It’s important to reaffirm that these students belong here, and this is another step that the university can do,” Mason said. “This is an action; this is a very tangible, concrete thing that allows students to say ‘Yes, this is where I go to school’… That’s important and in line with the values that the university upholds.”

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

Anna Huntsman is a broadcast reporter, contact her at [email protected]