Opinion: Kent State minority students deserve better

Bobbie Szabo

Throughout November, Kent State has had multiple chances to uphold its commitment to excellence for its students. Each time, our beloved university has either remained silent, made a statement without following through with it, or has actively made the situation in question worse.

On college campuses across the country following the presidential election, students of varying gender identities, sexual orientations, races, nationalities and abilities / disabilities expressed genuine fear for their lives.

Since the election, prominent white-supremacist, anti-Semitic, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, racist, sexist and otherwise generally bad people have been appointed to high positions within the United States government. Students fear not only the national policies these people could create, but also the possibility of such harmful views trickling down the power hierarchy and affecting them directly.

In response, Kent State President Beverly Warren sent out an email titled “Our Enduring Commitment to Inclusive Excellence,” which asked students to remain respectful of one another in the face of political differences without explaining how the university itself is going to ensure that happens.

Our university had the opportunity to promote Safe Spaces and Green Dot training, to expand mental health services (which are so overwhelmed they have been rendered unavailable for most students), and to support student organizations specifically focused on aspects of diversity within our community, but they did not take that opportunity.

Several days later, Students for Justice in Palestine — as well as several other student organizations, including Spanish and Latino Student Association, the Ohio Student Association, the Muslim Student Association and Black United Students — requested a quote in Bowman Hall said by former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir be taken down due to Meir’s blatantly racist policies while in office.

The university has yet to act on taking down the quote, and as of Sunday, hasn’t responded to an accusation of terrorism emailed on behalf of the student leaders and university faculty who supported the removal of the quote.

Rahul Saksena, a staff attorney for Palestine Legal, sent Warren a letter regarding the university’s “failure to offer any support for them and other members of the campus community who have been falsely accused of supporting terrorism,” according to the letter.

Universities around the country are dealing with the popularization of white-supremacist and discriminatory viewpoints, and Kent State is no different.

Several posters, including one titled “Why White Women Shouldn’t Date Black Men,” have been found on Kent State’s campus. Other posters have promoted the white nationalist agenda and have been compared to Nazi propaganda during the Holocaust by students on social media.

Through an official statement, the university announced it is investigating the source of the posters. The posters in question have been taken down, and the content of the posters have been denounced. However, the university has yet to do anything proactive in preventing further racist messages from appearing.

Kent State’s lack of substantial response to these instances of blatant discrimination not only contradicts the fundamental ideals of our university, but it is also — and most importantly — unacceptable.

Bobbie Szabo is a columnist, contact her at [email protected].