Potential discrimination at Homecoming parade unwarranted

Bobbi Szabo

Kent State is home to a diverse population of people representing 122 countries, but this diversity is not welcomed by all.

This past Saturday after the Homecoming Parade commenced, the student group Spanish and Latino Student Association posted the following statement on Facebook and Twitter:

“Happy Homecoming Flashes! SALSA had such a fun time walking in the parade not only representing our Latino pride but our Golden Flash pride as well. Unfortunately, some fraternities felt the need to chant “build that wall” as we were marching by. We are upset that our organization was being rejected at such a welcoming and prideful event. We are proud of our heritage, ethnicities, and all of our backgrounds. We are SALSA. We are Undeniably Kent State and proud of it.”

SALSA has since reached out to President Beverly Warren, Vice President for Student Affairs Shay Little and the Division for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Behavior like this is unacceptable under any circumstances. I have no doubt people will cite our First Amendment rights of Freedom of Speech, but neither that amendment nor campus policy protect anything and everything a person says. There are limits.

Kent State’s Harassment Policies state the following:

“Unlawful harassment. Includes intimidation, ridicule or insults that are sufficiently severe, pervasive or persistent as to interfere with or limit the ability of an individual to participate in or benefit from the services, activities or privileges provided by the University; creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive working and/or learning environment; or otherwise adversely affects an individual’s work or learning opportunities, and is based on an individual’s race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, disability, genetic information, age, military status.”

Although this particular instance might not sufficiently meet all of the requirements for administrative action, it does warrant investigation and highlights a problem on our campus — and in our society as a whole.

People tend to believe that because we have a specific right, we are able to do anything without repercussion. This is not true. Just because purported members of fraternities have the ability to shout hate at a student group in a parade, it does not mean they can do so without penalty. Freedom of Speech does not protect people from the consequences associated with that speech.

I am intrigued to see how this situation progresses, as we cannot promote the acceptability of such targeted hate speech on our campus.

In a time when the United States’ political and social climates are becoming increasingly divisive, it is disheartening to see the same happening in our own campus community. I implore us all to come together, to break down the walls between us instead of building them up.

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