Students address race, diversity issues with USG


Matthew Thompson, president of Black United Students, addresses diversity and racial concerns to Undergraduate Student Government in the Governance Chambers of the Student Center on Wednesday, March 4, 2015. After finishing each page of his notes, Thompason threw it onto the floor of the chamber.

Matt Poe

Dozens of Kent State students criticized Undergraduate Student Government’s representation of diversity during its biweekly public meeting Wednesday night. 

The address was supported by members of Black United Students and focused on USG’s “inconsistency of handling diverse issues,” said BUS president Matthew Thompson. 

The address comes just two weeks after USG approved new legislation for gender-inclusive housing and bathroom options for students who may identify as LGBTQ. Although the address was not an attack on that piece of legislation, it was a call for USG to “address students coming to you (USG) with their issues,” Thompson said.

Thompson, along with others, spoke to the board of USG about a growing number of students who feel they have been ignored by student government this term, especially when it comes to issues of racial diversity. The address also called for anti-racist training to be implemented into USG’s responsibilities and by-laws, notably coming after a questionable conversation was overheard in USG’s office

Thompson stated that many student organizations work on these issues but said it is “time for USG to take a step.” 

BREAKING: Student organizations accuse USG board member of racist remarks at meeting from on Vimeo.

“BUS does work on this all the time. Spanish and Latino Student Association, Native American Student Association, College Democrats and PRIDE!Kent all work on this,” Thompson said. “They’re (USG) the only ones who don’t do anything.”

Marvin Logan, executive director of USG, said the response from students and BUS was not necessarily something USG saw coming, but it’s also not surprising.

“We want students to come to our meetings and share with us their concerns, whether it be with us or anything,” Logan said. “I think the ball is really in the body’s court of what to do because clearly it’s a problem that has been reiterated over and over again.”

As far as how student government plans to improve its handling of diversity- and race-related issues, USG will be fighting the clock as the term for current members comes to an end. With roughly seven weeks left in office, the organization will be up against a tight schedule to make an amendment change, but Logan said it can be done. 

“What is really going to matter is the framework that we lay for our transition for the next body,” Logan said. “It’ll be important for students to continue to keep the pressure not only on this body, but on the university as a whole to continue to address these kinds of issues.” 

Trey Walker, the USG senator of residence halls, said the address by students and BUS was “perfect.”

“I thought their address was perfectly fine,” Walker said. “They had facts, events, dates, times. They had everything and as people who are here to represent the students, when somebody says they’re upset or bothered, you make sure you’re doing everything to represent them the best you can and if not, you aren’t doing your job.” 

Walker also spoke about the importance of his role in helping to improve the relationship between USG and marginalized students. 

“I feel that me, as a black, gay person, I would be doing both of those marginalized communities a dishonor if I did not say anything,” Walker said.  “I don’t care about a title I have. To know that people are hurting, I have to stand up and say something.”  

Contact Matt Poe at [email protected].