USG to review BUS grievances asking for senators’ resignations

Hannah Armenta

The Undergraduate Student Government will review its bylaws and charter in response to Black United Students’ grievances against two USG members who both allegedly made racial remarks.

BUS brought its formal grievances to the Nov. 12 USG meeting, and requested that Senator-at-Large, Joshua Lewis, and the Director of Residence Halls Lauren Buchanan resign immediately after an incident that occurred Oct. 14, 2014.

Matthew Thompson, president of BUS, said Lewis made a racist comment in the USG office around several members of BUS and USG Executive Director Marvin Logan, and Buchanan agreed with the comment Lewis made, according to Thompson’s letter of grievance he submitted to USG.

According to Thompson’s Oct. 14 letter, he and two other BUS members were having a conversation with Marvin Logan when Lewis walked in and stated, “There are too many Black people in here. I am uncomfortable.” He and Buchanan walked back into their offices and Buchanan said, “I’m glad you said that because I was thinking it,” and they laughed. Thompson reported the incident to members of BUS and then went back to the USG offices to confront Buchanan. He asked her if she feels uncomfortable around Black people and she said no, that she was tired because she wakes up early and “everything is funny to her at that time of the day.”

“Lauren and I continued our conversation, and I mentioned to her how I do not believe she can properly serve black students or she enables comments, like the one Joshua Lewis made,” Thompson said in his letter. 

The incident, BUS board members said, is a violation of Kent State University policy regarding unlawful discrimination and harassment. Lewis didn’t respond to requests to comment and Buchanan declined to comment on this issue at this time.

BUS filed more grievances and demands with USG regarding the topic. Formal grievances from BUS include: Incident with Lewis and Buchanan, inactive diversity committee, USG not adequately represented at diversity events and programs, lack of speakers of color brought to campus whom are not entertainers, lack of transparency and lack of education programing.  

The group’s immediate demands include the resignation Lewis and Buchanan. Other demands included an active diversity committee including a BUS member and anti-racist training with a BUS member’s involvement.

“We should always applaud the effort of civil discourse and mental dissonance,” Logan said. “I thought BUS presented themselves in a respectable manner. I am disappointed that the situation has escalated the way that it has.”

Lewis resigned from his BUS position as the Director of Political Affairs and Grievances Sep. 16, 2014, a month before the incident in the USG office.

“Based on various circumstances that have come up the past few days, I have realized that I simply cannot offer BUS all that I would like to and at the risk of disrespecting any of you any further I unfortunately must resign as your Director of Political Affairs and Grievances,” Lewis said in his letter of resignation submitted to Thompson.

Tensions between USG and BUS have been growing since last spring’s undergraduate student government elections due to offensive comments made during a forum for the USG candidates to state their platforms, Thompson said. Thompson said the incident in the office was the last straw for him and BUS.

Thompson said he tried to get into contact with members of USG to schedule a meeting about the incident. BUS was able to have its grievances heard at the USG meeting.

“We went to the USG meeting because it was a public meeting, and we knew they would have to listen to us there,” Thompson said about the USG meeting on Nov. 13.

Both parties said the meeting was constructive. Tia Loop, communications director for USG, said USG is aware of the severity of the issue, and is working towards finding a solution.

“I think from our perspective, we got a lot of great information from it,” Loop said.  “We were kind of able to find out what the other party was feeling.”

BUS also felt the meeting was productive but has been waiting to hear back about the meeting it requested.

“As of now, it’s only been USG meeting with administration, and no one is really talking to us directly,” Thompson said. “Administration is just meeting with administration; I don’t understand how everyone is getting a meeting except us.”

Logan said he hopes that the conflict is resolved by the end of the week.

“I am hopeful you will see the opportunity of growth in not only BUS and USG, but the population as a whole,” he said.

Contact Hannah Armenta at [email protected].