USG, president’s office discuss racism on Kent State campus

Members of Undergraduate Student Government (USG), spoke about racism on campus, painting over the rock on front campus, a suggested mural and a camera for the rock and the Anti-Racism Task Force.

Early Wednesday morning, the Kent State rock was painted over with “White Lives Matter,” a phrase most commonly used by neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. Students became enraged across campus and wanted a call to action from the university.

President Todd Diacon, Interim Vice President for the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Amoaba Gooden, Vice President for Student Affairs Lamar Hylton and the Dean of Students Taléa Drummer-Ferrell all joined the meeting. 

Diacon said Kent needs to work as a community, otherwise nothing will be accomplished. He also promised allyship as Kent State’s president and as a citizen.

“Right now, I think what I can promise is to energetically respond to events such as the paintings on the rock [and] to teach about racism and its harmful impact,” Diacon said. “I can certainly promise to continue our anti-racist task force work.”

Diacon said he does not believe the racist acts will stop, but more so increase as the national election is looming. He said he can “only imagine the anger in people right now, and rightly so.”

Diacon urged trust and transparency within the community, but there are things he cannot promise.

“I can’t promise that we will punish this kind of speech. It’s hard to track down who did the painting of the rock,” Diacon said. “We wouldn’t have anything to charge them with, quite frankly; it’s a freedom of speech issue.”

Diacon said they do not plan on getting rid of the rock, as it is a tradition, but they are exploring options to protect the rock from racist efforts. 

Senator for Residence Halls Erik Gomez suggested the idea of a camera near the rock as a warning to students to not diminish the freedom of speech of others. Additionally, USG Director of Academic Affairs Thomas Niepsuj suggested a mural dedicated to Black Lives Matter.

“I thought it would be interesting if the university would be willing to dedicate a wall or mural to it,” Niepsuj said. “I’m tired of painting paint over paint but if we had a mural that any student that’s for the movement could participate in creating some sort of submission to it. It would be cool to show what the university’s stance is for students of color.”

Niepsuj’s idea would also ensure that anyone who would paint over the mural could theoretically be punished for vandalism of university property, as the mural would not be a place like the rock for freedom of speech.

Gooden said she wanted to reassure that good communication and using fellow students as a resource will help everyone in the end.

“Tomorrow afternoon, all academic leaders will be called to take a public stance in support of Black faculty, staff and students on this campus,” Gooden said.

Kaitlyn Finchler is the photo editor. Contact her at [email protected]