Kent State rock painted several more times; students harassed while painting

The Kent State rock on front campus was painted again Tuesday morning with the words “IT’S OK BE NICE!” The new words covered “IT’S OK TO BE WHITE,” which was painted overnight. 

Nathan Mehring Chris Ramos

Kent State’s front-campus rock has been re-painted several times since it was painted with the message “Blacks have no home here” on Monday, Sep. 7.

The message was originally replaced with “Hate has no home,” then “It’s okay to be white” and finally “It’s okay to be nice.” It’s unknown who painted the “Blacks have no home” or “It’s okay to be white” messages. 

“I’m just disgusted. I am appalled,” said Maria Wharton, a sophomore fashion design student. “This wouldn’t be such a big deal if minority groups and black groups on campus felt safe and felt like their voices were being heard, they felt like they’re being protected, but it’s the fact is they don’t, and that’s why this is important.”

 Harassment at the rock

After painting the message “Hate has no home,” a group of students were called the n-word multiple times by two white men passing-by in a vehicle, said Savannah Matthews, a sophomore psychology student at Kent State.

Matthews, a Kent State volleyball player, had gone with some teammates and friends to paint a pride flag with a fist alongside the “Hate has no home” message to show unity between the groups.

This wasn’t Matthews’s first encounter with racism on campus. She said someone had screamed the n-word at her and a teammate from the top floor of Lake Hall as they walked to a volleyball game. She was also called it several times in her hometown.

“It was still shocking that it was someone that I don’t even know,” Matthews said. “I wasn’t really taken too much back by it, which is not how it should be, but, at least for me, it was another day kind of thing.”

Ezri Edwards, a senior public health administration student and teammate of Matthews, said that everyone there was in shock, but brushed it off afterwards to continue what they were doing.

“I’ve never really experienced [racism] on campus and just kind of assume that people will have their opinions and like be quiet about it basically,” Edwards said. “But to be targeted like that… It was just really disappointing and really upsetting actually.”

Another witness to the event, Mia Deno, a sophomore fashion design major, said that the people there were scared and shaken.

Deno has been involved in many aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement, from going to protests to signing petitions.  

Deno said she isn’t surprised by the racist actions or words used, but just by how open people are about it.

“I’m from San Francisco. So like coming here, it wasn’t, I was surprised at how blatant it was, less so that it was happening,” Deno said. “Because I knew it was happening like that, but this is just so in your face.”

 Watching the rock

Some of the students at the scene also felt that the rock was being watched by those who paint it with racist messages, based on how quickly the rock has been repainted.

“It’s just unbelievable, because I thought that we went out there pretty late… so that means people are actively watching the rock to like go out there and cover up the message,” Edwards said. “It just makes no sense that they’re like losing sleep over this, just to paint on a rock, and I just wonder how they’re not tired yet.”

Wharton, who sat near the rock on Tuesday, ready to paint it again if needed, shared the same sentiment.

“We were being watched,” Wharton said. “That’s scary.”

Removing the rock

A petition on created by freshman political science major, Alex DeVaughn, has received more than 1,300 signatures and contains several comments from students voicing their displeasure.  

“This stuff is very terrible. Hate has no home at Kent State. Not just Kent State but all over the world, hate has no home,” DeVaughn said. “It’s something that really needs to be dealt with and whoever did this needs to be caught.” 

The petition calls for the installment of cameras around the rock and to punish those involved with painting the harmful messages. It calls for immediate expulsion if those involved are students at Kent State. 

“People who do things like this need to face their consequences and be held accountable,” DaVaughn said. “In general, people get away with saying racist things because they don’t get held accountable.” 

The call for camera surveillance and disciplinary action in the petition are ideas that DeVaughn kept seeing in a Class of 2024 GroupMe. The GroupMe contains about 380 students said DeVaughn and members within the group have been critical of the university’s consideration to remove the rock. 

“Removing the rock is just letting the racists win,” DeVaughn wrote. “They must be held accountable for their actions.”

Other students are also against removing the rock from campus.

“if you take the rock away… you’re not going to solve racism,” Deno said. “It’s still going to be here. You’re just hiding it.”

Some students have argued the removal of the rock will just lead to similar acts occurring at other parts of campus. 

The amount of signatures obtained within the past 24 hours has surprised DeVaughn who said it shows just how much students want change. Not only did he share the petition on social media, but he also emailed the petition to President Todd Diacon, encouraging him to review the petition. 

Directly reaching out to high positions within the school administration is something DeVaughn encouraged students to consider and in fact another petition is doing just that.  

Deno and Wharton created an email template to send to Kent State President Todd Diacon, concerning the rock.

Titled “BLM Email Template”, this petition is a pre-written email statement meant to be filled out by students and sent to Diacon. 

Contained within the statement is a demand of transparency.

“An email was sent out and a task force was assembled, but not enough is being actively done. We demand transparency as to how the task force is combating racism at Kent State University  and all of its campuses. Hate has no home here,” The email said. 

And just like the other petition, the email disapproves of the potential removal of the rock.

“Instead of getting rid of the rock and removing a platform for underrepresented voices to be heard on campus, hold the people who did this accountable. Hate speech is not free speech. It is also not a political statement, it’s hate,” The email said. 

Other demands included in the statement include mandatory education of system oppression of people of color in America and that DKS First Year Experience educate students on abuses of power towards the Black community alongside the education about the May 4 shootings. Staff members and educators are asked to receive education too.

Students who fill out the template can also include a personal statement or story.

Contact Nathan Mehring at [email protected]

Contact Chris Ramos at [email protected]