Kent State hosts 12th Annual May 4th Symposium on Democracy

Megan Wilkinson

This year’s annual May 4th Symposium on Democracy will focus on resolving problems in the Democratic Republic of the Congo Thursday and Friday in Oscar Ritchie Hall.

The symposium was founded in 2000 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the May 4th ceremony.

“The idea of it is to discuss ways for peaceful expressions throughout the world,” said Kenneth Bindas, professor and chairperson for the Department of History.

The symposium will be in room 214 of Oscar Ritchie Hall from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday.

Monika Flaschka, instructor in the Department of History and an organizer for the conference, said the annual May 4th Symposium on Democracy commemorates the event and the people who died that day, while also offering the opportunity to discuss either local or global challenges to democracy.

Bindas said the event will be free to students both days.

There is a different theme for the symposium each year. Flaschka said faculty from the history, Pan-African studies and women’s studies departments established a proposal to focus on efforts to promote democracy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for this year’s symposium.

“The violence in the Congo is worse now than it has been since the Second World War,” Flaschka said. “This issue is almost completely ignored by the rest of the world.”

Rene Lemarchand, professor emeritus of political science from the University of Florida, will talk about his studies and books Thursday at 5 p.m. as the event keynote speaker. Flaschka said he is “an expert in ethnic populations and conflicts.”

Bindas said other scholars will travel from Africa and Europe to speak about their research in the Congo at panel tables during both days of the event.

Flaschka said students who attend the event will learn about suffering of others around the world and how students, as global consumers, also have an effect on the people of Congo.

“We’re hoping lots of students will drop by,” Bindas said. “I would encourage students to view some of the presentations. I think a lot of them are uplifting and motivational.”

Contact Megan Wilkinson at [email protected].