Thoughts on a cultural happening

Ben Wolford

When I heard about the “R U KSU?!” event the university put on yesterday, it immediately caught my attention as something I should attend for the sake of this column.

I dropped by for about an hour. Overall, the gathering outside the Student Center had a positive kind of atmosphere, with loud music, free giveaways and excited people.

I’ll get to more on that, but first I want to note some observations that disappointed me.

First, the name, R U KSU?!, is unfortunate. Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten recently eulogized the death of our language, saying, “English has become increasingly irrelevant, particularly among young adults.”

I don’t think what Weingarten says is necessarily true. I love my language, and I strive to creatively express myself within its conventions.

Kent State’s use of the text message shorthand to entice me is unappealing to my fellow “young adults” and to me. It’s condescending, in fact.

And something else happened that was disappointing.

The master of ceremonies passed out free T-shirts to those who correctly answered Kent State trivia questions. The first question he asked was “What is the name of Kent State’s literary magazine?”

Student media is a tight enough group, and I was excited because I knew the answer to be Luna Negra. The editor this semester is an acquaintance and a Daily Kent Stater reporter, too.

But someone in the back yelled, “The Burr!” and won a T-shirt.

I was astounded. No one spoke up to correct it. I could see the emcee had the answer on his piece of paper, and that must have also been wrong.

The Burr is a great publication, but it’s not the literary magazine.

The audience also didn’t know which was the first building at Kent State, guessing Merrill Hall only after guessing all the others.

My intent here isn’t to criticize anyone. I just wanted to point out that at an event meant to highlight our communal heritage and the bonds that make us one Kent State body, nobody knew what some of that heritage and those bonds are.

Those things were probably insignificant if you take in the entire event. So here’s what good I took away:

Alfreda Brown, vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, put forward a part of the definition of our culture that I’ve been seeking in this column. She told the assembled: “We are all about inclusion,” and “we are all about success here at Kent State.”

That’s a good point.

We are all here to succeed. All 25,000 of us are here because we think we can improve ourselves by gaining a diploma and the knowledge and experiences it represents.

After watching R U KSU?! for a little while, I spoke to about 100 first-year experience students in the Kiva about getting involved on campus. God, it would be great to be in their seats again. You can’t fit all the learning and doing into four years, but damn it, they’re going to try.

Kent State, like most universities, represents that excitement, opportunity and hope.

Ben Wolford is a senior newspaper journalism major and editor of the Daily Kent Stater. E-mail him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter: @BenWolford.