A necessary conversation: BUS, USG host town hall to discuss racial injustices

On Thursday, Undergraduate Student Government and Black United Students collaborated to host a town hall meeting surrounding the events in regards to racial injustices. 

Some of those injustices include the death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers, the death of James Scurlock, an Omaha, Nebraska club owner and the death of Rayshard Brooks by two Atlanta PD officers. 

Lamar Hylton, Vice President for Student Affairs, Talea Drummer-Ferrell, Dean of Students and Amoaba Gooden, Interim Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, started the meeting with opening remarks. Their remarks were one in the same; they all wanted to emphasize that the meeting was a safe space for students to talk about their grievances and voice their opinions. After about 15 minutes, all three faculty members left and let the students take over the discussion. 

Tiera Moore, president of USG, and Tayjua Hines, president of BUS, were the hosts of the town hall meeting. Both presidents introduced their board members, followed by the Director of Political Affairs for BUS, Gabrielle Blake, stating the itinerary for the meeting. From there, the floor was open for questions, concerns, opinions and just plain conversation. 

The main topic of discussion was if Black students feel safe on campus, and do campus police/Kent PD have the best interest at heart for Black students. President Hines stated that BUS had received complaints from Black students about not feeling safe around campus or around campus/Kent PD and not trusting white resident hall assistants. Some students shared their experiences with RAs and police and said that they do not feel comfortable returning to campus in the fall. Chazzlyn Jackson, the Senator for Diversity for USG, stated, “They [campus police/Kent PD] need to reach out to us and plan an event or build a relationship with the Black community.” 

18-year-old Na’Kia Crawford was fatally shot in Akron this past weekend. Students in the meeting wanted to know what steps Kent State is going to take to protect their Black students since this tragedy happened only 20 minutes from Kent State’s campus. President Hines stated that she has sent an email to President Diacon for a plan on keeping Black students safe when they return in the fall. “I am giving him a week to respond,” Hines said. “Once that week is up and I still have not received a response, I am emailing and calling until we hear something.” 

Another prevalent topic was mental health. Many students feel as though the police do not handle mental health and de-escalation situations very well. They felt as though the university should separate mental health specialists from the police and make it clear that individuals are calling for mental health aid and not the police. 

“Police would not come on our campus and harass us if they know they will be reprimanded for their actions,” Blake said. “The people in power are protected, we [students] are not.” 

The last main topic of the discussion was based on transgender people of color, as Blake shared statistics of transgender murders. 

“84 percent of transgender murders are people of color,” Blake said. “80 percent of those murders are women. We need to be fighting for all Black lives.” 

Toward the end of the meeting, USG and BUS members urged students to report any racism, abuse or mistreatment in and outside the classroom when they return to campus in the fall. “We are here for you, and we will support you all through any and everything,” President Moore said. 

Both USG and BUS have advocated for more town hall meetings to create a sense of trust between the two organizations and to make sure students are heard and feel safe on their own campus.

 Contact Ciana White at [email protected].