BUS and SALSA panel discuss issues affecting ethnicities

Meghan Bogardus

Black United Students and the Spanish and Latino Student Association discussed issues affecting both ethnicities, including their relations, at the “Black and Brown Dialogue” last night in the lecture hall of Oscar Ritchie Hall.

T. David Garcia, associate vice president of enrollment management, introduced the discussion by talking about the future of multiculturalism at Kent State.

“We’re going to really enhance our multicultural recruitment here at Kent State University,” he said.

Andres Gonzalez, the director for diversity and community outreach at Cleveland Clinic, moderated the panel, which included BUS and SALSA presidents, as well as Latino and black professors and former students.

“Tonight’s black and brown dialogue is a symbolic and historic event, as it signifies a genesis,” Gonzalez said. “This is just the beginning of a much more meaningful conversation we need to have.”

Jeanette Reyes, president of SALSA, said the panel was brought about as a means to create harmony between SALSA and BUS.

The panel began by discussing the challenges of being a minority in college.

“It’s just a struggle to get into college, period,” Reyes said.

Reyes and BUS President Dylan Sellers agreed the retention of minority students is one of the main problems their students face.

“When you get to college, coming from an inner city, it’s a huge shock,” Sellers said.

He said some black students are not adequately prepared for college, and pride – in males particularly – prevents them from asking for help.

“They’d rather bite the bullet and go home,” he said.

Reyes and Sellers agreed on the importance for students to find a support system and a group like BUS or SALSA that includes people they can relate to.

Sharlene Chesnes, a former Kent State student and executive vice president of InterChez Logistics Systems, Inc., said her experiences as a minority student have helped her in the business world.

“I have to prove myself a little more than the man before me,” she said.

Specifically, the panel discussed bringing the black and Latino student communities together.

“We have so many commonalities that we need to start taking advantage of them,” said E. Timothy Moore, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “All of us eat food. All of us listen to music.”

Moore said the communities are also connected by religion and family ties.

He suggested in addition to this dialogue, BUS and SALSA might have joint meetings in the future.

Alfreda Brown, vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, stressed the importance of cooperation.

“You just have to get out of your comfort zone,” she said. “It’s time for us to stop talking about it and start doing these things.”

While she said collaboration is key, the groups should never lose their specific identity.

“You need each other to reaffirm each other,” she said.

The panel addressed the importance of using college as a place to learn more about other ethnicities and cultures in order to learn more about themselves.

Reyes said even when they feel like keeping all their barriers up, students shouldn’t just choose to avoid it.

“It’s running away from something you’re going to face all your life,” she said.

Contact student affairs reporter Meghan Bogardus at