Forum helps May 4 project gain momentum

Melissa Dilley

Professor Richard Serpe, chairman of sociology; Barb Boltz from the Office of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs; and Thomas Hensley, emeritus professor of political science, discuss the new May 4 Visitors Center during yesterday’s campus forum. DA

Credit: DKS Editors

Faculty who have come together to build the May 4 Visitors Center yesterday gave firsthand descriptions of May 4, 1970, as fellow faculty and students listened intently.

A forum was held in Oscar Ritchie Hall to gather ideas for a visitors center, which will be constructed in Taylor Hall facing the May 4 Memorial.

Beginning with their personal experiences, the developers of the project led discussions to reiterate the importance of the event and the center and to discover ways to make the center accessible to students, faculty, alumni, visitors and researchers.

At one table, Thomas Hensley, professor emeritus of political science, spoke about his experience teaching the May 4 class and the two books he wrote with Jerry Lewis, professor emeritus of sociology.

At another table, David Odell-Scott, chair of the philosophy department, spoke about his military background and said because the event occurred on his 17th birthday, he would never have forgotten it, even though he lived in the south.

Lead developer Laura Davis told stories about the vibrant Allison Krause, who was shot and killed by the National Guard on May 4, 1970. She said Krause would sneak out to visit her boyfriend, who lived in the same residence hall as Davis.

Davis, an English professor and former associate provost, said the connection she has with Kent State is what drew her to the development of a visitors center.

“I started at Kent State when I was 17 as a freshman, and I have gotten three degrees here since. I mean, my heart is here,” she said. “There is a role for me to play in getting the facts out so people do know, in an accurate, documented way, about what happened that day.”

Questionnaires were passed out to the more than 50 people in attendance.

Davis said she was looking most forward to getting input about what students expect to learn from the center and how the Web site can be used as an interactive tool.

Those in attendance, whether they were there for extra credit or genuine interest, gave feedback, saying that artifacts, photos and personal stories are what they would like to see most in the center.

Davis said the project, which is being funded through donations, is expected to be completely finished by 2011, but many are hoping for a 2010 opening to commemorate the 40th anniversary of May 4.

The group will hold another public forum for the city of Kent at 7 p.m. tomorrow in the McKay Bricker Gallery and Framing building downtown.

While only ideas are available right now, Davis said there will be a better vision of the center by the next meeting, on May 2.

Contact student politics reporter Melissa Dilley at [email protected].