Kent State president’s office, BUS, USG address injustices in “Searching for a Better Future” email

In an email Saturday evening, Kent State President Todd Diacon, Interim Senior Vice President and Provost Melody Tankersley, Interim Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Amoaba Gooden and Vice President for Student Affairs Lamar Hylton addressed the Kent State University community in regard to the protests following George Floyd’s death. 

The email also mentioned the university’s mourning of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, two African Americans also killed this year, partnered with the grief and pain tied to the reality that African Americans and other marginalized communities are disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Within the Golden Flashes community, Kent State associate professor of political science and state Sen. Vernon Sykes and Kent State alumna and state Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes received threats related to their duties as elected state officials. Additionally, on May 3, an individual known to authorities for his anti-Semitic views was heard asking a store clerk at the Dollar General on Kent road in Stow the location of Kent State and made comments that could be perceived as threatening to the Jewish community. The individual did not make it to Kent and was arrested on another charge.

Recent statements from both Black United Students and the Undergraduate Student Government shared on their social media platforms addressed these issues as they actively worked toward a vision of equity and justice to shape a better future.

Chazzlyn Jackson, senator for diversity for USG, elaborated on USG and President Diacon’s statements as representatives of the university with missions to uphold. 

“We all need to keep in mind that this is not the first and unfortunately will not be the last time for such crises to occur,” Jackson said. “In this regard, this will become a public health crisis. Us as leaders, we need to commit to organizing projects that further educate those who wish to be allies for the betterment of the student population about racial bias.”

Jackson also said USG is working to provide additional resources and steps toward action to commit change that will be announced soon.

“Although USG is more than aware that we collectively are in need to translate our words into action by confronting the racial, social change that is required to fulfill our mission and uphold the safety of our campus by serving students first,” Jackson said. “It is needed to prevent the continuance of racism of all kinds.”

Tayjua Hines, president of Black United Students, said the goal of BUS is to provide educational, cultural and social programs that pertain to the goals and aspirations of black people for black students.

“At times like this, where our community vividly mourns the deaths of our greater community members due to violence, alongside struggling through a pandemic that is disproportionately affecting our community – it is BUS’s responsibility to uphold our goals and support for our Black students,” Hines said. “Additionally, Kent State houses the rich history of Black United Students, yet there is an overwhelming amount of students, faculty, staff and administration who are not culturally competent.”

Hines also urged students, faculty and staff to utilize resources available to educate themselves on these issues.  

“This is not the time to stay silent,” she said. “Oscar Ritchie and the Student Multicultural Center have been housing resources for over 50 years to equip knowledge and strategy to stand united against oppression. Again, this is the time for Kent State to educate itself, utilize its resources and speak up for its Black community.”

The email also stated, “It is the hope and aspirations of our students, combined with the history and lessons of May 4, 1970, that remind us of the need to study the root causes of current troubles as we search for a better future. We are called to learn more about the structures, histories, assumptions, prejudices and cultures that lead to disparate outcomes in healthcare, in the judicial system and in myriad aspects of our lives.”

As the university works to reopen, it urges those in the Kent State community to remember that many members of the community live with daily injustices and continues, “As Golden Flashes, we ask that you recommit yourselves to the promotion of equity and justice and continue to lift up our institutional values of respect, kindness and purpose.”

Contact Maria McGinnis at [email protected].