Our view: 40 years and still going strong

All it takes is a trip down the hallways of Oscar Ritchie Hall to realize the camaraderie that exists within its walls. But the beautiful building didn’t forge many of those friendships. A group of people did: Black United Students.

Next week, BUS will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a host of festivities, culminating with a gala Saturday morning and a banquet featuring the first BUS president that night.

We can’t think of a more fitting year for BUS to celebrate its long list of accomplishments. After years of lobbying, the doors finally opened in August for a new Pan-African Studies building, the transformed Oscar Ritchie Hall. Finally, the black community has a “home” on campus and a place to serve the greater Kent community in terms of diversity.

But let’s not give all the credit to the architects who designed the building. The current and former members of BUS should be commended for 40 years of superb service to this campus. BUS is easily the most well-run student organization on this campus, and that’s true for a reason.

It plans well. It keeps its constituency engaged. And it gets things done.

In the process, BUS yields considerable influence across this campus – a campus that doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to race relations. And that’s important. A higher education is incomplete if it’s attained among a homogeneous group of Caucasian people from Northeast Ohio.

Since BUS began 40 years ago, it has helped spur the establishment of the Institute for African American Affairs, the Center for Pan-African Culture and the Department of Pan-African Studies, among other accomplishments.

Even so, these institutions do not solve all race-related issues that still exist on campus. Luckily, BUS consistently identifies problems concerning race relations at Kent State. Sometimes those problems have even involved clashes with the Daily Kent Stater.

We’ll admit we’re not perfect, nor do we always need to agree with BUS. But we are always open to discussion. BUS’ criticism of news coverage, columns and editorials sparks conversations – sometimes even campus-wide conversations – about issues lurking in the background: the often unspoken sentiments between racial communities that still permeate our society.

In theory, all people in the United States have a voice by virtue of the First Amendment. Unfortunately, we all know that doesn’t necessarily happen, especially among minorities. But BUS gives students a voice by offering a platform to be heard. It is the one organization we can truly say has the power to effect change.

After 40 years, dozens of leaders and countless devoted students, BUS remains a strong campus and community presence, cultivating friendships and inspiring greatness among people of all colors.

Show your support by attending their celebrations or, more importantly, by becoming a member.

Who knows, maybe the festivities will coincide with celebrations for the election of the United States’ first black president. We hope so.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.