Stalling the lessons of the past

So much ugliness has come from the shootings on May 4, 1970.

Lives were lost, a campus was torn, and a country was divided.

But if there was one positive aspect that stemmed from the carnage that ravaged our campus almost 40 years ago, it was the opportunity to learn. The university ignored the shootings for years because it felt they were blemishes on its reputation.

But as time progressed, the university started to acknowledge its history. One way it did this was to establish the annual Symposium on Democracy to commemorate those tragic events. The purpose of the symposium is to reflect on the events of the past and “examine the present state of democracy and look for lessons that can be applied to the future.”

But this year, we won’t have that opportunity. Because of a lack of planning, there will be no symposium. This year would have marked the eighth year for the event.

Last year, Steven Hook, associate professor of political science, said the series of panels and speeches known as the symposium “started because many people in the university community felt the university needed to do something constructive related to the May 4 tragedy.”

We wish the university would have stuck with those ideals, because not organizing a symposium this year is anything but constructive. In fact, it’s downright destructive.

Helping students understand and learn from the May 4 shootings is a lofty task. Each year, it seems as if fewer students attend the memorial or even take an interest in the activities.

We’re an apathetic generation. It seems as if the only thing that can get us riled up is when Facebook changes its interface or Parking Services does its job. Some of us, unfortunately, need reinforcement like the symposium to encourage us to think about the events of May 1970 and the political climate of our country and world.

The symposium served as a way to engage these out-of-touch students intellectually by stimulating with thought-provoking political topics. Even if many of these students are forced to attend for extra credit or a class requirement, there is definitely some benefit.

The absence of the symposium, however, won’t be for long. Next spring, it will feature the theme of “media, memory and history,” which sounds incredibly interesting.

But despite its return, we can’t help but feel as if this week’s schedule is a little empty. In the spirit of the symposium, Kent State is bringing political analyst Juan Williams. Although he’ll be interesting, we can’t help but feel a little shortchanged.

If this is any indication of the university’s renewed reluctance to acknowledge its past, we may have a serious problem on our hands. Let’s just hope President Lefton doesn’t skip out on the candlelight vigil.

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