Grinding on a legacy

The May 4 Memorial is a common piece of scenery for Stater staffers. Many of us pass it on the way to the newsroom. And sometimes when the newsroom gets too hectic, many of us will walk out to sit on its smooth granite surface, hoping for a little relief from the stress of the day.

But in early July, many of us noticed a 24.5-foot metallic scratch along the memorial’s surface. Assuming it would be fixed, we paid little mind. But nearly a month after we noticed, news editor Steve Bushong brought it to the university’s attention while working on a story.

Soon the police were on hand to take down a report. One campus worker estimated the damage to cost about $500.

Anyone walking by could have noticed this 24.5-foot eyesore, but what’s even more disturbing is what could have caused the damage: a skateboard, inline skates or bike pegs.

Various workers and officials suggested different ways to curb the vandalism, including installing a video surveillance system.

Surely, installing video cameras could stop some the damage. But these could go against one of the very things we think the memorial represents – freedom. As we sit in the newsroom, we’ve seen people have some extremely personal moments near the memorial, such as wiping a tear from their eyes as they place flowers on its surface. Would you want to be filmed doing this?

But increasing security patrols, installing metal pegs to ward off grinding or even installing video cameras are easy ways to try to fix a problem that shouldn’t even be a problem at all.

The message stamped into the memorial reads, “Inquire. Learn. Reflect.” For those who prefer not to think for themselves, we suggest using this message as an instruction manual for proper use of the memorial. After all, it doesn’t read. “Inquire. Learn. Reflect. Do kickflips and grinds off of the surface off one of the university’s most sacred landmarks.” Perhaps it doesn’t have the same ring to it.

The university’s maintenance staff has worked extremely hard to keep the memorial a visually appealing place to reflect on one of America’s and Kent State’s most pivotal events. They’ve replaced chunks of missing surface with a paint mixture they perfected to match the original granite that came from Italy. They’ve buffed out scratches and even replaced whole panels on the side closest to the Commons.

Each day, we see dozens of people walk by the memorial and pick up maps from the visitors’ box so they can tour the May 4 site. Keeping the memorial in presentable shape shows that our university and its community care about what happened here more than 37 years ago.

So for the university’s sake, for the site’s visitors’ sake, and for the sake of the May 4 legacy, please respect this memorial.

And if you’re the people who caused the damage, would you be offended if we all did kickflips off your ancestors’ graves? Probably so.

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