BUS, NAACP march against expulsions

Bryan Wroten

BUS vice president Kevin Gibson Jr. (center), president Sasha Parker (right), and Nyana DeJarnette (left) march in protest of Malik Griffin’s and Tyrone Wright’s expulsion. Students from BUS and NAACP want the university to review its Judicial Affairs pol

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

For Black United Students, yesterday wasn’t May 4, 1970.

It was May 4, 2006.

While others gathered in activities to remember the students who died 36 years ago yesterday, black students marched for another reason.

Members of BUS and the Kent State NAACP chapter marched from Oscar Ritchie Hall to Risman Plaza to protest the expulsions of Malik Griffin and Tyrone Wright, trying to get the attention of administrators.

“It’s important (President Carol Cartwright) realizes this isn’t a game anymore,” BUS President Sasha Parker said. “Judicial Affairs ain’t a joke.”

A crowd of more than 100 students joined in the protest, chanting slogans from “Reinstate Malik” to “United we stand, divided we fall” and carrying signs in support of the two expelled students.

Shanelle Smith, president of the Kent State NAACP chapter and political affairs and grievances chair for BUS, said they want Griffin, junior computer information systems major, and Wright, sophomore business management major, reinstated at the university, as well as the resignation of Anissa Strickland as a Judicial Affairs hearing officer. The groups also want the university to review its Judicial Affairs policy and separate the Affirmative Action office from the Women’s Resource Center.

Griffin was expelled April 27 after a Judicial Affairs conduct hearing said he was responsible for a car accident involving pedestrian and student Jason Galt. Griffin was charged with felonious assault. The Kent Municipal Court dismissed the charge per review, a common first step before moving to a grand jury.

Strickland was the hearing officer during Griffin’s conduct hearing. She also works as the associate director of Student Financial Aid.

When passing by the May 4 activities at the Commons, the protesters marched silently with their fists in the air. One of the speakers on stage said the marchers had the support of the crowd.

The protesters congregated outside the Library’s entrance, near where the administrative offices are located on the Library’s second floor.

While there, Parker said they had no intention of disrespecting those who died May 4, 1970. But they weren’t there for the four students who died that day, she said, because they were there for Griffin, Wright and the fear that other students could be expelled in a similar manner.

Smith pointed out that Cartwright has been called the “diversity president.”

“Where’s the (expletive) diversity?” she asked the crowd. “Wake up Cartwright. Wake up university administration. This is not diversity when there’s only 1,400 black students on campus.”

The university works to attract black students, Parker said, but it doesn’t do anything to keep them here. She said black students have the lowest retention rates, citing lack of financial aid as a reason.

She focused on Cartwright because as president, Parker said, what Cartwright does trickles down to those under her. If she wanted something to change, Parker said it would.

“Kent State doesn’t care about black people,” she said.

Steve Michael, vice provost of diversity and academic initiatives, came out to meet with the students. He, Dean of Students Greg Jarvie and the BUS executive board went into a closed meeting in the library. Provost Paul Gaston joined the meeting, acting as president because Cartwright was off campus.

“The first thing to do was let the students express themselves and for us to listen,” Michael said.

Michael said he will take what the BUS executive board wants to other administrators, such as the Judicial Affairs department.

Smith said they set up a series of meetings with the administration to discuss their demands. She said the BUS executive board also is working on an action plan in case their demands are not met. BUS will be active and working with the administration during the summer.

Carla Smith, BUS programmer, said yesterday’s protest should show the university that black students are active.

“The black community is not handicapped,” she said. “We have the initiative, the influence, the wherewithal and the motivation.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Bryan Wroten at [email protected].