Trustees meet amidst protests

Bryan Wroten

Demonstrators support partner benefits at KSU

John Barham, senior applied conflict management major and member of PRIDE! Kent, sits in a silent protest at the Board of Trustees meeting yesterday. He and other concerned students wore shirts that read, “Equal rights aren’t special rights.”

Credit: Ben Breier

When the trustees sat down, the Duct Tape went on.

Students protested for domestic partner benefits for faculty at yesterday’s Board of Trustees meeting. They wore shirts covered in slogans such as “Equal rights are not special rights” and Duct or masking tape over their mouths.

PRIDE!Kent president Christopher Taylor said this protest was different from others because in this case, students were supporting the faculty instead of fighting with them.

“Faculty marching with students is such a stronger statement than both sides alone,” he said.

The students protesting came from several different student groups, Taylor said. There were students from PRIDE!Kent, College Democrats, International Socialist Organization, Anti-Racist Action, Feminist Union and the Kent State Anti-War Committee.

He said they chose the silent protest at the meeting instead of a rally because the trustees would definitely see them.

“If we confront them face-to-face, they have to deal with us,” he said. “If they don’t, they look foolish. If they do, they look foolish.”

Before the meeting started, students filled the 15 available seats for the public. A few stood along the wall with university employees. Some students offered their seats to those standing. Other student protesters had to wait outside the room because the room reached its maximum occupancy.

As the trustees entered the room, the students removed their jackets to reveal their T-shirts and put the tape over their mouths. Taylor said the tape was symbolic of the silence the students have held over the years about domestic partner benefits. He said it would also help remove the students’ desire to talk as it would go against meeting rules.

Taylor said he stressed to all students participating they could not speak during the meeting. They appointed Danielle Flink as spokeswoman for the group.

Flink, senior special education major, said the group chose her because she was part of the group that helped get domestic partner benefits at Ohio University. She said they held rallies, chalked sidewalks, drew on a graffiti wall, wrote letters to the editor and put pressure on the administration.

“It was something a lot of people at OU saw a need for,” she said.

Though never formally addressed at the meeting, the students felt they met a goal. Taylor said he met with Steve Michael, vice provost of the office of diversity and academic initiatives.

“He asked us for our demands,” Taylor said. “I said, ‘domestic partner benefits, now.'”

The new goals, he said, are to get the Board of Trustees to address the groups concern, be it yesterday, next week or next month.

Michael said he will take it to others in the administration and will then go back and talk with the students about the progress made. He said he also invited them to be a part of the Diversity Leadership program.

President Carol Cartwright said while the administration’s hands are bound by the passage of Issue 1 last year, she said the students’ effort to educate others about domestic partner benefits is important. She said the students now need to focus on taking their fight to the state level.

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