GUEST COLUMN: Block funding needs to continue for May 4 Task Force

Karen Cunningham

On Oct. 7, Undergraduate Student Senate Executive Director William Ross and Senator Kevin Folk introduced a bill to revoke permanent funding provided to the May 4 Task Force for the annual May 4 commemoration. An Oct. 8 press release quotes Mr. Ross:

“The allocations amendment is designed to ensure that all student organizations have an equal and fair opportunity for funding to commemorate an event that is the shared heritage of all Kent State students.”

While this may sound reasonable on the surface, closer examination suggests otherwise.

The May 4 Task Force was established by the Kent State student government in 1975 to continue the annual commemoration of May 4. The Task Force has continued this tradition for 30 years, and is open to anyone who wishes to join.

The University does not pay for the commemoration; the Task Force has historically had to compete with other student organizations for funding through the regular student allocations process. In 2001, there were insufficient funds available for the commemoration due to heavy expenditures by other student organizations. That year, emergency funding was provided through the office of the university president.

Because of the significance of the commemoration to the Kent State community, in 2003 USS proposed a bill that would guarantee at least minimal funding for these events. A large majority of the student body supported this decision (based on a student referendum held in 2003), and the university administration worked with USS to determine the best way to fairly and legally implement this provision. The provision sets aside 1.75 percent of student allocations to fund the May 4 commemoration. These funds cannot be used by the Task Force for any other activities. The Task Force is not guaranteed these funds, which are only released once the program details are approved by USS. This is essentially the same process required of any other student organization, with the only difference being that the amount is pre-approved.

Further investigation reveals that since 2003:

ƒ-S No other student organization has requested funding for an event related to a commemoration of May 4.

ƒ-S The allocations account has not been exhausted in the past few years; funds have rolled over year to year.

In other words, the funding provided to the Task Force for the May 4 commemoration has not resulted in any other group being denied funding for their programs and has not prevented any group from participating in the planning of the commemoration. The claim that a change is needed to ensure “equal and fair opportunity for funding to commemorate” May 4 cannot be substantiated. Passage of this bill would only reinstate a problem, which was resolved by the diligent and thoughtful efforts of the 2003 Student Senate. It would ignore the wishes of the student body who supported that provision. And it could potentially jeopardize the continued observance of an event that is an integral part of the history of Kent State, the nation and the world.

The bill will be discussed at the USS meeting on Friday, Oct. 21, at 3:15 in the Governance Chambers. Please help the Task Force to preserve the tradition of May 4 by urging USS to reject this bill.

Karen Cunningham is the faculty advisor of the May 4 Task Force and a guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater.