GUEST COLUMN: May 4 Task Force a waste of funding

William A. Gordon

Karen Cunningham, the new adviser to the May 4 Task Force, sounds like a very reasonable person. Her defense of continued block funding for the May 4 Task Force was both articulate and logical. What is illogical is that she is defending a group that consists, for the most part, of incessant propagandists. The memory of May 4 is not best served by mindless sloganeering, attempts to glorify student protest (an issue, I can assure you, no grown-up cares about), insistence on including convicted cop-killers in their programs or conducting vicious attacks not only against their enemies, but friends of the victims: People who agree that May 4 was a major historic injustice, or who were themselves wounded on May 4, 1970.

I got my first introduction to the M4TF’s mindset back in the 1980s when I asked its members if I could speak at its programs. At that time, my book on May 4 had not yet been published, but I had written a number of articles and opinion pieces and was clearly a friend of the victims. I was also the only person to actually review all the historical documents – the FBI’s report, the trial transcripts, Richard Nixon’s papers, various archives, etc. Not only was I an expert, but I was an insider with liberal credentials, someone one would think would be welcomed by the organization. Not only did the M4TF refuse to let me speak, but when I tried to go around it and contacted other student groups, I was subjected to vicious attacks. Kids I had never met claimed my views were not valid. What they were really saying was that my values were much too mainstream and middle class. 

Here they were, a group of Kent State students entrusted to be the custodians of the memory of May 4, and they were trying to block a leading authority on the tragedy from speaking. This kind of nonsense happens all the time. This year, the M4TF invited – then quickly uninvited – Phil Caputo, the author of 13 Seconds, when it discovered he too had no interest in reliving its glory days of protest. Many of you probably are not surprised to learn that during its 30-year existence, the Kent State community has never heard from any author of a major study of May 4. 

In the meantime, the M4TF has invited plenty of speakers who may keep alive its spirit of protest but who have nothing to say about May 4. Some of the surviving victims of May 4, who are extremely frustrated with the organization, have told me they consider the M4TF’s programs to be nauseating. One of them even told me he boycotted M4TF programs for years. Has not anyone caught on that if this group has accomplished anything, it has been to create an enormous backlash against anything to do with May 4? 

Is not it time that Kent State stop paying for this nonsense and provide an alternative?

I often hear about students who join the M4TF, only to drop out once they realize what the group is all about. I would love to see some of those dropouts come forward and establish an alternative to the M4TF. 

Student government needs to keep funding May 4 programming. It just does not need to fund this cult.

William A. Gordon is a 1973 graduate of Kent State, the author of Four Dead in Ohio: Was There a Conspiracy at Kent State? and a guest columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].