Students must realize May 4 importance

Justin Stine

May 4, 1970, is one of the most documented single day events in the history of the United States. Even though it may not be the most prestigious way to be recognized around the world, it’s what Kent State is known for.

About 90 percent of the time, if you mention the words “Kent State” to someone anywhere in the United States, the first thing that comes to mind is not academics. Nor is it the men’s basketball team that made it to the Elite Eight a few years back. It’s the shootings that occurred here on May 4.

Whether the events of tragedy interest you or not, they did happen on your campus. I feel it is important for all Kent State students to know about or at least have a general knowledge of what happened on that day and the key events that occurred on the days leading up to the horrific event.

When questioned about May 4, many of today’s students would respond with the statement, “Uhhh … four people died.” That’s all they know about the tragedy, and they have no idea of the importance or historical significance the events carry.

I’m sure most people have heard that on May 2, student protesters burned down the ROTC building on campus. What many people don’t know is that the ROTC building had already been condemned and was already scheduled to be torn down.

More than 2,000 students attempted to set fire to the building and interfered with police and firefighters as they attempted to extinguish the flames.

Students tried two or three times to set the building on fire. After the building was completely under control of law enforcement, all the students left the scene.

Years later, six of the Kent State police officers claimed that the Kent State police chief at the time of the fire was unable to take charge because he was drunk.

Shortly after the students had disbanded, the building was fully engulfed in flames. Did law officials finish what the students had started and set fire to the building themselves? Was this some sad, sorry attempt by the local police and fire departments to elevate the blame placed on the students to bring the Ohio National Guard to the campus?

It does sound significantly worse to say “the students purposely destroyed the building and burned it to the ground,” rather than “the students set fire to the building.” Who really is responsible for the ROTC building?

Across the United States, more than 30 ROTC buildings on college campuses were set ablaze by student protesters within the first two weeks of May.

My name is Justin Stine and each week throughout the semester, I’ll be writing to inform you about the tragic events of May 4. I am currently the treasurer of the May 4 Task Force, an on-campus organization that formed in 1975 to keep the spirit and remembrance of the tragedy alive and increase the knowledge held by students, faculty and the general public. The group meets at 8 p.m. every Thursday in the May 4 Resource Room on the first floor of the Library.

Justin Stine is a junior electronic media productions major, the treasurer of the May 4 Task Force and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].