Anti-racism town hall celebrates efforts to eliminate discrimination and announces upcoming projects

Wyatt Loy, Reporter

Members of the Kent State Anti-Racism Task Force Transition Team welcomed students and fellow faculty to a town hall over Zoom on Thursday, where they shared progress on the 106 goals to combat racism on campus.

Lamar Hylton, Ph.D., is senior vice president for student affairs at Kent State University.

After opening remarks from President Todd Diacon and Provost Melody Tankersley, the town hall started with Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Lamar Hylton giving background on seven of the completed recommendations from students and faculty, including developing a faculty hiring best practices handbook, the addition of the chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to the Strategic Hiring Team and the expansion of the safety escort services.

“We have been able to expand the number of safety escorts that are in that program, and the hours to be a 24 hour, seven day a week operation for our campus, which was huge for us,” Hylton said. “It’s a great undertaking in student employment and also contributing nicely to our student safety efforts.”

Hylton also described how the university revamped its Community Oriented Police Services Program, or COPS. The program is intended to allow members of the campus community to communicate directly with Campus Police on a regular basis, and provides education resources to those who want it, including personal safety lessons, alcohol and drug awareness and A.L.I.C.E. training.

“[It’s] a community program that really helps community members understand policing and community oriented policing,” Hylton said. “We’ve been able to strengthen that in a number of ways in terms of resources and people, training opportunities and the number of participants.”

Following that, the Transition Team committee gave a report on eight recommendations on which work is still underway, some of which are the Diversity Statement on Syllabi, an annual conference on anti-racism and updates to the Anti-Racism Dashboard.

The Diversity Statement was developed by the university’s Academic Curriculum Committee, chaired by Undergraduate Student Government President Chazzlyn Jackson and English Professor Nicole Willey. Jackson and Willey said that while the statement is not required to be in syllabi across the university, they hope faculty will include it in their materials.

The statement expresses the university’s commitment to “the creation and maintenance of equitable and inclusive learning spaces,” and describes the meaning of diversity as the intersections of “race, ethnicity, national origin, primary language, age, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, mental and physical abilities, socio-economic status, family/caregiver status and veteran status.”

The ongoing work on the syllabus statement comes in the form of “a continuous review process.” The Anti-Racism Dashboard states that changes will be made regularly to make sure the messaging is in line with the university’s values.

The committee also announced its yearly anti-racism conference. The dates for this year’s conference are Thursday and Friday, October 6 and 7. Further details will be announced on the Anti-Racism Efforts site.

“Its purpose is to create, through the intersectional lens, our awareness and understanding of anti-racism,” said Gumiko Monobe, a professor in the School of Teaching, Learning and Curriculum Studies. “The conference aims to produce action oriented strategies that will advance anti-racism in the Kent State community, and it’s about learning and support as a catalyst for change.”

Monobe said there will be talks, presentations of research, roundtables, group discussions and even displays of artwork and performances at the conference, all with the overarching theme of anti-racism. She said there will be other subtopics including but not limited to racist culture in the workplace and classrooms, intersectionality and the sense of belonging, peace and healing.

There are still details the team is working on, such as the location, schedule and agenda for the conference, creating its own website, marketing the events and creating ways for regional campuses to get involved.

The town hall ended with an update on the Anti-Racism Dashboard, which gives both summarized and detailed information on the recommendations the task force received from students and faculty, and tracks the progress on each of the goals. The dashboard also groups goals based on the people involved, like “Faculty,” “Students,” “Staff,” as well as the time frame for the goal, long- or short-term. Like the other projects the task force discussed, the dashboard is updated regularly.

Wyatt Loy is a reporter. Contact them at [email protected].