Diacon continues to receive May 4 letters of dissent

Two additional letters have been sent to Kent State President Todd Diacon following the first letter of dissent from Mike Alewitz and others who disagreed with the university’s May 4 commemoration plans. 

In the original letter of dissent, Alewitz wrote those who signed the letter of dissent felt the commemoration plans ignored the true history of May 4. 

On May 4, 1970, National Guardsman opened fire on Kent State students who were protesting the Vietnam War on campus, killing four and wounding nine.

In the original letter of dissent, Alewitz said the signers of the letter of dissent were prompted by the selection of CIA veteran and assistant professor in Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Stephanie Smith

as university chair of the 50th May 4 Commemoration Advisory Committee.

Following the criticism, Tom Grace, Kent alumnus and one of the nine wounded on May 4, said he reached out to Alewitz.

“He indicated that he would continue to pursue her resignation until she stepped down,” Grace said. “When she did, many thought the matter closed. I certainly did.”

When asked about the letter of dissent, Smith, who has since stepped down as chair, said, “I fully and completely support an independent student media.”

Alewitz, who is the national chairman for the Committee of Kent State Massacre Witnesses, sent another letter to Diacon Sept. 24, expressing his disappointment in how the university handled the original letter of dissent. 

Alewtiz said he, and many who signed the letter, have since been harassed by several of the commemoration spokespeople and said Diacon should put a stop to it. 

“Red-baiting is an inappropriate response,” Alewitz wrote. “I once again appeal for you to respect the signers of the Letter of Dissent and respond to our legitimate concerns – directly and with specificity.”

As a result of the disagreement and the original letter of dissent, Grace submitted a letter to the editor expressing his support for both Smith and Diacon. 

In his letter, Grace said the families of Jeff Miller, Bill Schroeder and Sandy Scheuer, three of the four students killed on May 4, are supportive of the university’s commemoration efforts, along with the surviving seven alumni who were injured.

He also said, to his knowledge, none of those who signed the letter of dissent reached out to him or any of the other alumni who were wounded, nor have ever organized or attended a May 4 commemoration in the past. 

“Therefore, it strikes me as strange that after decades of putting on commemorations … that signers of an open letter would not have considered these efforts before signing the letter.” Grace said. “Our efforts now span nearly 50 years.”

Rod Flauhaus, project manager for the 50th May 4 commemoration, could not be reached for comment. 

Contact Zaria Johnson at [email protected].