Protesters gather after May 4 Commemoration to condemn Senate Bill 83


Matthew Brown

After the May 4 Commemoration, protesters opposing Ohio Senate Bill 83 march from the student commons past Taylor Hall on May 4, 2023.

Kayla Gleason, Reporter

After the May 4 Commemoration Thursday, students against Ohio Senate Bill 83 held a protest in front of Oscar Ritchie Hall to advocate against measures they say will change higher education for the worse. 

 The event was organized by members of Ignite, Students for a Democratic Society, Ohio Students Association, ACLU Campus Action Team and Black United Students.  

Ohio Senate Bill 83, also titled “The Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act,” proposes several controversial changes in higher education programs, including eliminating diversity, equity and inclusion training, banning relationships between Ohio and China public institutions and removing affirmative action policies. 

Sophomore Deandra Wright, director of academic affairs for Black United Students, felt May 4 was an important day for Kent students to stand up for their beliefs. 

Protesters gathered to speak out against Ohio Senate Bill 83 sit in silent protest during the 2023 May 4 Commemoration. (Matthew Brown)

“We decided we couldn’t wait,” she said. “We knew that the media would be here today, and we knew about the history of May 4 and how it was a protest. It was the activism of those students, and so we still want it to be very respectful to the May 4 Commemoration.” 

Protesters met at the May 4 Commemoration to pay their respects and observe the event, and silently stood up and marched forward when Kent State President Todd Diacon spoke. 

They held their posters up as he spoke. Some had sayings such as “We will not be silenced” and “Freedom to learn,” and one sign read “Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.” 

According to Wright, the protest was held because they want Diacon to speak about the controversial bill and let students know their concerns are being heard. 

“The goal of the protest was to kind of address administration and the lack of support, the lack of communication,” she said. “That’s why we decided during that moment we would stand up and make our voices known, let our presence be known. 

While May 4 survivor Roseann “Chic” Canfora recognized and applauded the students during her speech, Diacon did not acknowledge their protest.

When asked about the protesters’ presence after the event, Diacon said that he appreciates students sharing their voices. 

“I’m glad they’re here, I mean, that’s what Kent State does,” he said. “We just have student voice. I just appreciate their being here, and I hope their voices are heard.” 

Diacon encouraged students to register to vote for upcoming elections in order to stand up for what they believe in.   

Silent protesters taking a stand at the 53rd Annual Commemoration for May 4. (Emma Van Winkle)

The speakers during the protest at Oscar Ritchie Hall also urged students to vote and sent around a QR code that provided more information about Ohio Senate Bill 83 and how to get involved. 

Alysha Stone, a junior and Cleveland Ignite fellow, called on the administration to speak out against the bill and protect their students.

“As administrators and representatives of this university, it is your responsibility to protect the students at Kent State,” Stone said. “By allowing the Senate bill to go forward without pushback, you are neglecting your responsibility to protect our university and what we stand for.” 

After testimonials from students and words from Mwatabu Okantah, the chair of the Department of Africana Studies, the protest ended with informative flyers passed out.

The crowd chanted the final words outside Oscar Ritchie Hall: “Senate Bill 83 will erase history.”

Kayla Gleason is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].
General Assignment Editor Grace Springer contributed to this report.