KENT, Ohio — Black students are protesting at Kent State University today, calling the school’s response to repeated racist messages painted on a campus rock lackluster.
“The civil rights act was passed in 1964,” said junior Maria Finney. “It’s 2020. Something has got to give.”
The campus group Black United Students has submitted a list of demands to the university, urging Kent to find better ways to make students of color, particularly black students, feel comfortable. The list also includes pushing Kent to update policies, so when incidents like this happen, the students responsible can be held accountable.
“Kent State upholds the right to free speech and values respectful dialogue from all points of view. This demonstration is not a university-sanctioned event. As a state university, our outdoor spaces are public property.” The university told Cleveland.com via email.”External organizers are following university policy for events held on campus by outside organizations and have been asked to follow the Flashes Safe Seven safety principles required of all university community members. We will continue to monitor the gathering to ensure the safety of our university community.”
Finney, who is studying business entrepreneurship, transferred to Kent because it was closer to her family and hometown of Akron. She’s been dismayed over the racist messages painted at least three times since mid-August, the most recent over Labor Day weekend.
The KSU rock was placed at the base of Hilltop Drive on the northwest side of campus in 1972, after sitting on the tree lawn of East Main Street. It’s been painted and repainted ever since, broadcasting messages about campus events, sports, and more.
Initially, Finney said she didn’t feel directly called out as a black student. Then came messages that said, “Blacks have no home here” and #silvermeadows.
Silver Meadows Apartments are commonly referred to as the “projects” of Kent.
After the second incident, the university said it would form an Anti-Racism Task Force to make recommendations on how the university can eliminate the “challenges and barriers” for Black students and make the school a “more diverse, equitable, and inclusive institution.”
“We are appalled that some continue to use the Rock to convey vile, hurtful messages that are threatening to our Kent State community, specifically our Black community, and against our core values,” the university said in a statement released on Monday. “Because of the repeated nature of these messages, we are investigating several potential actions, including fencing off the Rock, installing security cameras, and even the Rock’s removal.”
Finney, as well as Black United Students and other affected students, are pushing the university to act.
“We’re tired,” she said.