Two days before Kent State University is set to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Black United Students and two days after a demonstration by a coalition of student groups led partially by BUS, Patrick Ferguson spoke to his community.
Ferguson had been one of the leaders of a coalition of student groups that delivered a list of four demands to President Todd Diacon’s office on Tuesday.
Those demands were to: “Return May 4 to the Students,” remove Aramark from campus, pay student workers $15 an hour and increased focus on student health and safety.
As president of BUS, Ferguson explained to members of his group the demands that had been made and updated them on the next steps.
“This meeting is to let BUS and let the black community know ‘this is where we are and this is what we are doing,’” Ferguson said.
The emphasis of the meeting was on informing the members of BUS about the demands and reasons for them; Ferguson said education about the demands must be pushed.
“The first step would be things like this [meeting],” he said. “Each student within our power coalition, they have gone into their classrooms and made sure this information is known.”
Aside from informing the community, Ferguson touched on the potential of further demonstrations if the coalition does not feel heard.
President Diacon was given a deadline of Friday to schedule a meeting with the leaders of the coalition; that meeting would have to take place before the end of Black History Month.
“I would say if these demands aren’t taken into consideration, we gave the stipulation that there will be further demonstrations like the one on Tuesday,” Ferguson said.
Echoing that promise was Colt Hutchinson, president of Students for a Democratic Society and another leader at the demonstration.
“If they don’t comply with these demands or at least set up a meeting we will become much more visible, more ‘militant’ if that is what you want to call it,” Hutchinson said. “On Thursday for example, we are going to be out on the K engaging with people about the demands.”
With the deadline tomorrow and the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of BUS scheduled for Saturday, with both Diacon and Ferguson as speakers, there is sure to be word on a potential meeting in the coming days.
Ferguson does not believe further action will be needed to force a meeting.
“I do expect [Diacon] to respond in time,” he said. “I have faith in my president that he will address student grievances in a timely manner. I would just hope he upholds that trust.”
Hutchinson and Ferguson both emphasized the momentum the group currently has, represented by the addition of three new student organizations to the coalition (Pride, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kent State and Kent State for Bernie) bringing the total to 10.
“It’s showing that students are actively interested in this and that they feel they have been cut out of the discussion by the university,” Hutchinson said. “I think we are all in this together.”
Ferguson said he was excited to see momentum build after the demonstration.
“Usually when something like this happens, we demand something, you don’t get that traction, things get kind of slow. But this kind of swelled after that initial contact, people are saying, 'Oh I wanna do this!' and it’s like, 'ok cool, keep at it.'”
Update: In an interview with KentWired, President Todd Diacon responded to the coalition's demands to meet with them saying he looks forward to metting either separately or together.
"We want our students to feel like they have a home here. We want our students to feel safe and protected," Diacon said. "We want to benefit from our students thinking about how we can make their experience. I think the best way to do that is to meet with them, and I look forward to meeting with BUS. Absolutely, we'll meet with them. We're just going to keep doing that not just this semester, but in future semesters. It's really one of the primary jobs for the president."
Owen MacMillan is an Assigning Editor. Contact him at email@example.com.