An extract from a letter delivered to University administration on Feb. 11, 2020:
We represent a coalition of Kent State University student activists and organizations, which includes Black United Students, Jewish Voice for Peace, Students for a Democratic Society, Students for Justice in Palestine, Threads, United Students Against Sweatshops, Young Democratic Socialists of America and others, who have united around our common concern regarding the direction that the university is taking.
While we all take pride in being Kent State University students, and deeply care about the future and progress of this institution, there are a number of burning issues which have yet to be addressed seriously by the administration.
We have gathered here today to outline our four demands to the administration so that it can be held accountable in improving the lives and experiences of Kent State University students. We know that students will see the justice of our demands, and that the people can only grow in strength and determination as a result.
Our current demands are simple and reasonable:
1. RETURN MAY 4 TO THE STUDENTS!
We demand that the university establish a genuine working relationship with the student body regarding all commemoration planning and other May 4 related programming. This relationship should be structured in a manner which ensures that neither party can make unilateral decisions. Furthermore, all meetings should be completely transparent and held at a reasonable time to ensure that all students, community members and stakeholders are able to participate. We demand increased transparency regarding the budget; additionally, detailed minutes should be taken at all meetings and made easily accessible.
We also demand that “education initiatives” are developed and implemented in a timely manner which cover the history of student activism, the anti-war movement and government surveillance at Kent State University. Lastly, initiatives which cover the unrelenting suppression of African-American and other oppressed peoples movements by the United States government.
2. ARAMARK OFF CAMPUS: END UNIVERSITY'S TIES TO THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX!
We are appalled that our tuition dollars funds this sort of barbarism in the name of profit. We demand that Kent State University end its partnership with Aramark and stop abetting private companies as they profit billions off of the oppression and degradation of imprisoned individuals by reaping the benefits of perpetuating mass incarceration and a cruel and unjust immigration system.
We demand that Kent State University commits to its own in-house, self-operated dining services instead of outsourcing them to a third party company, and to create a fully transparent Self-Operated Dining Services Committee to oversee the necessary changes to prepare the university to transition from contracted dining services. We also demand that Kent State University commits to full worker retention during this transition.
3. STUDENT WORKER CONTRACT, DEMAND A LIVING WAGE!
We demand a student worker contract with the university guaranteeing a $15 per hour minimum wage for all workers on campus and the creation of a union giving campus employees the power to negotiate with the university to improve working conditions through collective bargaining.
We also expect amnesty for all student workers, staff and faculty involved in the struggle for a living wage and a fair contract.
4. PROTECT STUDENTS’ HEALTH AND SAFETY!
We demand the explicit public denouncement of the growing presence of white nationalism, hate speech, and islamophobic, anti-immigrant, and anti-semitic actions on campus, and the formation of an intersectional administrative advisory committee composed of staff and students of color, LGBT staff and students, and other marginalized identities in order to amplify their voices and assist the administration in creating a progressive and welcome institution, not one marred by hatred and violence.
We demand the full staffing of the on-campus University Psychological Services, including the hiring of multilingual and multiethnic mental health counselors. Currently, there are only 8 full-time employees whereas about 1/3 of the student population attempt to use these resources, where they are turned away, added to months-long waitlists, or referred to off-campus mental health counselors. In addition, students must be alerted via email when a sexual assault is reported or a death happens on Kent State’s campus. Many universities across the country have a campus-wide alert system in place for such occurrences, and it is integral to the safety of the Kent State student body for the university to be transparent when incidents of rape, suicide or death occur.
We also call for continued and increased multicultural competency, inclusivity and bias training for students, faculty and staff, including integration into every First Year Experience course, and the hiring of lawyers experienced in cases of stalking, cyberstalking, harassment, threats and doxxing for on-campus legal services.
As long as President Todd Diacon and the administration continue to choose to neglect their responsibility for student safety, students on Kent State’s campus are subjected to an unsafe and hostile environment that we will not accept.