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April 01, 1979 - Image 16

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The Michigan Daily, 1979-04-01
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Page 4-Sunday, April 1, 1979-The Michigan Daily

non-activist Kent tate C
with the memory of May 4,


WRILE MANY events and groups from the
sixties and early seventies have reverted
to obscurity and lost their symbolic value,
the words Kent State are still laden with meaning
and emotion. Although preceded by Orangeburg,
and followed by Augusta and Jackson State, the
assassination of four white, middle-class students at
Kent State on May 4, 1970 brought the anti-war
movement into America's living room. The tragedy,
shocked students into the realization that they could
be killed for protesting, and signaled parents that
their children could be hurt by the public servants
they support. The school's name adopted a whole
new connotation which debilitated its economics,
politics and emotions.
The dark cloud of May 4 repelled students, drew
massive coverage by the press, FBI, and CIA and
has preoccupied the university ever since the guar-
dsmen reeled and fired. The school's name and the
inescapable event have remained in the news and

By Judy Rakowsky

on the public's mind through FBI and Ohio grand
jury investigations as well as four court cases. After
two relatively lax, and less coordinated ad-
ministrations, the arrival of'Dr. Brage Golding as
new university president in 1977, coincided with a
resurgence of discontent and protest. A massive
gymnasium annex was slated for construction ad-
jacent to the shooting site. The gym, planned before
Golding arrived and now almost completed, covers
the area where the guardsmen were positioned. In
addition to the emotional aspect, the principal ob-
jection to its placement was that further in-
vestigation into the event would be hampered.
Today's Kent State students have backgrounds

and attitudes that are far different from their
predecessors of the late sixties and early seventies.
They, are more interested in jobs and finances than
politics as a general rule; and their political views
ralely lead to mass action. The student at Kent
State today is faced with the backlash from the in-
tense preceding period more than the student on
many other American college campuses. Their
emotions as well as the school's history are inter-
twined. And the KSU student and campus are con-
tinually subject to the outside world's view.
Most of the 40 KSU students interviewed said
there is no issue they consider worth protesting
about today. Many were not even fazed by the con-
struction of the gymnasium, and paid it little more
attention than any other building under construc-
tion. "When someone becomes a student of Kent
they are part of the living memory (of May 4),"
asserts student Wendy Bogart. She is atypical, for
the majority of students seem to feel the May 4 issue
is important but overworked, and that the ad-
ministration understandably tries to bury it and
forget about it.
Activism has effectively been quashed on the
Kent State campus by three factors: apathy,
repression, and divergent backgrounds of today's
students and those who attended the school nine
years ago. Apathy is acute at Kent State, especially
in view of the intense commitment of earlier times-
that caused the pendulum of student attitudes to
swing back from collective causes to individualism.
Administrative repression is not overt, but it exists

and has had a settling effect. The disparity of
students' backgrounds greatly influences the at-
titudes they form when they go away to school.
Kent State's reputation outlines an unobtrusive
institution that is academically unexceptional. The
invention of liquid crystal used in watch crystals
and Dr. Vladimir Simunek's U.S. Economy model
are KSU's preeminent achievements. The state-
supported school has sustained itself with the of-
fspring of northeastern Ohio's blue collar
population. Industrial migration to the sun belt has
eroded the potential student base and caused fierce
competition with other public institutions, par-
ticularly nearby Akron University and Cleveland
The abundance of rival colleges is due primarily
to Gov. James Rhodes' ambitious campaign
promises to provide a public college in every
Ohioan's backyard. After the legislature tossed out
admissions requirements and hiked out-of-state
tuition to an inhibiting degree, KSU found itself in a
very competitive market for students.
Kent State thrives on the mid-American middle-
of-theroad student now, in part because the ac-
tivists' role has been squeezed out. The school
signified radicalism to few people before the
students were slain. It is nestled in a rural pocket of
an ardently Republican state that has kept Rhodes
in the governor's seat for nine unconsecutive years.
"Kent State is in the middle of a cornfield; there's
no history of political activism here," Center for
Peaceful Change (CPC) Prof. Dennis Carey obser-
ves. It is generally believed by students, faculty,
and administrators that the tragedy was unlikely
and did not even deserve to happen there. The fact
that the FBI made no indictments after a huge in-
vestigation of radicalism of the student body and
the faculty following the shootings confirms the non-
political nature of the school. "Maybe it had to hap-
pen in a place like this," conjectures Carey.
When the May 4 tragedy occurred, present KSU
students were in elementary school, pledging
allegiance to the same flag their older brothers and
sisters were burning. "The kids here today.
probably had a hard time relating to their older
brother or sister," says Carey. "They were more
Top right, students take over Kent Sate's
Administration building during the Summer
of '76, as part of protests against building a
gymnasiin on the area where four students
were killed by National Guardsmen in May
1970; bottom right, police respond with tear
gas to students protesting the gym; top left,
a lone student strolls on the serene front
campus; bottom left, high school students
take a tour through Kent State. All photos
are from the Kent State News Service.
likely influenced by their mothers or fathers." Put
more bluntly, student Suzanne Burton noted,
"We've definitely been brainwashed more than the
last generation."
But the fact that today's students are not as
politically active as their predecessors does not
mean they possess no social conscience.
One out of eight KSU students still do volunteer
work, although the level has decreased from earlier
in the decade. It was the experiences as well as the
individual's reception to change and protes that
produced those turbulent times. Present students
might find that their values vary little from their
precursors, however the way those values are in-
tegrated into outlooks and lifestyle: may differ
sharply. As Geology Prof. Glenn Frank points out,
students are returning to the mainstream and
working for change internally, instead of criticizing
from the periphery.
Present students can empathize, but hardly iden-
tify with the feelings of frustration and helplessness

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