One journalist’s rage turns to campuswide dialog — It’s a great day to be from Kent State!

What might have turned into a PR crisis on some college campuses has become a meaningful dialog here at Kent State. Or so we hope. Read Christina Stavale’s excellent report in today’s Daily Kent Stater if you want the details.

dkspic.pngThe story involves student journalist Beth Rankin and her Daily Kent Stater column that ran on March 13 under the headline: I am not a white bitch! In a vivid commentary, Rankin tells her personal story of what she views as mistreatment and verbal abuse by the African American community on campus. She points a finger at Black United Students (BUS) as an organization that perpetuates the problem, then states boldly: “I am not afraid.”

As you read Beth’s column, also check some of the 60+ reader comments posted to the site. Those comments give you a sense for the intensity on both sides. But they also expose an issue too often swept under the rug in our politically correct world.

Beth’s column, along with her guest appearance at last night’s BUS meeting, could easily have become a “you don’t get it” war of words. Instead, people talked and people listened. It looks like the kind of dialog that leads to solutions — and to better days.

It took one student voice, that of Beth Rankin, to spark the triggering event that brought so many diverse people together. I hope other student journalists of all colors will borrow a bit of Beth’s courage as they report and analyze events. Our campus is a better place today because Beth spoke up, and others, instead of criticizing, opted to listen.

It’s another one of those days when the professor learns a lesson from the student. It’s happens a lot more than you might think.

# # #

Update (3/28/08): Beacon Journal education reporter, Carol Biliczky, reports on Beth’s saga this morning. In that story are facts I could not have been aware of, including threats from white supremacist groups (being tracked by the FBI) and some promotional posters produced by BUS that don’t fit at all with the “dialog” theme I presented. But in the end, it appears far more good than bad is arising from the discussion.

Carol’s report reminds me why we should leave the reporting to the experts, not to unpaid “citizen journalists” like me. My post simply reacts to a couple of stories in the student newspaper, and I hope I didn’t present it as anything more. Carol’s story is the product of a trained journalist doing what she is paid to do. There’s a big difference that too many of the Web 2.0 cheerleaders don’t want to recognize.

9 Responses to One journalist’s rage turns to campuswide dialog — It’s a great day to be from Kent State!

  1. Breeze says:

    That’s impressive. I’ve followed this story to some degree, and I’m pleased to see that its culmination was handled so positively. Way to go, KSU!

  2. Wow! This is quite a story, Bill. I’m glad it seems to have worked out with people finally talking and trying to build bridges. All hail Beth Rankin! Thanks for sharing this. Great story.

  3. Stacy says:

    I never went to a BUS event during my time at Kent (1991-93), but I rarely went to any campus events that weren’t directly related to my classes or major. I had my own issues with being a minority on campus. I was a nontraditional student.

  4. My last year at Kent, I was an RA in an upperclass hall, on a floor where the residents were predominantly black. For the record, I am white and was treated with nothing but respect and sincerity by my residents–which, believe me, had little to do with me being an RA.

    On more than one occasion, I can distinctly remember those residents saying “BUS does NOT speak for me” when discussing cultural diversity. These individuals were extremely passionate and outspoken, and many of which were popular student leaders. They didn’t always feel BUS held their best interests in mind. Some most certainly did. Others did not.

    BUS is a politically influential student group at KSU. No question. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. BUS is but one voice, one view, one agenda.

    I, myself, am white. Nobody speaks for me but me.

    I am a Roman Catholic. The Pope and the Vatican do not speak for me.

    I am a Republican. The Bush Administration does not speak for me.

    I am a blogger. The blogosphere does not speak for me. There’s a ‘wisdom of crowds’ analogy somewhere in there, but I can’t quite find it. Then again, it’s Friday🙂

  5. Rob Jewell says:

    Well, here comes a real PR reply. I agree — and disagree — with your update about the Beacon Journal story. Most of us who are blogging — certainly including me — are not reporting. We depend on the pros. And Carol has the story right as best I can tell. But you have the story right as well. Beth’s column and subsequent meeting with BUS has opened up a conversation on an extremely important topic. I give her a lot of credit for that.

    Rob

  6. astepahead says:

    Wow. This is quite an interesting story, especially since my campus recently had a race/diversity problem that caused some major PR. Thank for sharing this story.

  7. Bryan Campbell says:

    Great follow up post. I think the cries declaring the coming of death-nail for “traditional” journalist are shortsighted. There will always be a place for fair and balanced reporting, and it will never be available in web 2.0 speed. Let’s just hope that the media conglomerates recognize that fact before they run all the journalists away.

  8. […] 4/10/08: Daily Kent Stater columnist Beth Rankin, who so impressed us with her courage a few weeks ago, has her own take on on the issue in today’s DKS. Beth is one fearless journalist — and […]

  9. […] what looked like the start of fruitful dialog on race — on campus and in life — (I wrote about it here), Black United Students Monday published this strong rebuttal to Beth Rankin’s “I am […]

%d bloggers like this: