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.
The 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.
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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.