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On May 4, 1970, four students were killed and nine were wounded. This year marks the 40th anniversary.Erin Orsini is a junior public relations major at Kent State University contributing to the May 4 newsroom.

I have to admit I have never been to or participated in May 4 events over my past three years at Kent State. Sure, I always had an intention of going, but my feet never really led me over to the Commons to reflect on May 4, 1970, and what it truly means to not only to our university, but to our country.

As a student-intern at Flash Communications, a division of University of Communications and Marketing, I was assigned to attend the May 4 speeches and film the crowd’s reaction of the speeches and capture the emotions of the day.

I was leaving Franklin Hall when I called my friend who was already at the events. When she answered, I only heard a whisper, which surprised me. I expected to hear people carrying on multiple conversations and muffling noises in the background.

It didn’t take long until after I passed Oscar Ritchie Hall to witness why it was so quiet. Now, I always knew what a huge event May 4 was and the impact it had at such a delicate time in America, but I was really moved.  I was impacted because the people who attended the May 4 events really wanted to be there.

I saw very few side conversations as I walked up the hill, seeing more peoples’ eyes glued on the speakers rather than watching black squirrels jump from branch to branch.

Witnessing the respect these individuals had for May 4 and its victims really moved me. After filming various speakers and individuals looking on, I sat down to listen to each of the individuals who spoke on behalf of each of the four students who were killed on May 4.

Some speeches highlighted the characteristics of the victims and the type of people they would be today and others focused on the impact May 4 had on our country.

To say attending the May 4 speeches was a waste of my time would be a lie. After listening to the powerful words that echoed throughout campus, I not only know but have a better sense of what May 4 means for Kent State and America.

Carrie Drummond is a junior public relations major at Kent State University contributing to the May 4 newsroom.

Yesterday classes at Kent State University were canceled from noon to 2 p.m. I got out of general psychology and walked across campus to the Commons. I have attended May 4 commemorations for each of my years as a student here, but the crowd this year was bigger than before. The 40th anniversary of the shootings seemed to bring in more people than usual.

Many people gather for the dedication of the May 4 site being named to the National Register. It also brought in some interesting speakers. For the first time, Barry Levine spoke publicly about what happened on May 4, 1970. He was a student at Kent State in 1970 and held Allison Krauss in his arms as she died in the parking lot. Hearing from him was particularly powerful. He had a lot to say about the politics of that day, but more important to me was what he said about Allison. When I learn stories about the students who were killed, it makes me connect to them. It’s easy to forget that they were just like me and my friends. I walk through the memorial all the time on my way to class, and although it’s sad to say, it’s easy to see the markers and not think about what they represent.

My favorite part of the commemoration yesterday was hearing those stories that make the students real to me. Allison was out that day with her boyfriend, both of them standing up for what they believed in. Jeffrey was protesting, but his brother said he was smart enough to “keep his head down.” Sandy was a proud sorority girl on her way to a test. Bill was an ROTC boy walking to class. I could put some of my current friends into those categories today.

I think the May 4 commemorations each year are important to current students because we need that day of remembrance. We need to pause, even if it’s just for two hours in the afternoon, to realize that those four students were just like us. I was happy to see that many students were spread out on the grass listening to the speakers yesterday. But there certainly weren’t enough students. If my fellow Flashes took the time to listen on May 4, I think they would see that piece of our shared Kent State history in a new light.

Tyler Norris is a senior public relations major at Kent State University contributing to the May 4 newsroom.

Alan Canfora stood before a small crowd of reporters in front of Taylor Hall at Kent State University last week.  Accompanied by students with poster boards covered in marker, he stated the demands of the May 4 Task Force.

The task force is a student-run organization devoted to disseminating information about the tragedy and reminding people what happened.  Canfora seems to be the spokesperson of the group.  I don’t know officially because the group’s website is currently down.

Something about Canfora’s demands bothered me.  He insists the size of the May 4 memorial be extended by 93 percent.

Can you measure a tragedy?

Take a walk up the stairs behind Prentice Hall and into the Granite memorial surrounded by daffodils. Kent State University, May 4,1970 Memorial

See the tree that cascades over the memorial.  The wooden giants make the 70-square-foot memorial seem cozy.  From inside, you can look through the trees like windows. Not far away, you can see down the hill where the events leading to the tragedy took place.

Why do we need more? The memorial does exactly what it is intended to do.  I forget about everything else around me when I see the words “Inquire, Learn, Reflect” engraved on the ground. I start to see the landscape with a grainy, washed-out film. I think of what happened.  I think of the confusion before the shots were fired.  I think of the raw turmoil after the gunfire ceased.

No monument in Washington D.C., made me feel what this monument makes me feel.  You might think I feel close to May 4 because I go to school at Kent State and have learned about the tragedy.  Think about the fact that I’ve taken more than 10 years of history classes — all teaching me the importance of every piece of marble and granite in D.C.

Can you measure a legacy?

The task force wants the May 4 memorial to grow by 93 percent.

That would make the memorial 1,000 feet long.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C., is just under 500 feet long.  The wall symbolizes the death of more than 58,000 American soldiers.

I am not a cold-hearted person.  What happened at Kent State University on May 4, 1970 was a shame.  I hope I never have to see and feel what those students lived though.

I also know that this is a university.  It is a place where people learn.  It is a place where people come to change their lives for the better.  People come here to study conflict management and prevent tragedies like May 4.  I don’t know what it would cost to extend the monument by more than 900 feet.  I do know that money is better spent ensuring my peers and I learn the most from this university, this experience and this tragedy.

Robert Checkal, a junior public relations major at Kent State University, asked students how they felt about May 4, 1970.

Sharon Marquis is a senior secretary at Kent State University.  She was at school at time of the tragedy.

Evan Bailey is a professor at Kent State.  He is also a production manager for the Office of Student Media.

Rebecca Mohr is a senior public relations major at Kent State University contributing to the May 4 newsroom.   

Every generation has their moment where they can be asked years later where they were and what they were doing and they can instantly answer. For the baby boomers, it was the death of JFK. For the Millennia, it was September 11. For students and staff at Kent State University in 1970, it was May 4.   

Taylor Hall

Taylor Hall at Kent State

Even though 40 years since that fateful day have passed, students in 2010 are still reminded of the tragedy. Every freshman is required is watch the May 4 documentary and every campus tour has a brief history lesson while standing at the memorial.   

May 4 was not the reason I chose to attend Kent State, but it has blended itself into my memories of my time here. Every anniversary, survivors and historians gather on Taylor Hill and talk about the events of May 4. Whether I wanted to be reminded or not, I was surrounded by the history just by being on campus.   

For me, May 4 is not about the four students that lost their lives. It is about the protests before the shootings. Students were voicing their opinions about the expansion of the war. Whether violent or peaceful, the students involved in the protests had a purpose. That purpose was transformed into passion and dedication, much like the spirit of Kent State students today.   

Time has not changed Kent State. I’m looking out my window and there is a guy sitting under a tree playing a guitar. Pretty cliché, but I can guarantee that 40 years ago the same image was seen outside many dorm rooms.  It just goes to show that events of May 4 did not destroy the spirit of Kent State. Students will continue to learn and express themselves and Kent State will continue to remember the events of May 4.    

Olson Hall

Rebecca Mohn lives in Olson Hall at Kent State.

Forty years later, it is hard to look at Taylor Hill and imagine the events that occurred there. Each student had a passion for their protest and each student mattered. Four students lost their lives that day and nine were injured, but it was the overall group that made history.

Matthew Whiteside is a junior broadcast journalism major taking the “May 4th, 1970 and Its Aftermath” course at Kent State University.  Gavel

This week during “May 4th, 1970 and its Aftermath” the class met a very distinguished guest.  He is one of the two men responsible for developing the course, Dr. Thomas Hensley.  He stopped by to speak with the class about the legal aspects of May 4.

Dr. Hensley started the class off with a simple question: Who is responsible?  Now hang on to this thought, because I will come back to that later.

The class then looked at the board and saw a few charts and tables.  We would come to find out that the class would be taking a “Law and Order” type approach, attempting to figure out those responsible for May 4.  Now, usually I am not one who cares for legal matters but looking at what has been discussed from a legal standpoint proved to be insightful.

Next, we looked at the two types of cases, criminal and civil.  Criminal deals with the government taking on the accused and must be proved guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  Civil matters deal with one person versus another. Basically, one side has to be favored 51 percent.

The Case

For the remainder of class, we looked at the three types of legal models in political science (legal, attitudinal and political).  Then, we looked at seven events and deciphered which legal model would work best on the particular event.

One of the important events discussed was the trial of “The Kent 25.”  Those people represented the 25 citizens arrested for the burning of the ROTC building on May 2 (no one was arrested for May 4, as shocking as that is). Essentially, the first person tried was found guilty of a minor infraction.  Cases three and four pleaded guilty. Then, in a surprising move, the court dropped the remaining 21 cases.

Some of the other key events dissected were the Watergate scandal and the eight guardsmen on trial.

I want to highlight the eight guardsmen being on trial because this is where the most happened.  First off, the case lasted for nine grueling years, but an appeal was factored in as well.  In the original case the plaintiff asked: Were the defendants (the guardsmen) responsible and how responsible were they? 

Much drama ensued as the lead attorney for the plaintiffs dropped off at the last second leaving Richard Kelner to take on this huge case with not much time.  To say the judge on this case was “biased” would be an understatement, too. So as you can see, it was a tremendous uphill battle for the plaintiffs.  The original verdict went 9:3 in favor of the defendants.

Before the appeal, the original judge was facing much backlash so he decided to step aside and let a more another, Judge William Thomas, take over.  Thomas worked tirelessly to reach a settlement with those injured and the families of the deceased.  Right before the trial, a vacation period took place. Thomas wanted nothing more than to reach a settlement during this time. And after nine years, a deal was reached on Jan. 4, 1979.

The Verdict

The final settlement of $675,000 divided amongst the nine injured and families of Allison Krause, Jeff Miller, Bill Schroeder and Sandy Scheuer. To end the class, we took a look at why each side accepted the settlement.  The guard accepted because the settlement didn’t say that the guards were responsible. A trial could have made things worse, so it ended this nightmare for the guard.  The families and victims agreed because they weren’t in it for the money.  They wanted to hold the guard to a high legal standard, and essentially, they had no new evidence to present if the case went to trial. 

Back to the question of who was responsible: Unfortunately, even though the victims won the appeal, we still have no answer to this, even after 10 years worth of trials and 40 years of analysis.  Hopefully in time, there answers will come.

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