The May 4
Illustration:93 percent unbuilt...7 percent
The May 4 Memorial as originally designed by Bruno Ast, with
7 percent outlined in black and showing that which is yet to be constructed.
The 20th anniversary of the shootings at Kent State was marked with
controversy and with a renewed sense of purpose in the struggle for truth and for a
fitting memorial to those who lost their lives in the struggle for peace two decades ago.
Current student activists joined veterans of the student movement in a special
commemoration and a weekend conference that many say was the most productive May 4 since
1970. Throughout the weekend, the memory of our fallen brothers and sisters at Kent and
Jackson State was a focal point as we reviewed the struggles we faced in the past and
prepared for those which we face us now and in the future. In particular, the continued
insensitivity of the Kent State University administration to the significance of May 4,
1970 is alarming.
While media attention around the world focused on Kent State on May 4,
1990, many wondered if the universitys planned Memorial Dedication would
represent a new era of healing and finally, a proper tribute to Allison, Jeff,
Sandy and Bill. The Kent May 4 Center launched an aggressive campaign to expose the
realities of the planned mini-memorial.
It sounded promising in 1985, when the Kent State University administration announced its
memorial design competition, and secured $200,000 from the National Endowments for the
Arts to make it possible. However, what followed was nothing less than a sham.
In July of 1986, when Bruno Asts impressive May 4 memorial design was selected and
approved for construction at a cost of $1.3 million dollars, the American Legion was quick
to denounce the planned May 4 memorial as a memorial to terrorists. Officials
of Kent State University bowed to the conservative pressure, and their efforts (or lack of
any effort) to raise funds were proof that they caved in.
The Shrinking Memorial
In order to construct a grandiose fashion museum and fashion design
school, Kent State University leaders hired a professional fundraising firm, assembled 178
persons for a national fundraising committee and promoted a national advertising and
solicitation campaign. For the cause of fashion, $6 million was promptly and efficiently
For the may 4 Memorial, the university hired no fundraising committee and promoted no
national advertising or fundraising campaign for the needed $1.3 million dollars.
Then on November 15, 1988, the university appeased the American Legion and their
conservative counterparts with their grand announcement that the $1.3 million dollar May 4
Memorial would have to be reduced by 93%, to a scaled down $100,000 portion of the
original design due to lack of public support. Even worse, the May 4 Memorial
would not be dedicated to those who lost their lives on May 4, 1970, but would simply
memorialize the Events of May, 1970, with no explanation of what happened at
KSU on May 4, and no inclusion on the memorial of the names of those slain or wounded by
National Guard gunfire 20 years ago.
The words Inquire, Learn, Reflect were thought by the university
administration as sufficient enough a message for those who pass the memorial 50 years
from now, and wonder what happened on May 4, 1970.
The mini-memorial planned by KSU President Michael Schwartz was widely criticized as
inadequate. Many, including nearly all of the families of the May 4 shooting victims
condemned the universitys attempt to purposely fail to raise memorial funds and
reduce the the memorial so significantly. Intense media scrutiny followed and ultimately
forced a reluctant Schwartz to announce a few concessions as May 4, 1990 approached.
PUTTING THE PRESSURE ON
Under intense pressure and criticism, Schwartz was forced to finally
grant memorial scholarships in the names of the four dead students (promised in 1978 after
the anti-gym protests). Then, only days before May 4, 1990, Schwartz grudgingly put the
names of the victims on a plaque near the May 4 Memorial.
*May 4 Memorial and Plaque photos by Mike Pacifico
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