Thursday, November 20, 2008

Black United Students Celebrate 40 Years at KSU

Black United Students (BUS) was founded 40 years ago this year, on the campus of Kent State University. The organization has gone through many changes over time. But, much remains the same.

Dr. Larry Simpson, the first president of BUS, returned to the campus November 8, 2008 for a celebration of the past 40 years. He's now the Senior Vice President of Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA, in charge of academic affairs. Over the years his experience with BUS has served him well. As he stated in his keynote address the other night. Being involved in BUS gave him a window into the adult world that he may not have experienced had it not been for BUS. Mostly, it was about learning how to work with other people and function as a member of society.

In his work at Berklee, the world's largest music school, he is still an advocate for students and their success within an institutional environment, as is another former BUS president Dean Tim Moore. Dean Moore is an Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at Kent State University. He's also a professor in Pan-African Studies where he's taught for over 30 years.

A number of other past presidents of BUS and BUS members were present for the celebration and awarding of Dr. Edward W. Crosby with a Lifetime Achievement Award. He also spoke about the significance of BUS in the formation of 3 academic departments at Kent State University. The Pan-African Studies Department is one of those departments. In 1968 there was no Pan-African Studies Department. Dr. Crosby was brought to Kent to form just such a department. In the beginning it was known as the Institute of African American Affairs (IAAA).

IAAA was crucial to the lives of many of the Black students on campus. Many of them would not have graduated had it not been for the support of IAAA. Many of these students experienced culture shock upon entering the university environment and needed somewhere to go that felt familiar. They also needed help in a number of other ways, including academics, finances, etc. As Dr. Crosby stated so eloquently that night he "clothed himself with students," which served him well in negotiating with the powers that be, while it served the students too.

Affirmative Action laws were in place, but in some ways it seemed as if IAAA was doing all the heavy lifting in that regard. No department on campus had as many Black faculty. To this day many of those Black faculty are still teaching at Kent, although few of them were seen that night. This was a night for the students.

Following the parade of presidents the current members of the BUS executive board outlined their goals for this year. Some of the highlights included working on the Obama campaign and going into neighboring communities to work with the youth. The Progressive Education Community School which was initiated in the late 60's as the African Liberation Tutoring program has had new life breathed into it by the current BUS board. Kaisha Sherills has been instrumental in bringing this program back to life. She is the Community Affairs Officer of BUS and is a real spark plug.

Ashley Tolliver current BUS president and her board did a fine job of putting together a program in less than 2 months. They are to be commended for their efforts. Hopefully, their experience with BUS will be as noteworthy and invigorating as that of past BUS members.

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