Shaky allegations made at March protest on campus
Kayla-Simone McKelvey speaking passionately at March’s demonstration.
By Rebecca Panico
Little to no evidence has emerged to support the claims of student demonstrators who made several allegations against the Student Organization and a Kean psychology professor in March.
In follow up interviews with administration officials, SO members and students involved in the March 12 demonstration, it appears that a number of accusations were without any foundation and that some of those participating in the protest had no first-hand knowledge of any of the incidents that were alleged to have occurred.
Protestors alleged that when they tried to plan trips to museums or the Apollo Theater in Harlem, NY, their paperwork was always deemed incomplete by the Student Organization. They also claimed that a psychology professor made racially-charged comments about Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old who was shot dead by Cleveland police last November.
Pan-African Student Union President Kayla- Simone McKelvey made many of the claims at the March 12 protest, although she reiterated that the demonstration was not organized by her group.
However, her complaints regarding the SO not funding a specific trip to the Apollo Theater tied in with a previous incident involving PASU.
PASU is a funded group of the programming board, made up entirely of students who are not council members or executive board members of the SO, explained SO President Gerard Smithwrick in an e-mail on March 12.
SO Director Stephanie Faser stated that she had sent out promotional materials for a trip to the Apollo Theater to PASU as they were preparing for Black History Month, but never received any paperwork from the group applying for the trip.
“I don’t know what happened, but we never received their paperwork,” Faser stated during an interview with Smithwrick, Vice President of Funded Groups Michael Veltre, Vice President of Student Affairs Janice Murray-Laury and Susan Kayne, spokeswoman for the university.
Faser said that while she had heard allegations that her office had denied funding for the trip, no request was ever submitted to even start the process.
When told of Faser’s comments, McKelvey responded only with information regarding funding for next year’s Black History Month events via e-mail.
“Because of our persistence Student Org is currently implementing the Apollo trip for next year during Black History month so we have made slow progress towards minority students at Kean University,” McKelvey said in an e-mail. “When you go for what you want and it has purpose or substance, a solution will be presented and it was.”
But upon inquiry at a PASU council meeting, McKelvey said PASU ultimately never filed the request because their professional staffer, Laury, told her it’d be difficult to get special incentive funding for it.
Each of the SO’s 25 funded groups receive $2500 in the beginning of each academic year and can obtain another $2500 for events once they’ve proven a need, Faser explained. Funded groups can apply for special incentives that exceed their regular funding if a group really wants the program and there are enough funds, she said.
The demonstrators had also voiced concerns over a psychology professor. According to McKelvey, a professor said the 12-year-old who was shot dead by Cleveland police last November deserved to die and that the only mistake the police had made was driving too close to the boy.
After the demonstration, Laury said she had followed up and did find a student who had some concerns about “something that had occurred in a classroom.” Laury did not think the student would be comfortable going public.
“After meeting with that student, getting a sense of what that issue was, there was a meeting with the faculty member and it does seem that it was resolved,” she said. “There was certainly some misunderstanding — there was a miscommunication — but it has been addressed directly.”
When asked what was specifically stated in the class, Laury explained that it was to her knowledge that the professor had communicated “some support for the police officer” but didn’t know verbatim what was said.
“There wasn’t sufficient time in the class for discussion by the other students. That’s my interpretation of what occurred,” she said.
Laury believes that the student met with the professor and spoke out their differences. No disciplinary action has taken place against the professor, Laury said.
Kayne, who was also present at the interview, said that the issue seemed to be sufficiently handled.
“I think the bottom line here is that this was an issue that appears to have been addressed to the satisfaction of both the student and the faculty,” Kayne said.
Laury stated the demonstrators definitely sparked a healthy open-dialogue between students, faculty and the administration.
“I think what’s important is that the students are actively engaged in sharing their concerns and making the university aware of issues as they arise and we’re going to keep that dialogue going,” said Laury.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the protest happened on March 13. It actually took place on March 12.