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Kent State honors LGBTQ, abortion activists with new ‘equity’ awards

Conservative student: ‘If you don’t believe in what the schools believe in, you won’t get a voice on campus’

Amid a looming flux of change for DEI policies in higher education in Ohio, the Kent State University Women’s Center just gave out new Gender, Equity, Advocacy, and Representation awards to honor “gender equity” activists.

The five awards from the Ohio public university went to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members who “help ‘turn the gears’ for a more equitable future” in social, political, and economic spaces, according to the Women’s Center.

Among those recognized last month were students and faculty who advocate for things like medication abortions, campus-wide contraception, LGBTQIA+ students, gender neutral bathrooms and feminism in the arts, a news release states. They are connected with various advocacy organizations including Kent State Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity, Committee Q, and the National Art Education Association Coalition for Feminism(s) in Art Education, according to the release.

The goal of the new awards is to promote equity, the Kent State’s Women’s Center told The College Fix in a statement.

“This event was all about gender equity. There were all different sorts of people who were nominated for this award,” a representative said via phone call. “It is focused on disparity, but it’s also about bringing forth equality.”

But some students feel equity is not widespread.

A student with Kent State College Republicans who asked their name not be used for fear of retaliation told The Fix via phone the same attention hasn’t been given to those who advocate for conservative-based ideologies.

“The young lady who runs the (Kent State) Students For Life organization does an amazing job. She runs a pro-life organization on campus and I can genuinely say I’ve never seen the school say anything good about her, or actually show the amount of work she does on campus for that,” the student said. “If it wasn’t a political move, then why aren’t they showcasing her work? Why wouldn’t they bring her up?”

The G.E.A.R awards come as state lawmakers have been in discussions regarding the restriction of diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education through Senate Bill 83, the Ohio Higher Education Enhancement Act.

The bill includes bans on mandatory diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings and prevents schools from endorsing “a given ideology, political stance, or view of a social policy.”

Additionally, it places conditions on how to discuss politically “controversial” topics like climate change, immigration, marriage, and abortion in the classroom by requiring faculty and staff to “encourage students to reach their own conclusions about all controversial beliefs or policies.”

The legislation has been met with outrage by some university leaders and students who believe it dampens First Amendment rights.

Republican Sen. Jerry Cirino, the lead sponsor of the bill, told The Fix in a phone interview the bill does exactly the opposite. Cirino said he was not aware of the G.E.A.R. awards, but his bill would not affect them.

“It creates more speech, not less speech. It’s not restrictive for academic freedom or our basic First Amendment rights. There needs to be diversity of opinion, welcome and encouraged,” Cirino said. “[Bill] 83 has been accused of restricting speech, being anti First Amendment, when it creates an environment where all speech is out there.”

The Kent State Republican student expressed hope Cirino’s legislation will open up the same opportunities for conservative students as those with liberal ideologies.

“There is so much stuff in that bill that isn’t just keeping schools from being overly politicized, or giving money to certain groups, or making sure everybody gets a fair shake on campus,” the student told The Fix.

“[I]t would give everybody a fair playing field because it allows everybody equal representation,” the student said.

“And we talk about equality and equity so much, but if you don’t believe in what the schools believe in, you won’t get a voice on campus.”

MORE: Kent State U. rebrands DEI efforts as lawmakers debate bill to outlaw it

IMAGE: Kent State University Women’s Center/Facebook

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Andi Shae Napier is a student at Liberty University where she is studying journalism and digital media. She also writes news and feature stories for the Liberty Champion.