Two weeks ago, when I was in Kent, I had lunch with my old friend Dean Kahler. Afterwards Dean was able to get me into the new May 4 Visitors Center, which did not officially open until today.
As I expected, the university did not acknowledge any of the controversies that dominated the headlines throughout the years. And it seemed to reduce the sustained miscarriage of justice to a mere footnote. The center was exactly what you would expect from a committee comprised of politically disparate people who were more interested in not offending anyone than in making any kind of statement or point.
By the same token, there was nothing to excite the visitors either. I was, however, astonished by the Center's 43-page pamphlet (This We Know) which is handed out to visitors. I was so angry about it that it has taken me the past two weeks just to collect my thoughts.
The booklet was written by Carol Barbato, Laura Davis, and Mark Seeman, three of the professors who were instrumental in making the Center possible. In telling the story of May 1-4, 1970, the pamphlet cited every major study of the shootings except mine.
Of course, this was no oversight. If anyone doubted my long-held suspicions that Kent State's scholars were deliberately trying to erase me from the university's official history, this was the icing on the cake.
One of the ironies, of course, is that more than two decades after the original publication of the book, I am still the only journalist who has actually done everything the scholars were expected to do. I am still the only person who has examined the complete evidentiary record, sifted fact from fiction, and reassembled all the pieces of the puzzle into a package that finally made sense. I even interviewed more than all the previous authors combined, with the exception of James Michener, who had almost a dozen researchers at his disposal..
Erasing me from history, I believe, speaks volumes about the type of university Kent State University is.
I just discovered a post on the Facebook site "Kent State May 4th," which contains one of the worst booboos I've seen in a while. There, in a post by Gregory Payne, a professor of rhetoric at Emerson College (I like to call him "The Professor with the Suspicious Footnotes," because his footnotes do not match his text), was a photograph of Dean Kahler, Carl Barbato, and Tom Hensley, along with Payne's caption: "Heroes for Justice at Kent State."
Of the three individuals Payne portrays as heroes, only one of them, Dean Kahler, actually took part in the efforts to see that justice was done. Neither Barbato nor Hensley nor anyone else on the faculty showed much interest in the victims' struggle for justice.
That includes one credit-thieving professor, Jerry M. Lewis, who tried to convince me he helped the parents get a federal grand jury. He was so out of the loop that he did not realize he was talking to one of then-students who actually worked with parents and the students who petitioned for the grand jury investigation. In fact, Arthur Krause once warned his supporters: "That man is not to be trusted."
No one on the faculty did anything more than sign an ineffectual faculty resolution asking for the federal grand jury or sign the students' petition.
This blog is written by William A. Gordon, a Kent State alumnus and the author of "Four Dead in Ohio" and three other books. It offers commentary on the still unfolding developments in the Kent State shooting case.
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William A. Gordon
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