New Forum Series at Kent State Established to Discuss National and Global Issues

Four Kent State University professors in the College of Arts and Sciences are working together to organize a forum series called Safe Spaces, designed to immerse students in discussions with faculty, staff and the public on important national and global issues. 

The first event in the Safe Spaces series, “Are You Entertained Yet? The Politics of Discriminatory Sports Mascots,” will be held on Sept. 24 in the Kent Student Center Kiva on the Kent Campus. It features three speakers: Dave Zirin, a sports journalist who writes about the politics of sports for The Nation Magazine and hosts a weekly show on Sirius XM Radio; Cynthia Connolly, a citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and member of the Cleveland Native American Community; and Margie Villafane, a Hunkpapa Dakota and enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota who has been involved in the struggle to eliminate the use of Native Americans as sports mascots since 1992. The event will be moderated by Patrick Gallagher, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Modern and Classical Language Studies at Kent State. All of the events are free and open to the public.  

Kent State’s Joshua Stacher, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Political Science, Julie Mazzei, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Political Science, Amoaba Gooden, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Pan-African Studies, and Gallagher set out to design what they describe as a “socially relevant event series” that will both educate and engage students regarding social and political issues at home and abroad. 

“First, we want to create a space where difference, diversity of thought and ways of being are welcome so that students know that there are conversations, discussions, research and action occurring at Kent State that include and value their particular historical and current life experiences,” Gooden said. “Second, we want to create a space where faculty, staff, students and community activists with similar social justice research and interest can connect and collaborate.”

Safe Spaces plans to hold at least three events per semester, with the goal of sustaining an ongoing conversation on campus and in the surrounding communities. 

“We hope that this conversation isn’t something we have once per semester or even once per event, but a discourse that we can consistently engage in our classrooms, our campus and our community, and build upon as we learn and are challenged by each successive event,” Mazzei said. 

“What we hope to highlight is the part of Kent State academic culture that recognizes and researches interactive and oppressive social patterns and invite students and the community into an ongoing conversation,” Gooden said. 

The program organizers envision Safe Spaces as a unique educational experience distinct from, but complementary to, students’ classroom experience.

“This is more than just an intellectual exercise,” Gallagher said. “We want this series to contribute to Kent State faculty and inform our role as leaders on campus and in the region. We want our students to feel like there is a space where their concerns can be heard. We want students who are searching for answers to questions that so often get drowned out in the 24-hour news-entertainment cycle to find a place where debate and difference of opinion are protected and civil, but also respectful in terms of social change and justice.”

For more information about the Safe Spaces Forum Series, visit

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Media Contacts:
Joshua Stacher,, 330-672-2060
Emily Vincent,, 330-672-8595

POSTED: Friday, September 18, 2015 - 11:18am
UPDATED: Thursday, July 1, 2021 - 1:17pm
Albert Battistelli