Last week Kent State University took bids on a proposed $6 million gymnasium to be built on the field where Ohio National Guardsmen opened fire on protesting students on May 4, 1970 - a confrontation that left four dead and nine wounded.
University officials insist the building will not intrude, being 200 yards from the spot where the shots were fired. But Craig Blazinski, chairman of the May 4 Task Force, a student group sponsoring commemorative activities for the tragedy, disagrees.
"I guess they're just trying to cover it up," he said.
The university also has converted into a parking lot a site set aside after the shootings for a Hyde Park-type "free expression" forum. A KSU spokesman said the students simply weren't using the forum that much.
And at the Daily Kent Stater, the student newspaper, the editorial staff has decided not to comment on the campus mood to inquiring reporters. "We're not going to answer any of the senseless questions we're getting," said one student editor. "It's not fair for one person to sum up the feelings of many."
In some ways, according to campus sources, time has predictably taken a toll on the wrenching intensity of the 1970 events. But, as witness the series of activities scheduled for this week, the shootings have not been forgotten entirely.
Dr. Dennis Carey, assistant director for the KSU Center for Peaceful Change, says the mood has shifted in the intervening years from "the highly emotional to a thoughtful, introspective response."
A faculty member who has observed the trend since 1970 and who asked not to be identified said it is now impossible to generalize campus attitudes, maintaining that there are at least four "attitudinal groupings."
One young radical group, he said, "seems to rediscover May 4 every year."
"But to a much larger segment of the student population, some of whom were 12 or 13 when the students were killed, they have no visceral feeling about all of this. They understand there is history here, but it is much like visiting Gettysburg.
"There's also the university bureaucracy whose job it is to keep the place going with as few disruptions as possible. What else can they do?"
Finally, he said, there are people such as himself "who still feel an attachment to 1970 and are hurt by it, but how long can one mourn openly?"
To some, there also is a sense of frustration that in spite of years of investigation and legal proceedings, no one has yet been held accountable.
In this group is Pat Englehart, an Akron Beacon Journal Staff member who headed the paper's Pulitzer prize-winning coverage in 1970.
No one has had to answer to all of the mistakes that were made," Englehart said. "Who's responsible for the overall screw-up? Justice still has not been done."
Craig Blazinski, the Bedford, Ohio, senior whose May 4 Task Force operates year-round, concedes that students' commitment to social action has diminished in recent years. But, for reasons he can't explain, he says the interest in this year's memorial ceremony is "the highest in years. It's absolutely surprising to me. I don't know why it is. All I know is that this year's freshman class is a lot more interested than preceding freshman classes."