Thomas Lane, vice president of student life and dean of students, said the writing on the whiteboards at the Morris Family Multicultural Student Center on Feb. 26 did not violate university policies.
Diversity and Multicultural Student Affairs hosted a facilitated dialogue on March 1 to address controversial writing in the Multicultural Student Center.
“The writing happened in what’s called an ‘open forum space’ which is provided by the university,” Lane said. “Offensiveness doesn’t negate injury, but it wasn’t a matter of violating any university policy — it was a case of expression.”
“There is nothing I can say right now that can satisfy your need and your desire. Nothing is more frustrating than being in a role in which we cannot necessarily create all the change in the immediate, which we all want to see as a community,” said Adrian Rodriguez, Associate Vice President of Student Life.
Rodriguez said no one can walk into a space and write something on the wall and defeat the students. He said he was 100% committed and would continue to roll up his sleeves and get the job done.
Lane said the Multicultural Student Center thought they had a video of the person responsible for some of the writing but couldn’t share it because of FERPA.
“It was heartbreaking, you know, the whole time, the effort and the energy that went into the effort to bring the Multicultural Student Center to life,” Rodriguez said. “I have worked with many of you in this effort over the past few years to achieve this, and I know it has been tireless effort. I am talking about blood, sweat, tears and so finally for us to make grow this space and bear it in the first few weeks that it was opened. Believe me, I feel that pain too. And I understand the interest and the desire and the need for more and I don’t disagree. We have to be better.
Community members have expressed concern about the safety of multicultural Kansas State students due to discriminatory events like writing.
“I appreciate the condemnation. It doesn’t do anything for us, though,” said English graduate student Winniebell Xinyu Zong. “It doesn’t do anything because it doesn’t do anything for the people who have harmed us. Conviction does not prevent them from doing anything.
Writing alluding to white nationalist ideas found on the Multicultural Student Center whiteboards
Sophomore drama student Nikela Reed gave a speech taking a stand on the safety and injustice of diversity within the Kansas State community.
“We walked into the Morris Family Multicultural Center on Friday and were greeted with dehumanizing statements,” Reed said. “We were blatantly told that we had no right to be on this campus. We were told that we had no right to exist. Don’t embrace racism. Don’t sugarcoat discrimination.
“We call for comprehensive reform of the Wildcat Dialogues and diversity training for faculty, staff, administration, students, and organizations led by professionals outside of Kansas State University instead of science teachers, football coaches, and especially staff and students of color to lead those dialogues — that will be no more,” Reed said. “Don’t push your responsibility onto your staff and students of color at the expense of their trauma.”
Over the years, K-State has encountered various issues of racism, homophobia and xenophobia, Reed said.
“Each story ended with false promises made by the administration and endless statements posted online,” Reed said.
Monica Cohen, a specialist in the office of agricultural university programs, said something had to change and people needed to know there were repercussions.
“I’ve been here for over 20 years, we’ve talked and had this dialogue for each of these 20+ years that I’ve been on staff here,” Cohen said. “It’s frustrating, it’s disheartening and as a black woman, it’s downright shameful that after 20+ years of employment at this university, we’re still having these same conversations with no action taken. .”
One allegation raised during the dialogue included residential assistants calling police on students of color for no reason other than to sit down.
Olivia Copeland, a junior in educational studies and a residential assistant, said justice was needed for these situations.
“There are things you can do with your power in this university to oppose that show us in these cases … that there are repercussions for racism, for these slanders that they have written jokingly in the same place that the [Multicultural Student Center] was meant to be,” Copeland said. “The building was constructed to foster and encourage diversity, inclusion, equity and community for these marginalized students.”
Bryan Samuel, head of diversity and inclusion, said many of the universities where actions took place around similar events were private universities. K-State is a public university.
“There are many universities across the country where these types of behaviors are tantamount or equivalent to being sufficient for punitive actions on their own, but as you know right now, we are not one of those universities,” Samuel said.
Samuel said the university wishes to value every member of our university community, treating them with civility, dignity and respect. He said this is expected when the students arrive.
“When I was hired, my letter of appointment told me that I was bound by the policies, procedures and rules of the university, whether I read them or not,” Samuel said. “In my mind, it felt like it would be good for our students to have the same level of understanding, expectation and responsibility from the start.”
Lane said good news was the success of the Unity in Housing and Restoration conference over the weekend as learning occurred on issues such as climate, equity and inclusion.
“It gives me hope that if I see this kind of action happen with the housing environment that can be replicated across campus,” Lane said. “It’s happening in spaces all over campus – this program has made a difference.”
Chris Burrell, a mechanical engineering junior, noted that several black students have left the dialogue because they are tired of feeling unloved and ignored.
“We think that’s a weak excuse,” Burrell said. “We think this is a sorry apology, another band-aid that you all put on another insensitive, multicultural issue that continues to occur on this campus.”
Along with quitting the dialogue, Burrell said black students are tired of having a multicultural administration — which says they have the back of the black community and promise answers and political answers — continue to fail them. many times.
“As I’m sitting here in my chair and I hear three guys talking to us, I hear words like ‘We’re hoping’, ‘Under review’, ‘It’s going to take a while’, ‘If I see it,'” Burrell said. “We know what needs to be done, so why aren’t actions happening? We have universities in the United States that are doing what they need to do so that people who look like me feel better on campus, so why isn’t that same measure being taken here at Kansas State University?”
“What appears to be a singular incident involving dry-erase markers can turn into students withdrawing from your university,” Reed said. “Enrollment is already down, and it’s not just because of the pandemic. It’s because people don’t feel safe here.
Richard Myers, president of K-State, will meet with the Cross-Cultural Leadership Council on March 26. He was not present at the dialogue.