November 1, 2016
Advancing social justice at Kansas State University
Dear students, faculty and staff,
While there have been many productive discussions regarding social justice and race relations at Kansas State University, a recent letter from the Black Student Union has called for more action. I will address each of the group’s four major requests.
1) A more intentional approach to creating a space for multicultural students on campus.
Prior to changes in administration, the former Ecumenical Campus Ministries building on Denison Avenue was chosen as the site for a center dedicated to advancing diversity and inclusion. Our Office of Diversity researched the concept of a facility and, along with others, visited several universities to see how they addressed similar issues. Several offices then worked with an architectural firm to create a visual concept for a facility.
Currently, there is a perception by some that the proposed center will be designated primarily for a specific group of students. This proposed space is, in fact, for K-State students from all cultures, races and sexual orientations. We will see to it that all student groups are at the table as decisions are being made.
While this concept has been widely shared on and off campus, it always has been our expectation that more work was needed. Many donor meetings have taken place as we seek to determine private support for a facility. These meetings have resulted in questions about specific details, rather than funding commitments. The next step is to work with our students to define uses and outcomes for the space. We need to have better answers to the questions our donors raised.
Recently, I asked a group of senior leaders to work with student leaders to keep us moving forward: April Mason, provost and senior vice president; Pat Bosco, vice president for student life and dean of students; Zelia Wiley, interim associate provost for diversity; and Greg Willems, president and CEO of the KSU Foundation.
Creating a dedicated space for diversity and inclusion depends on private gifts, and we need to determine the likelihood of raising funds. It takes time to meet with potential donors, who want to see detailed plans for construction, programming and budget. We want to work together in a thoughtful, strategic fashion. I strongly encourage students, faculty and staff to participate in this process. You will hear more about how you can be involved in the coming weeks.
2) More need-based scholarships to assist with tuition and fees.
The university has been working on a need-based scholarship initiative. This fall, we received a major gift for need-based scholarships that serves as a model for future gifts. This gift allows us to award more financial support to deserving students this spring, and it’s just a beginning. As we move forward, each dean, the Office of Student Life and the Provost's Office will include need-based scholarships in their discussions with donors. Our goal is to increase need-based scholarships across our campuses.
3) Add anti-racism policy in the student code of conduct.
I would call attention to the university's anti-discrimination policy (PPM 3010). Among other provisions, this policy strictly prohibits discrimination based on race. This includes conduct that creates a racially-hostile environment, as well as other forms of racial harassment. Our policy prohibits this behavior to the greatest extent possible, while still respecting individuals' rights to due process and free speech as guaranteed under the Constitution.
Persons who violate the policy are subject to sanctions, up to and including exclusion from our campuses, dismissal from employment, or expulsion from the university. All reports of discrimination are to be made under this policy to ensure appropriate and fair handling and respect for the rights of all concerned. I encourage the Student Governing Association to consider similar language in the student code of conduct.
4) Expand K-State 8 in the area of cultural competency.
K-State 8 was started in 2009 to help students expand their world view and expose them to new areas of thinking. We currently have 130 courses in K-State 8 addressing human diversity, and it’s time to better evaluate if these courses are accomplishing this goal.
Changing our curriculum resides in the hands of the faculty. The K-State 8 Council stands ready to work with students, faculty, the Office of Assessment and the Academic Affairs Committee of Faculty Senate to understand specific concerns. Some of this work will be presented at the upcoming diversity summit on Nov. 3.
There is more we can do as a family to help make Kansas State University better for all, and please know I greatly appreciate the passion of our students and willingness to address these difficult issues. These issues are not unique to our university, but the way we approach solutions can set us apart.
With Wildcat Pride,
Gen. Richard Myers, USAF, Ret.