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K-State Today Student Edition

November 12, 2013



Response to electronic petition for changes in American ethnic studies program

By Kirk Schulz, April Mason and Peter Dorhout

To the Students, Faculty and Staff of Kansas State University:

Last spring we had considerable dialogue on campus regarding the status and future of American ethnic studies. Since then we have made significant progress in our efforts to strengthen this program. At their last meeting, members of the Kansas Board of Regents gave verbal approval for full department status to American ethnic studies at K-State. We anticipate formal written notification of this important step in the next few days.

Recently, an electronic petition has been circulating that demands additional changes for American ethnic studies and a more inclusive environment for all faculty, students and staff. We work and operate in an environment that values constructive discourse with faculty, students, staff and administrators. We strive to build a community on campus that listens to concerns and develops thoughtful policies and processes for change.

We hear your concerns about having a critical mass of tenure-track faculty to deliver a robust American ethnic studies program with a balance of areas of emphasis and faculty experience. This year, we welcomed two new faculty members to American Ethnic Studies, including a new director, Yolanda Broyles-González, a university distinguished professor and an international scholar/leader in the discipline. A commitment was made last spring to conduct an additional search this fall. Because of significant cuts in our state budget last May, this search has been put on hold. Dr. Broyles-González is leading the next phase of strategic planning for American Ethnic Studies for K-State 2025 strategic plan alignment and invited the campus community to participate in a very constructive planning summit on Nov. 6.

We hear your concerns about space for American ethnic studies in Leasure Hall. We have been working hard to provide improved space for the growing department on a campus that is bursting at the seams. The gerontology program will be leaving Leasure Hall, and this space will be renovated for American ethnic studies. The department head is working with the college to develop a plan to renovate and increase the total space to more than 2,200 square feet, which more than doubles what has been allocated historically.

We hear your concerns about the Arts and Sciences Diversity Committee, which will be canvassing College of Arts and Sciences students and faculty for input on its activities and engagement this semester. Several members of the committee are involved in the current national search for an assistant dean for diversity, recruiting and retention, and we welcome college faculty, staff and student engagement in the campus interviews later this semester.

We hear your concerns about the retention and promotion of faculty and staff of color currently on campus. We also hear from you concerns about policies that may form institutional barriers to diversifying our faculty. The university has conducted an extensive review of human capital and hiring processes and is currently restructuring this entire area, including new leadership. National searches for a cabinet-level human capital officer and a director for equity and access will be launched in the spring. These new leaders will be charged to work closely with our chief diversity officer, our diversity point people and our deans and department heads to ensure we are doing all we can to attract and retain talented and diverse faculty and staff. 

We hear your concerns for an expanded multicultural student center and have been working over the past few months with different student groups to discuss options and plans. 

A K-State 2025 university diversity strategic plan is currently being developed by the chief diversity officer and the President’s Commission on Multicultural Affairs. The plan will be released for public comment in late January. That plan will address goals encompassing institutional diversity, an inclusive environment and promoting success for all. We want to be thoughtful and inclusive in our process so that every K-State member feels ownership of the plan. 

We hear your concerns and believe that we are all working to get to the same place, and in an environment of limited resources and space, it will take time to get there.  

Sincerely,

Kirk Schulz, president
April Mason, senior vice president and provost
Peter Dorhout, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences