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K-State Today

September 2, 2020

A message from President Myers

Submitted by Richard Myers

Dear K-Staters: 

Approximately three months ago, we witnessed nationwide unrest and protest in the wake of the senseless murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police. The country is battling an unrelenting COVID-19 pandemic that disproportionately claimed the lives of African Americans. We also had a social media post by one of our students that was hurtful and shameful to many of our faculty, staff, students and alumni. And we continue to see police officers shooting and killing black citizens (Jacob Blake, Kenosha, Wisconsin) and (Trayford Pellerin, Lafayette, Louisiana). The confluence of these crises has forced us to advocate not just for our health, but for justice and civility.

This letter to our university community today is intended to let all students, faculty and staff know that our commitment to social justice and the dismantling of systemic and structural racism is unwavering.

On July 1, we announced 11 action steps for a more inclusive K-State. Since that announcement, much work has begun or been accomplished to meet our goals. More information on the action steps and progress can be found on the action steps dashboard. Additionally, we began a new initiative Community Action Talks, or CATs, a monthly series that features panelists on various issues and provides an opportunity for the community to participate in diversity, inclusion and social justice dialogues. In partnership with the Center for Student Involvement, our next CATs will tackle the topic of free speech, currently slated for Sept. 17 from noon to 1:30 p.m.

To understand the diversity and inclusion issues of our campus at a more granular level, we held nine university climate survey focus groups over the summer. Please review the results from the university climate survey and the student focus groups. Data for faculty and staff focus groups are forthcoming. In collaboration with faculty, staff and administrators, the KSUnite365 umbrella will recognize all the diversity and inclusion programs, events and activities held at or sponsored by our university.

We are fortunate at Kansas State that we have faculty who can help us think our way through these challenging times. One is Lorenza Lockett, associate professor of sociology, anthropology and social work, whose paper on The Four A’s on Anti-Racism helps the white community start on a path from awareness to action. Many departments, units and divisions are engaging in activities to educate themselves. Faculty and staff in these units are utilizing various tools such as articles, books and films. I encourage all of us to participate in one or more of the reading communities on dismantling racism, the racial healing handbook, how to be an antiracist, white fragility and the diversity film series on our Polytechnic campus.

Let me pause here. We know that social justice issues, no matter how or where they occur, can have a significant impact on the mental health of our community members. We want to help! Students should feel free to contact Counseling Services if they need counseling. Employees should contact Human Capital Services. 

Most of you know that Dr. Martin Luther King gave an address to 7,000 members of the Kansas State community in 1968 in Ahearn Field House. It was his last address to a university before his assassination less than three months later. His speech was 52 years ago. I wonder what he would say today about racism as he looked across the national landscape. We’ll never know for sure. But we do know we have yet to fulfill his vision for the end of racism in America and equity for all citizens. We can and must do better. For those not already involved, we can start right here, right now. Let’s all get to work!

Difference Makes Us Stronger, 

Richard B. Myers