May 12, 2021
Letter from President Myers: Follow-up to Student Open Forum
This is an exciting week as we close out spring semester 2021 at Kansas State University.
I also recognize it's a time filled with many emotions as you take your finals, finish class projects, say goodbye to friends as you prepare to move home for the summer, start internships, or graduate from K-State and start a new and exciting chapter in your life.
I hope you take a few moments to reflect on all that you have experienced and all that you have achieved this year.
Together, we have all accomplished a great deal in a year that will go down in the record books as one of the most challenging years in the university's history. It has been challenging in so many ways, from the pandemic that threatened public health and life and created economic hardship, to social injustice, to an erratic national election cycle culminating in the Jan. 6 capitol insurrection.
Today, I write specifically about our campus climate, an area that will always be a focal point for continuous improvement. The reason it will always be a focal point is that universities are a microcosm of a world that is constantly changing and evolving.
On April 30, Provost Taber and I, along with Tel Wittmer and Ron Lopez, co-chairs of the Intercultural Leadership Council, hosted a virtual Student Open Forum to talk about improving our campus climate. The forum was not well attended, and we want to make sure everyone is aware they can watch the recording on the President's Office Communications webpage.
The 11 Action Steps in our university Plan for a More Inclusive K-State are important to everyone — students, faculty and staff — and were the main topic for the open forum as agreed to with the ILC leadership. We hope you take the time to view the video to learn more about our progress on the action steps. To date, teams working on these plans have involved 126 K-Staters, including 30 students, plus, faculty and staff. You can also visit the Action Plan website for ongoing updates.
A few quick highlights:
Action Step 1 — was completed with the hiring of Dr. Kimathi Choma as K-State's first ombudsperson for students.
Action Step 2 — consists of multiple subgroups reviewing six K-State policies. The Student Code of Conduct policy revision is complete; several policy subgroups will be completed in May, others will continue to meet throughout the summer. Check the website for detailed updates.
Action Step 3 — student of color admits for new freshman and transfers are up 16% over last year and 54% over the last five years. More details are included in the video.
Action Step 4 — goals have been established for retention and graduation rates by race and ethnicity, international, gender, Pell recipients, and first-generation students. More detail in the video.
Action Step 5 — need-based financial aid was increased by over $1 million, a 90% increase over previous aid. A Bridge Grant program was piloted last fall, and a Completion Grant program will be piloted in the months ahead. More detail on the video.
Action Step 6 — changes to improve the intake process and communications in addressing discrimination complaints have been identified and implemented by the end of May.
Action Step 7 — the student social media usage policy has been updated and modeled off the faculty/staff policy. It's planned for completion in May.
Action Step 8 — plans are underway to seek the Association of American Colleges and Universities designation as A Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Center. Plans are to co-locate the center with the K-State DREAMzone in the Morris Family Multicultural Center.
Action Step 9 — a comprehensive recruitment data dashboard is near completion and will support increased hiring of underrepresented faculty and staff.
Action Step 10 — a proposal requiring students to complete two courses in the U.S. Multicultural Overlay will be presented by the end of the semester, with work on this initiative continuing into the next academic year.
Action Step 11 — a plan is under development for required employee cultural competency training including multiple options. Details are coming soon.
We also talked about hate speech and intolerant ideologies, the federal regulation changes for Title IX, and overall campus safety. You can hear more about those discussions by watching the video.
I want to close by saying that safety is a top priority and we have safe campuses at K-State. We publish an annual Campus Security Report for all three campuses. The reports also include information on dozens of safety offerings available to everyone on our campuses.
We recognize that hateful speech and ideologies heighten a sense of concern, and we must work together to discuss those ideas safely and calmly as we strive for greater social justice. Constructive engagement on polarizing ideas is a critical skill for success in a multicultural world. We need everyone's support to make this goal a reality.
I look forward to our continued dialogue and progress in achieving these goals. Have a safe and enjoyable summer!
President, Kansas State University