This letter is a response to Evan Steckler’s letter to the editor published in the Collegian on Wednesday, “The KSUnite rally won’t help in the long term.”
Nov. 14 marked an important day in the history of Kansas State, that is no question. With the cancellation of classes to hold a rally — something that hasn’t happened in over 100 years — the mass of students walking in unity and the numerous news organizations reporting on the event, the day was set up to be historic.
Impassioned speeches from faculty, administration and students lit up the crowd with chants and applause, but do these speeches actually make a change?
Whenever there is a rally, whether it be as a response to a hateful act on our campus or a decision made at the federal level, there is a phrase I always hear: “What can we do?”
Students are discontented with all the talk and no action. This has been expressed at protests, rallies, meetings with administration and meetings of independent student organizations. It is easy to believe that despite these protests and rallies, nothing is moving forward and nothing is getting done.
However, I am here to say that this is not true. It is incredibly easy to say that the university is doing nothing to counter the hateful acts on campus, but that ignores a long history of activism by students and faculty. Might I ask, what are you doing? What are you involved in?
The change is not in the administration’s speeches, but in the discussion that follows the speakers. The best way to understand the university’s decision to cancel classes is to think of the walk and subsequent rally as a call to action. It motivates students that aren’t always reached when rallies and protests are held on campus to take action and make a difference.
Thousands of students attended the rally, but the real work of transforming speech into action was witnessed by the hundreds who attended the organized breakout discussions after the rally.
Students, faculty and staff came together for honest dialogue about expanding cultural competencies, starting difficult conversations and, yes, racism on campus. Starting the uncomfortable conversations is the most valuable step in creating an inclusive and diverse campus.
It is not enough to be nice to one another all the time. Kindness is a value we should all hold close, but it is often a barrier to change. The real challenge comes in having the difficult conversations, the kind that will make you uncomfortable, because in those conversations we find truth and understanding.
You don’t get a more just society by being nice. You may offend people because the conversation is difficult, but you have to recognize that getting to the truth requires us to sometimes put politeness aside and make people feel uncomfortable.
As Black Student Union president Darrell Reese Jr. said at the end of his speech on Tuesday, “It’s time to get to work.” Work needs to be done, and we are not going to achieve anything by simply being nice.
If all we as students do is hold rallies and protest and not propose any actual change or initiate any substantive ideas and movements, then yes, the rally is pointless. But if we look to rallies as motivation to keep working toward the change we want to see on our campus, then the rallies hold a valuable place in the process of real change on campus.
So let us see real change on our campus, create that more diverse and inclusive campus. Let us see cultural competency courses become an integral part of the first year K-State experience. Let us fund and plan for a multicultural student center where we can continually have open dialogue. Let us come together to have the difficult conversations, but let’s do it as a community with all opinions out in the open.
It is not until we ask the tough questions, address our own biases and open up the conversation to all points of view that we can begin to grow within ourselves and in our community.
Madeline Ames is a sophomore in political science and the president of the Young Democrats at Kansas State. The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to [email protected]