Administrators respond to American ethnic studies online demands

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As of today, both the American ethnic studies and women’s studies have been granted full academic department status. Previous to now, both American ethnic studies and women’s studies were categorized as programs.

Kirk Schulz, president of K-State, April Mason, senior vice president and provost of K-State, and Peter Dorhout, dean of the college of arts and sciences, released a press release following an article from “The Collegian” and an online petition asking for certain demands for the American ethnic studies department.

Opening the release, Schulz, Mason and Dorhout comment about the dialogue carried over from last semester. Schulz, Mason and Dorhout said they and the university “strive[s] to build a community on campus that listens to concerns and develops thoughtful policies and processes for change.” The conversation from last semester was based around the ending of three different contracts from instructors of the American ethnic studies department, all professors of color. This raised questions and discussion about the retention and employment of faculty and staff of color at K-State.

A press release from Nov. 12 mentioned the addition of two faculty to the American ethnic studies department, including Yolanda Broyles-Gonzalez, distinguished professor and current department head. A commitment was made last spring to continue the search for additional faculty for tenure track positions into this fall. Broyles-Gonzalez is leading the next phases for the American ethnic studies department to align with the K-State 2025 strategic plan.

Even though the online petition asked for K-State to “stop physically ghettoizing” the department in Leasure Hall and provide a “central, accessible, respectable and safe space for the department,” the administrators responded by providing additional space within their current building. It was said that, once the gerontology department leaves Leasure Hall, the previously used space will be renovated offering more than 2,200 square feet of space for the American ethnic studies department.

Currently, the university is in search of an assistant dean for diversity. This national search is being conducted through members of the College of Arts and Sciences diversity committee. The online petition requested this committee stop existing in name only.

One of the constant concerns for the American ethnic studies department and the university has been the recruitment and retention of faculty of color. According to the press release, the university is restructuring the human capital and hiring processes for the university. National searches will be made in spring for a cabinet-level human capital officer and director for equity and access.

Concerns for an expanded multicultural student center has been up for discussion, as well. The petition requests that Holtz Hall become the central location for this. The press release said the administration has been working, over the past few months, with different multicultural student groups to discuss options and plans.

The administration said they hear the concerns of the American ethnic studies department and those concerned with these issues. The release said the university has limited resources and space, and it will take time to get all of these goals and requests accomplished.

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