Letter to the editor: Student group demands diversity action from university

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Kansas State University,

The students of the American Ethnic Studies Student Association recognize that Kansas State University is an institution that supports the continued marginalization, exploitation and silencing of those who have been historically oppressed and underrepresented, including the following groups: Mexican-Americans, Latinxs, Native Americans, Africans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Arab-Americans, LGBTQIA+ folks and disabled folks. However we also recognize this list is nowhere near exhaustive or complete.

The recent blackface incident is not an isolated episode of one racist gone wild, but rather a symptom of the global disease of racism. However, not all racists necessarily wear blackface. Although this blackface incident is deplorable, this incident has only one small difference from the daily racism we experience in classes, in student organizations, on committees, during meetings, at work, in the grocery store, and on the streets — and that is that this incident has been visible and in the media.

As a response to the media, Kansas State University has added insult to injury by wrongly insinuating that they expelled Paige Shoemaker, when she was not a student at the time of the incident. The media has misrepresented the story and Kansas State University has failed to officially clarify. This is of no surprise, because KSU has been determined to “put the fire out” as we have witnessed the institution double down on its strategy of paying lip service to diversity while tokenizing and continually marginalizing people of color.

We demand a true commitment to anti-racism in 2016.

  • We should not and will not wait until 2025 to be seen as human. We should not be forced to be in the same classrooms with people who view us as less than human. This requires cultural education.
  • The language of “diversity and inclusion” has obfuscated the real need for a commitment to recruit faculty of color. This institution cannot continue to claim a commitment to “diversity and inclusion” when it has failed to retain and increase faculty of color.
  • We demand that Kansas State University institute a university-wide American Ethnic Studies overlay requirement and hire faculty of color to teach these required courses without burnout. Students have expressed a need for cultural competency, and yet the American Ethnic Studies department remains the smallest department on campus with only two tenured professors. In reality, the American Ethnic Studies department is a token department with minimal resources. American Ethnic Studies professors are teachers of color teaching courses on communities of color. In this sense, cultural competency courses already exist and yet Kansas State University continues to exclude this department from our core curriculum. Students of color are required to learn about white culture every single day in order to survive. We demand that American Ethnic Studies courses be added to the core requirements for graduation for every student at Kansas State University by Fall of 2017. We will not accept no for an answer.
  • We demand that Kansas State University fully fund the development of a multicultural student center. We demand that Kansas State University show written commitment to start construction of a multicultural student center by fall of 2017. We will not wait any longer. Kansas State University is the only Big 12 school without a multicultural student center. We understand how much of a difference it can make for students of color. However, what is lacking is institutional financing. If you are going to continue to claim our work as your own, then pay us.

The KSU Black Student Union hosted a meeting the night that the Snapchat blackface incident occurred, and many students of color broke down in tears because they must shoulder the burdens of racism every day. This can no longer be a problem for students of color alone to bear. We cannot wait any longer. We demand true diversity in 2016. We reject Kansas State University’s false and misleading claims regarding “diversity and inclusion.” We call upon all taxpayers, civic organizations, churches, alumni, donors and students to openly support our demands.

Sincerely,

American Ethnic Studies Student Association

Alonso Pena, President

Asia Upton, Vice President

Kia Harris, Communications

Kowan Russell, Historian

Lyssa Peralta, Secretary

Lani Sandoval, Public Relations

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