Five stories to watch for in 2017

As the Collegian welcomes a new year, staff writers look forward to watching and reporting on news that will affect the K-State community. (File photo by George Walker | The Collegian)

By Shelton Burch, Kaitlyn Alanis and Jason Tidd

With the new year upon us and 2016 finally over, we at the Collegian have a number of stories we’re going to be watching and reporting on in 2017.

Here’s five we’ll be watching.

Bill Snyder: into retirement or on the sidelines?

Every season, people wonder if it is K-State head coach Bill Snyder’s last year. With 25 seasons now complete, and already a member of the Hall of Fame, it is hard to imagine that Snyder has anything left to accomplish at K-State, other than perhaps a national championship. On the flip side, however, he’d return to a young team full of talent that could well contend for a Big 12 title next season.

Then there’s an interesting article by Andrew Greif that recently ran in the Oregonian about Oregon’s new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt. According to the Oregonian, if Leavitt leaves Oregon before the end of his contract for any other job, he’ll owe the university between $250,000 and $500,000, depending on when he leaves.

There is, however, exactly one exception: he will owe nothing if he leaves to take the head coaching job at K-State.

Snyder’s decision, as well as any decisions made about a possible successor, is one of the biggest stories we will be watching for in 2017.

Progression of the Title IX lawsuits against K-State

The current civil lawsuits against K-State are one of the biggest stories we’ll be watching in 2017. On Nov. 28, 2016, plaintiff Sara Weckhorst, senior in social work, filed a motion to amend the current lawsuit. K-State has since filed a motion to strike portions of the amended lawsuit from it.

Weckhorst and her attorneys are in the process of responding to K-State’s request to remove the requested portions of the amendments, according to court documents filed in the suit. Weckhorst and her attorneys have until Jan. 16 to respond to K-State’s motion.

The Collegian will also be following the criminal case against Jared Gihring, junior in open option, who is accused of raping Weckhorst and another former student. Gihring is next due in court for arraignment on Jan. 3, according to information obtained from the Riley County District Court.

Looming budget cuts and tuition hikes

After a seven-week budget cut series featured how state budget cuts and a 5 percent internal university callback have affected each of the K-State colleges, the Collegian found a few words and phrases that recurred in many of the interviews with deans, student leaders and faculty: frustrated, desperate, increased fees and “out of options.”

The budget cuts have not just affected the colleges and their students, but other departments as well, including Hale Library.

And with more state cuts and increased student fees looming in the future due to reasons such as state revenue shortfalls and declining university enrollment, we will be keeping a close eye on what cuts are made and how it will affect the university.

Open records request on sexual assault investigations

The Collegian filed an open records request last semester for information about sexual assault investigations by the university’s Office of Institutional Equity. The university, in November, said it would cost $1,375.

In December, the Collegian published a story about the open records request and the university’s responses, including how the cost for the records was higher than a similar request by the student newspaper at the University of Kansas. Afterward, a GoFundMe campaign raised the necessary money for the request.

However, before the entire $1,375 was raised by our readers, Jeff Morris, vice president for Communications and Marketing and acting vice president for Human Capital Services, contacted the Collegian about the request. Human Capital Services oversees the Office of Institutional Equity.

Based on the conversations with Morris, there will be a meeting at the start of the semester between university officials and the Collegian, where hopefully more information than originally requested will be released at a lower cost than originally required.

Once we know what the records show regarding sexual assault investigations at K-State, we will share it with you.

Development of the Black Student Union demands

After the Sept. 15, 2016 Snapchat many considered to be racist went viral, the BSU made four demands: construction of a Multicultural Student Center, increased need-based scholarships, addition of an anti-racism policy in the student code of conduct and a required cultural competency course.

Racism at K-State and its related issues seem to have been forgotten by many in the K-State family since the Snapchat fell out of the news cycle. It wasn’t until Nov. 1, 2016, a month and a half after the Snapchat incident and the demands by the BSU, that Gen. Richard Myers, then-interim president and current university president, released a statement related to the demands. Myers’ statement said a lot but included few details on the future of the demands.

The American Ethnic Studies Student Association also released four demands that were similar to those of the BSU.

The Collegian has reported on the possibility of a Multicultural Student Center, including what university administration told members of various multicultural student organizations on Dec. 2, 2016. But when a reporter tried to ask those involved why such a building was needed, people fell silent.

The over $15 million of donations necessary to make a Multicultural Student Center a reality will require those involved to better articulate why the building is a necessity for K-State.

Regardless of what happens with the future of the BSU’s demands, all students will inevitably be impacted one way or the other, and the Collegian will be there to report it.

Shelton grew up in the desert southwest. A native of Lancaster, California, he mostly grew up in south Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado before moving to Kansas and graduating from Junction City High School. He started working as a news writer for the Collegian in 2009 before taking a three-year break from college. He returned to K-State in 2013 and has since worked for the news desk, feature desk, as a copy editor and now as a sports writer. He enjoys tap dancing, writing anything possible, reading court opinions and watching Arizona Coyotes hockey.