Black Student Union holds emergency meeting amid racist incidents

Darrel Reese Jr, president of the Black Student Union, leads BSU members and others in singing their BSU National Anthem at the BSU Emergency Meeting in the Bluemont Room of the Union on Nov. 1, 2017. (Photo by Alex Shaw | Collegian Media Group)

The Black Student Union held an emergency meeting Wednesday evening in response to racist vandalism found on a Manhattan resident’s car.

The meeting allowed students, faculty and Manhattan community members to discuss how they felt about racism on campus and how to combat incidents of racism.

Darrell Reese, president of the Black Student Union and junior in mechanical engineering, opened the meeting in the packed Bluemont Room in the Student Union with “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the Black National Anthem, and a recitation the BSU mission statement. Reese then shared his reaction to the vandalism.

“I’m shocked to see it at K-State, but it’s something that I continue to see over and over again,” Reese said. “It started back to the blackface incident, to the noose, to the white nationalist posters — the list goes on and on.

“We’re getting tired of seeing the same thing pop up every single time, while on the flip side, seeing the same response to it as well,” Reese continued. “Now we’re really at the point … where we have to see change or else. Because if not, we’re going to see this stuff play out more and more and more.”

The rest of the evening was devoted to giving attendees the opportunity to voice their thoughts, state their views and give suggestions on actions that faculty and students can take to make K-State and the surrounding community feel more inclusive.

“In order for me to feel safe, I need you to spend some money on cameras,” Laken Horton, junior in mass communications, said. “Buy some cameras, put up these buildings, because there’s no more excuses of, ‘Oh, there’s no cameras. We don’t know who did it. We have to go based off of witnesses.’ I’m tired of hearing that. So, get cameras. I don’t care what you’ve got to do. Spend the money on it, and I’m good.”

Jazmine Dawson, sophomore in biology, said she wants students to write letters to university and state leaders.

“Letters are small, but at the same time, they do big things,” Dawson said. “They do wondrous things. I would love to see us have a day where we just sit down and write letters to everybody that we can write letters to and send them off.”

Other students reiterated the need for a Multicultural Student Center and encouraged their peers to go to Student Governing Association meetings. Several students demanded to see President Richard Myers attend events that promote and celebrate diversity.

Pat Bosco, vice president of student life and dean of students, attended the BSU emergency meeting and addressed President Myers’ absence.

“He’s in Washington, D.C., raising money for our university,” Bosco said. “I know that we’ve had a couple of rallies where he’s been off the campus. I guarantee you, next time around, he will be here. He cares. … He’s not dodging the bullet. He’s just trying to do a job that’s complicated.”

Bosco also emphasized his support for all students and recognized the faculty and student leaders who attended the meeting.

“I’m the one that talks about the family the most,” Bosco said. “The fact that you’re all here … is an example of our family. Your provost is here, our chief academic officer, number two person at our university, is here. We have several vice presidents in the room. … Our faculty, deans here, and I appreciate the fact that we have so many student leaders here. I appreciate the fact that we got Manhattan community leaders here as well as leaders on our campus.”

April Mason, provost and senior vice president at K-State, affirmed that she is committed to helping stop racist incidents on campus.

“Kansas State University is better than this,” Mason said. “We are better than this. Let’s continue to talk. Let’s address these issues, and let’s be sure that we hold each and every one of us accountable. It is so, so important. … For those of you who teach, for those of you who are students, let’s work together. My commitment is that we continue to work together, because this must stop.”

Bosco highlighted a few of the actions the administration is taking in response to these incidents, including the recruitment of two new diversity officer positions, plans for how to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and a potential new program to encourage more discussion on these issues.

Jess Girdler, community coordinator for Housing and Dining Services, gathered non-black students after the meeting to discuss actions they can take to be better allies and help students of color.

“Our students of color were calling for their peers to take action and do something,” Girdler said. “And I know that sometimes our students who have been privileged don’t know what to do and it felt important to bring them together to talk about what we do next, to do the groundwork to start building something. Our students of color have had to carry this by themselves for far too long. They need their peers to speak up, and not just [in] one instance, but all the time.”

I’m Stephanie Wallace, and I am the assistant news editor of the Collegian, a contributing writer, and a copy editor. I’m a senior, majoring in English major and minoring in Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies. You may have seen me riding my scooter around campus as I rush to my classes and much too many clubs. Some organizations I work with include the English Department Ambassadors, K-State Libraries Student Ambassadors and The Burrow — K-State’s chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance.