Before the KSUnite program began on Tuesday, students, faculty and staff participated in the K-State Unity Walk. The walk started at scattered designated locations and converged upon the lawn in front of Anderson Hall.
Members of the Manhattan community beyond K-State also participated, including students from Manhattan Christian College, who saw the event as an opportunity to bring the community together.
“We love unity – it’s actually our theme at the college for the year,” said Collin Schlotfeldt, senior in worship ministry and international studies at MCC.
After the speeches at the KSUnite event, speakers invited the crowd to take part in small group discussions and presentations in the Student Union. In total, there were eight facilitated conversations covering topics such as K-State’s Principles of Community, cultural competency in curriculum, need-based scholarships, campus safety and an update on the Multicultural and International Student Center.
Community examines truth behind principles of community
Some members of the K-State community gathered for a discussion on K-State’s Principles of Community.
Be Stoney, associate professor in the College of Education, designed the conversation to allow participants to have a voice and agree to disagree.
“This is a safe house today,” Stoney said. “We must respect what is being said here because that is the only way for us to learn.”
The conversation was structured around an anonymous poll led by Roberta Franzen, director of talent acquisition for human capital resources at K-State.
“We wanted to make sure that everybody had an opportunity today to say something,” Franzen said.
Stoney said the use of an anonymous poll was important to allow everyone in the room to have a voice.
“A lot of people don’t know how to be honest and that fact … leaves them wondering if they are going to be attacked or supported,” Stoney said.
Harlan Weaver, assistant professor in the Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies, also led the conversation. Weaver said the goal of the conversation was to inspire thought on the Principles of Community and examine experiences that either affirm or disprove them.
Participants weigh in on cultural competency curriculum
A conversation on the possible implementation of a multicultural component into K-State’s curriculum was held in the Student Union to examine the development of a required university-wide multicultural overlay.
Current plans for such a multicultural overlay, which passed through the faculty senate this fall, include a required three-credit-hour course incorporating readings and academic research on marginalized communities within the United States and the structural inequities that relate to the race and ethnicities of those communities.
Fifty courses from ten departments within the College of Arts and Sciences could fulfill this requirement.
Steve Dandaneau, vice provost for undergraduate studies, pointed out that a weak point of the current K-State 8 requirements is the lack of education regarding human diversity. The addition of a new multicultural overlay aims to remedy this issue.
“Our students need to be educated as they go out into this multicultural world,” said Kimathi Choma, assistant dean of diversity, recruitment and retention. “Students want multicultural competencies, and employers want multicultural competencies.”
Students are encouraged to give input about the new curriculum to Choma; Dandaneau; Lisa Tatonetti, professor of English; and the deans of the colleges.
Need-based scholarships at K-State
A small group of 15 students and faculty members gathered for a discussion led by Robert Gamez, director of student financial assistance, on the current state and future of need-based scholarships.
Kansas State is ranked as the No. 1 college in the U.S. for eligibility for the Pell Grant, a federal need-based grant program, Gamez said. 23.47 percent of 14,000 in-state undergraduate students at K-State are eligible to receive money from the Pell Grant, although the amount of money from the grant allocated by the federal government has not changed, even as tuition costs continue to rise.
K-State Police asks for increased communication
Chief of the K-State Police Department Ronnie Grice led a conversation on campus safety. It was also facilitated by members of the Student Governing Association and staff from the Center for Student Life.
The discussion focused on a need for increased knowledge of opportunities and resources available to students through the university and the need for people on campus to take responsibility for what they see, hear and do.
“If you don’t report it, we can’t fix it,” Grice said.
He encouraged students to report anything suspicious to K-State Police.
“You all have to be our extra eyes and extra ears,” Grice said.
Courageous conversations push students to leave comfort zones
As part of the conversations on education and reflection, students, staff and community members split into five groups to have focused conversations on race, religion, gender, sexuality and allyship.
“We have three goals,” said Stephanie Bannister, assistant vice president for student life. “We want to gain the wisdom to see new perspectives, gain understanding of others and gain knowledge about our next steps.”
While the conversation was sometimes stilted, people had the rare opportunity to communicate their experiences and questions in an open, understanding environment.
“I feel like we aren’t addressing the intersections in the queer community,” Adam Carr, president of the K-State Sexuality and Gender Alliance and junior in business. “I feel as though queer people of color don’t feel as comfortable in SAGA or BSU as they could in either space, and we need to focus on being more inclusive to all intersections.”
Discussion leaders encouraged people to lean in to the discomfort of painful conversations.
“Don’t expect closure,” Patrick Kenney, senior in political science, said. “There are no clear answers. Let’s get uncomfortable, let’s stay uncomfortable.”
Similar conversations with presenters from the Staley School of Leadership Studies and the K-State Alumni Association focused on envisioning meaningful conversations to create a more inclusive community.