Q&A: Student body president Jack Ayres discusses student organizations, cultural competency

Student body president Jack Aryes shares his opinion on expanding knowledge about diversity on campus at the Solidarity rally at the Bosco Plaza on Sept. 14th, 2017. (Kelly Pham | The Collegian)

Kaylie McLaughlin, assistant news editor: “Can you clarify some of the key aspects of the new Independent Student Organization and Dependent Student Organization policy and explain a little bit about why was this implemented?”

Jack Ayres, student body president and senior in chemical engineering: “The new policy was implemented over the summer mainly to clarify the relationship that exists between the university and the organizations. While all organizations were previously on the same playing field in terms of the way we registered them and how they were seen in the eyes of the Office of Student Activities and Services, which used to exist, organizations are dramatically different from each other.

“Like a knitting club, that would be something that exists independent of university support and independent of any department. Engineering ambassadors, they’re with the College of Engineering with paid staff members to help advise the organization. … What it comes down to is realizing that if an organization is not department-sponsored, it’s an independent student organization.”

McLaughlin: “Have there been any major issues in the implementation of the new student organization policy, and have these issues been cleared up?”

Ayres: “I think the number one challenge has been the communication of it. There have been a lot of student organizations that are unsure about what the policy is, and I think that’s getting a lot better.

“Honestly, that was the challenge. Everybody got back in August, and they were like, ‘What’s the policy? Am I going to be a DSO or an ISO? As an ISO can I do this, and as a DSO can I do that?’ It was all over the map. … Students need to know what services are available at the center for student involvement for student organizations.”

McLaughlin: “How has the Student Governing Association promoted cultural competency on the Kansas State campus in this academic year?”

Ayres: “That has been a big point of conversation. In groups, specifically the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee, which is made up of representatives of multicultural student organizations across the campus, it’s been a challenge to figure out exactly what that needs to look like because I think there is a lot of cultural competency education that could happen in the classroom in existing classes.

“There’s a whole school of thought that we need to create a specific class or incorporate it into a university experience course. … What would it look like? Well, that’s the challenge.

“There’s also the other part of it that takes it out of the classroom, events like KSUnite. … We’ve helped to bring speakers to campus: Martin Luther King III, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and there have been a whole number of conversations about how we can better market to the student body and how we can better be a participant in that arena.”

McLaughlin: “Looking back on the academic year so far, what do you think K-State did well?”

Ayres: “I think that people stepped up to the plate and made a conscious effort to realize what challenges we face. That is why we had such a good turnout at KSUnite. Now, I think there is more where that came from. … We’ve kind of started that trend, and I am not saying that we are anywhere near done. I’d like to see KSUnite as a starting line, not a finishing line.

“It goes back to what we are talking about with cultural competency — that we need to improve in that regard, and I think it’s important to look at the steps we are making.”

McLaughlin: “What do you think we can improve on in years to come?”

Ayres: “The flip side of the coin is when we have events like KSUnite or when we have incredible speakers brought to campus … normally the students that haven’t been involved and haven’t really been a part of any of those conversations, I want those students to come to those events. … I guess it’s more engagement, and it goes beyond issues about race relations.”

McLaughlin: “If you could go back in this year at all, what would you change about it if you could?

Ayres: “I wish that we could have moved a little faster on a couple things … if we just had the luxury of three extra months. I think that some of this is just naturally the way things happen with processes that you really can’t control the speed of.

“I don’t think I could look into anything specifically that I want to change. However, I just wish there was more time in the day because if you look at this year, we’ve got initiatives across the board, and I think I’ve been blessed to work with such an incredible cabinet and other leaders in SGA that have really been helpful in that endeavor and have really pushed a lot of these initiatives.”

McLaughlin: “What is some advice that you have for the person who will take your position as student body president next year?”

Ayres: “I think it’s to be intentional, which I know is an overused, cliche word, but I think it’s a good word. … It’s really about taking the opportunity to be direct with what you are trying to work on and establish yourself as a partner on a lot of the university issues and then ask for help.

“If you want to see something happen, waiting around and hoping that you can figure it out is really not going to work.”

McLaughlin: “In what ways is being student body president different from what you expected it to be?”

Ayres: “It’s a lot more personal than I thought it would be in the sense that I really feel like I’ve made some incredible friends this year with folks that I worked with in SGA. … Walking away from this year, that’s been number one, and it’s something that I didn’t really factor in.”

McLaughlin: “Do you have any critiques about the functions of SGA, and how would you fix them in the future if you could?”

Ayres: “I think that we are too focused on Thursday night senate meetings as the time when SGA is SGA. Part of that happens naturally because that’s when everybody is available; that’s when you can have direct access to all of the senators, and a lot of the executive members are there too.

“As far as I’m concerned, even last year when I was the speaker of the senate, what happened on Thursday night was like 10 percent of my job responsibility. This year it’s like 5 percent, if that. Thursday night is a great time to have everybody meeting, but that’s really just a business meeting. … I think there needs to be more interaction at committee meetings during the week or outside of a meeting in the office.”

McLaughlin: “As the end of your term quickly approaches, is there anything you want to say to the student body?”

Ayres: “Please vote, that’s the most important thing. Vote in SGA elections, vote in the election this fall for the House, they are up for re-election, vote in the pretty intense governor race happening.”

McLaughlin: “This time next year, what will you be doing?”

Ayres: “Studying. I’ll have my nose deep in a book. I’m going to KU Med, and I think my life will look very different from what it does now. I’ll still be wearing purple to make that clear. President [Richard] Myers hammered that into me the other day, ‘You can go to KU Med next fall, but you cannot wear red and blue.’ And I said, ‘Okay, don’t worry. I won’t.’”

My name is Kaylie McLaughlin and I'm the ex-managing editor and audience engagement manager of the Collegian. Previously, I've been the editor-in-chief and the news editor. In the past, I have also contributed to the Royal Purple Yearbook and KKSU-TV. Off-campus, you can find my bylines in the Wichita Eagle, the Shawnee Mission Post and KSNT News. I grew up just outside of Kansas City in Shawnee, Kansas. I’m a senior in digital journalism with a minor in French and a secondary focus in international and area studies. As a third-generation K-Stater, I bleed purple and my goal is to serve the Wildcat community with accurate coverage.