Q&A: Black Student Union president discusses cultural tension, being a leader

Darrell Reese, Black Student Union president, speaks in front of the KSUnite Rally at the Anderson Hall lawn on Nov. 14, 2017. (File Photo by Alanoud Alanazi | Collegian Media Group)

Darrell Reese, president of the Black Student Union at Kansas State and junior in human resources, discussed his role as a leader on campus and addressed tensions between multicultural student organizations and the Office of Student Life in an exclusive interview with the editors of the Collegian.

Kaylie McLaughlin, assistant news editor: “What is your favorite part about K-State?”

Reese: “I would say that my favorite part of K-State would be the people. I’m talking the professors, the advisors, the deans — everybody who is at K-State takes genuine care in wanting to get to know the students in order to meet the students’ needs.”

McLaughlin: “What is your dream job?”

Reese: “Ideally, I think my dream job, in whatever shape, form or fashion, would just be working with people. … Leading people, relating to people, understanding where they come from, their backgrounds and different areas they might be struggling with and helping them get to a better spot and helping them grow in themselves or their character and whatever that might look like.”

McLaughlin: “In the past, there has been tension between the Office of Student Life and multicultural student organizations. Would you mind discussing that a little bit?”

Reese: “I would just say there’s been a lot of mistrust because, in recent times, we feel like a lot of the multicultural student organizations have displayed and allowed their voice to be heard about our needs to be met, just completely laid them out on the table for what we foresee needs to happen, what would be in the best interest of the students because we are the ones who have to be on campus everyday, who have to figure out where we fit in. There’s been this mistrust because, based off of our voice and what we said, the things we are advocating for, the mistrust is that one might not do or go the opposite way or disregard or come up with another plan without completely consulting with all of the multicultural students.

“That’s probably been the biggest thing: making decisions for us, without us. Right now, a level of concern is how much we can trust those who are making decisions for us who might not look like us, who might not really understand our needs because they haven’t really been connecting with us or really understanding.”

McLaughlin: “This has been your first year as the president for the BSU, so what has been your experience so far?”

Reese: “I think overall, for this being my first year as president, that it’s been an awesome year. I just know for me personally, it’s been a year to where I’ve kind of grown and developed in myself and in my leadership and just understanding more about myself and my character in this leadership position. … It’s been an awesome time, just with our students.

“It’s been an awesome time navigating through the difficulties that happened, as well, with K-State. We can’t be numb to it, but it’s been fun just getting to know everybody who is in our BSU and kind of connecting with our black community and with our other multicultural communities. I guess in a way, continuing to meet the needs of all multicultural students and our voice really being heard despite what might be going on on campus. I would say that the best part about it has just been really for our BSU. We are so much a family within the BSU. We connect with one another even though we come from so many different areas.”

McLaughlin: “What has been your favorite part about being a student leader?”

Reese: “Probably my favorite part would be allowing, not only my voice, but the voice of so many students to be heard. I always think that leadership might have the identity of authority in a way, but I know for me it’s always been about the students. So, I really think that this has allowed me to be put in another position to where student voices can be heard through me and through my voice.”

McLaughlin: “During the fall semester, there were several instances of what could be considered hate speech directed toward multicultural students specifically. Why is this semester different, if it is different?”

Reese: “Last semester was a crazy semester, a semester that really nobody could have planned for with the instances that did happen. I think this semester has been different just because there is a certain level of consciousness that has been elevated throughout all of K-State. The incidents happened, and it really showed how multicultural students do feel affected by the incidents. My saying that, will we never see one again? I don’t know, nobody really does, but I do believe that K-State is taking steps forward in helping meet all the needs of multicultural students. … I know that nobody wants to see a semester like last semester happen again.”

McLaughlin: “Recently, the BSU at K-State was awarded the Most Outstanding BSU in the Big 12 for the tenth time. Can you talk a little bit about what it means for the BSU?”

Reese: “This past year, we were awarded, yet again, the Most Outstanding BSU for the tenth time in the past 12 years, so having that consistency for so long is just an amazing honor, but that just goes to show that it’s so much on the students. It’s so much on our members because they are the ones who make it go. They are the ones who are devoted to it, who volunteer, who show up. … It’s just been such an amazing opportunity to lead them and to have this award.”

McLaughlin: “When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?”

Reese: “I definitely wanted to be a football player. I always wanted to go to the NFL or even play college football as well. My dad, he played college football at SMU in Texas, so I was always kind of looking up to him. … If I could ever just step foot on an NFL field to play for the Cowboys or something like that, that was my dream job growing up.”

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.