State schools throughout Kansas are coming together to create a state-wide diversity and inclusion committee to try to stand as a state-wide advocacy body for underrepresented students, faculty and staff.
Ryan Kelly, speaker of the student senate and junior in civil engineering, served on the Students’ Advisory Committee Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion and had a hand in writing the proposal that established the Council of Chief Diversity Officers.
“This whole school year, we have been compiling campus reports, going through all of the data and using it as the students’ voice,” Kelly said. “We are seeing trends in the data and it is telling us that this is what we want as students and we are asking that the chief diversity officer make the changes happen.”
While the proposal for the council has not yet been passed by the Kansas Board of Regents, the proposal will be introduced in May and possibly passed in June after getting approval from different organizations and offices on Kansas college campuses.
If passed, it would require the current student body president and the chief diversity officer from each institution that is represented in the Kansas Board of Regents to serve as the voice of their university during council meetings and then be encouraged to report back to their university presidents.
“This is a step in the right direction and it sets a foundation [so] later on they can decide how students will be allowed to interact more fully with the committee,” Kelly said.
The goal of the committee would be, as stated in the proposal, to “consider matters affecting equity and inclusion at each university” as well as derive from past experiences and other notable information in order to “foster more robust operations and consistency” with the expectations of all chief diversity officers across the country. Additionally, the council would serve as an “advocacy body” across the state for traditionally underrepresented student populations.
Rebecca Pedrosa, freshman in architecture, is a second generation K-State student from Puerto Rico following in the footsteps of her father. Pedrosa said she is a firm believer in the need for a diversity and inclusion committee.
“We need to get to know the different cultures on campus and try to make more of a connection with the community,” Pedrosa said. “We also need to address the hate crimes and actively try to make a change.”
Jack Ayres, former student body president and senior in chemical engineering, said the council would push the universities in Kansas to work more closely together to inspire cultural competency not only on campuses, but across the state.
“There is a lot of collaboration that can happen and we can learn about what other universities are doing to see what we can improve on,” Ayres said.
Johari Snell, freshman in food science and member of the Black Student Union, said she feels as though the community of multicultural students has not been adequately supported in the past.
“The multicultural students have been asking for a multicultural center for years, but it is just now starting to get a catalyst,” Snell said.
Ayres said President Richard Myers’ and other university presidents’ support in the effort to start the council has been a huge help and it has been enjoyable to see the progress toward expanding on diversity and inclusion.
“This is not just an issue at K-State,” Ayres said. “This is a state-wide issue and we need to come together to solve it.”