State budget, student tension: 2017-18 Student Body President Jack Ayres

Former student body president, Jack Ayres. (Alex Todd | Collegian Media Group)

In March of 2017, Jack Ayres, senior in chemical engineering, and his running mate Olivia Baalman, senior in computer science, won the vote and became K-State’s student body president and vice president.

“Throughout our time in SGA, Olivia and I have had the opportunity to work and develop relationships with both students and administrators on campus,” Ayres said in a K-State Today release after his election. “Through these experiences, we have built connections with those who can affect change at K-State, and we look forward to working with those individuals to accomplish all our goals.”

Having been student body president for his high school, Ayres said he thought he could try something familiar and applied for an internship with the Student Governing Association at K-State while he was a freshman. However, he said he quickly learned the differences between his high school student council and SGA.

“I soon learned that SGA was more about student advocacy and representing student voices,” Ayres said.

Ayres said the more he became involved with SGA, the more he fell in love with the idea of helping students. He soon found himself elected as speaker of the student senate.

It was during this year when Ayres became more involved with advocacy for student issues at the state government level and worked with the previous student body president on budget issues. At the end of his term, he made the choice to run for student body president.

“It was really the work that was addicting to me,” Ayres said. “It is representing the students. It is exercising a voice that we at K-State have that is unique to us.”

However, Ayres said he did not realize how much effect the voice of SGA would have in the following year.

“You cannot overlook our challenges when it comes to inclusion and equity,” Ayres said, referring to a number of incidents that led to significant complaints about racial tension on campus last year including the hanging of racist posters and vandalism.

Even though one incident, in which a man vandalized his own car with racial slurs, was found to be a hoax, the damage had already been done.

“Our legacy at K-State is about family and supporting one another,” President Richard Myers wrote in a letter to K-State students and faculty. “That hasn’t changed. We cannot and will not allow the actions of a few detractors to attack our values or divide us.”

This letter also announced KSUnite. The event was hosted by Student Body President Jack Ayres and Black Student Union President Darrell Reese Jr. in an attempt to bring together all of the students on campus despite differences in race, gender identity or sexual orientation.

“Jack wanted discussion for diversity and inclusion,” said Jordan Kiehl, senior in industrial engineering and the recently sworn in 2018-19 student body president. “He helped set that day up.”

Other challenge Ayres inherited was facing state budget cuts to higher education.

Ayres, along with others, traveled to the capitol and advocated for the importance of funding for universities in Kansas. He said that involved a lot of “providing legislatures with good data, talking to the right people and providing a consistent message.”

Ayers recently accepted a job working under K-State alumnus and Lieutenant Governor of Kansas Tracey Mann. Then, in 2019, Ayres said he will be attending the University of Kansas’ School of Medicine, though he will still be wearing purple.