On Nov. 14, 2017, students and faculty alike flowed onto Anderson Lawn, the bells chiming from inside Anderson Hall’s tower beckoning them forward into the sea of royal purple.
KSUnite, at that point, was Kansas State’s response to events occurring on and off campus that left pangs of racial tension in Manhattan.
Almost a year later, K-State is preparing for a second KSUnite, and while Paloma Roman, a student on this year’s event planning committee and senior in athletic training, said the university is no longer in crisis, the work the initial event set into motion is far from over.
“In a way, it’s almost preventative where we set some kind of expectations for students to know that we care for everyone for who they are, for their identity as a whole and also to celebrate those identities as a whole,” Roman said.
Ryan Kelly, speaker of the student senate and junior in communication studies, has also played a role in planning the upcoming KSUnite event.
Similar to Roman, Kelly said he believed there is still a benefit in holding events that emphasize intercultural learning, even in the absence of overt conflict.
“I don’t think that we need to wait for a crisis or a similar situation to have the opportunity to progress intercultural learning on this campus and to be able to hear from students,” Kelly said.
This year, KSUnite, which falls on Oct. 9, will occur alongside the other assorted All-University Homecoming festivities that week.
Marcus Kidd, student alumni board adviser and graduate student in counseling and student development, said he believes he was invited to partake in the planning of KSUnite because of his involvement in Homecoming events and other student-focused facets of the university.
Kidd said the decision to have the event fall within the Homecoming calendar was an intentional one.
Since the week itself is, at its core, about “celebrating the university” and being a part of the K-State family, Kidd said adding KSUnite into the “fabric” of the festivities allows topics such as diversity and inclusion to become an “additional layer” in what Homecoming is at the university.
“I think lots of times we forget that everyone comes from different places,” Roman said. “And a lot of times, this is the first time people experience such an environment as K-State and I think it’s important for students to learn and get to know each other.”
The six topics for the sessions, which have yet to be officially announced, are scheduled throughout the day, both before and after the event.
The sessions, which Kidd said highlight specific areas of the diversity and inclusion spectrum, are primarily focused on students because they are the “driving force” behind the conversation.
“This is an excellent time for us to continue to celebrate the topics of diversity and inclusion so that we can further unite the campus and continue to educate students, faculty and staff over embracing diversity in all forms,” Kidd said. “We are just trying to be more intentional about the different sessions that we’re offering, since diversity is so multifaceted and encompasses so much, just to make sure that we are not excluding any particular groups or any particular identities or perspective.”
Classes will be canceled after 12:45 p.m. on Oct. 9, but labs may be excluded from the dismissal. The Unity Walk — which will begin at the K-State Student Union at around 1:15 p.m., Kelly said in the Sept. 13 student senate meeting — will lead students to Memorial Stadium, as opposed to Anderson Lawn, for the KSUnite event.
“I would say that overall, the event is focused on sharing perspectives, right?” Kelly said. “It was also to encourage dialogue between the students about their stories and about their own stories, because at the end of the day this K-State family thrives best when we’re on the same page and we can have those conversations and, you know, come together to make collective progress.”