College of Arts and Sciences talks diversity at annual summit

Standing at the front of Town Hall in the Leadership studies building Chris Butler, senior in anthropology, sociology and pre-law, addresses the crowd at the Kansas State Diversity Summit. The Summit was held on April 4th and featured a panel of students and faculty. Sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences the event aimed to “Understand cultural competencies and create an inclusive environment.” (Rafael Garcia | Collegian Media Group)

At the College of Arts and Sciences’ annual diversity summit on Thursday afternoon, students and representatives of the college emphasized that diversity at Kansas State University must continue to be an active effort and a new way of thinking, rather than a single event.

As part of the annual summit, the event included speeches from college leaders and students, as well as a student panel.

Amit Chakrabarti, dean of arts and sciences, said diversity is essential for life, both at the biological level and at the cultural level. Chakrabarti said that to attract the best talent — both students and faculty — the college must do all it can to make everyone feel welcome.

“Diversity is all the different life experience you bring to the table,” Chakrabarti said. “Proper diversity must include inclusion, meaning that we need to include all these different ideas into our decision-making process. Then, we will really solve those problems we strive to solve.”

Several students from the college also spoke at the summit. Narmadha Mohankumar, graduate student in statistics from Sri Lanka, said she came to K-State because of the “K-State Pride” theming she saw on videos and social media. When she came to campus, Mohankumar said she was so excited to share her culture with everyone, although there was still something of a culture shock.

Seth Peery, junior in biochemistry and vice president of the Sexuality and Gender Alliance at K-State, said the LGBTQ community maintains a silent and invisible diversity on campus. Peery said some of the issues the community faces are mental health, sexual assault and a campus climate that sometimes pressures students about their sexuality.

The event also included a student panel, where arts and sciences students pushed for greater diversity efforts beyond events like the summit. The students discussed multicultural events, and the fact that some non-minority students feel like they can’t attend multicultural events.

The students also spoke about their experiences with diversity at K-State. Much of the conversation centered around the discrimination incidents that have happened in the past few semesters at K-State, including two instances of alleged discrimination where the supposed victims ultimately admitted to committing the acts themselves.

Chris Butler, senior in sociology, anthropology and pre-law and president of the Academic Achievement Center Ambassadors, said that, while K-State has made good strides in promoting diversity, those efforts have not seemed completely genuine.

“At the end of the day, it’s money and publicity to maintain an image and make sure revenue is still coming in,” Butler said.

Butler said that multicultural communities also often deal with members who are self-destructive and counterproductive to their causes.

“I want us to start thinking about this — how we deal with members of our black community who are fitting into stereotypes, or tearing down the bridges that leaders of the past have tried to build,” Butler said. “What do we do about our males who mistreat women?”

Butler finished by saying that it is those individuals who keep multicultural communities from making progress.