RESPONSE: The Multicultural Student Center is a step forward, not backward

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Vedant Kulkarni, junior in management information systems and mass communications, is the SGA international affairs director. (John Chapple | Collegian Media Group)

On Friday, Sept. 20, another student submitted an opinion piece for publication in the Collegian. In it they criticized Kansas State’s decision to build a multicultural students center. I want to place my opinion about the Morris Family Multicultural Student Center and its importance to students like me.

I am a non-caucasian, international student at K-State. Every day, I come on campus and attend my lectures. Throughout my time at K-State, I have been the only international student in a few of my classes. There have been times when I was the only non-Kansan student in my class. This demographic led me to adopt a fake identity. I was a different person in my classes and a different person when I was with my friends.

The same thing happens with me when I am at Student Governing Association and Student Foundation meetings: I adopt this fake American identity in a quest to try and fit in, but I end up lying to myself. I have been suffering through this feeling ever since I have been here at K-State. I am sure that just like me, there are many more students on campus who fall under peer pressure and adopt a fake identity to fit into their classes and on campus.

The writer in the previous opinion piece mentions how the Morris Family Multicultural Students Center somehow promotes racial segregation, discriminates against caucasian students and that it goes against the principles of the great Martin Luther King Jr.

This argument could not be more far from the truth.

To begin with, the writer does not seem to understand the definition of the words “multicultural students.” It seems that he is confused between the word ‘multicultural’ and ‘multiracial.’ In the words of Bryan Samuel, chief diversity and inclusion officer, “…diversity and multiculturalism are so much broader than race alone.”

Similarly, the MSC is not just for students of different races, but also a student center for students of different nationalities, students of the LGBTQI+ community, students of different religious backgrounds, students with accessibility issues, first-generation students and so on. The MSC has been specifically defined and designed to accommodate all students who identify themselves with different identities.

The primary mission of the MSC is to promote and improve cultural competence among students. This means engaging students in a meaningful dialogue about celebrating our differences by having events that explore our intersectional identities. It will act as a resource center to students like me who at times do not feel like our voices are being heard on campus or feel unwelcome.

It does not mean the students who do not identify with different identities or students from the majority community are prevented from being a part of this fabulous project. Quite oppositely, the MSC would welcome all students to have better participation and help students understand how to be accepting, tolerant and more accommodating towards other students.

The Morris Family Multicultural Student Center would provide students like me with an opportunity to be ourselves. The center is designed to make students feel comfortable in their skins. Along with that, it will be a learning opportunity for students to understand diversity, equity and inclusion in the 21st century.

Students like me do not always feel comfortable everywhere. We need a space to be ourselves and that should not just be our apartments. If we do not feel comfortable anywhere on campus, then we deserve to have a space where we feel relaxed, reassured and confident about ourselves.

It is easy for students like the writer of the previous opinion piece, who feel comfortable anywhere in this country due to their existent privilege, to say that the MSC is useless. They have never been through what we have to suffer every day.

The writer of the previous letter also compared the MSC with segregation. This argument is very shortsighted and ill-advised. The MSC is not segregating students. Segregation would mean having different colleges and classes for students with different identities. That is not the MSC.

The MSC is being constructed to make students, who identify differently than the majority community, to feel more welcomed and encouraged on campus and to be a resource for student success.

It is of paramount importance that all students understand that the Morris Family Multicultural Students Center is going to be a center for inclusivity, not a means to any crackbrained segregation.

President Richard Myers at KSUnite 2018 talked about K-State’s goal to create world-ready students that understand the power of inclusion and diversity: that goal is what the MSC represents.

We are one united campus and we are united in our diversity. Hence, saying that the MSC is a step backward is not just ignorant, but outright futile. The presence of a Multicultural Students Center on campuses is a show of strength, campus-harmony and progressiveness. The Morris Family Multicultural Students Center is a step towards better student integration at K-State. It will ensure that all student voices are encompassed keenly.

The writer of the previous opinion piece should understand that diversity is a strength, not a weakness, and the Multicultural Students Center will be a place to demonstrate that strength. It is not some “student fantasy” to feel great, it is a platform to feel included at K-State.

To quote Audre Lorde, “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

Vedant Deepak Kulkarni is a junior in management information systems and mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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