In a normal year, KSUnite draws large crowds of students and faculty members to engage in conversations about diverse student experiences. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some changes will be made this fall.
“The real difference is going be that there is going to be a lot of limitation on the face-to-face interaction of participants,” Bryan Samuel, chief diversity and inclusion officer, said. “We know that our ballroom will not have 1,000 people in it, we know that the courtyard and Forum Hall and some of these other places where we have normally filled them to capacity the last couple years will not, by design, be at capacity, because we can’t do that and adhere to the guidance of the Kansas Department of Health [and Environment] as well as the CDC.”
The theme, “Difference Makes Us Stronger,” was announced on June 16. Samuel said that most of the event this year, scheduled for Oct. 13, will have to be offered online. Despite changes in format, the goal remains the same.
“The purpose of KSUnite is to raise the consciousness of our entire community and help all members of our university understand that things don’t necessarily have to happen in the classroom, or somewhere throughout the campus environment, for it to have an impact on the students, the faculty and staff,” Samuel said.
Previously, students have criticized KSUnite as too small an action in combatting the ongoing tension on campus. Some of those concerns were voiced in a recent social media movement.
The recent #BlackAtKState Twitter campaign opened the opportunity for current and former Black students to share their experiences at the university. Trumanue Lindsey, director of diversity and multicultural student life, said he hopes these conversations can continue with KSUnite and grow beyond the event.
“These are things that they have been pushing for, fighting for, challenging the university for years on,” Lindsey said. “The time that we’re in right now where everything is so in your face with protests, it was very strategic for our Black Student Union to be able to do that because the stage was already set to where the country was listening.”
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Lindsey said these deeper conversations are necessary, even if some may be reluctant to join in.
“It might be uncomfortable for people, but the reality of it is as much as the conversation and the dialogue may be uncomfortable for those that don’t experience it, put yourself in the shoes of the students who have to live and walk uncomfortably across campus and have an uncomfortable experience every day,” Lindsey said.
As students, faculty and administrators listen to the stories from #BlackAtKState, they have the chance to respond in a positive way, Samuel said.
“Certainly this time we’re in gives rise to really have an appreciation and value for the reports that are brought forward and looking at how we address those and meet the concerns of those students,” Samuel said. “It’s going to be a tough challenge because nothing is solved overnight but at the same token, this isn’t a new issue.”
Samuel said it is important to remember that KSUnite is not a one day event. While there is one big event centered on one day, the topics and conversations should continue all year round in classrooms, activities and events.
“The actual idea of KSUnite is embedded in all of these programs and activities that take place throughout the year,” Samuel said. “That’s exactly why this theme that we have adopted for this year, ‘Difference Makes Us Stronger,’ is applied to every department across campus that is doing anything that has to touch on diversity and inclusion.”