‘Beware K-State’: Students, locals protest against racism, intolerance on campus

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About 150 students and locals protested racism at K-State on July 4. The protest started in Triangle Park and finished at the President's Residence on campus. They marched through campus chanting "Beware K-State, the students aren't safe." (Kaylie McLaughlin | Collegian Media Group)

Saturday afternoon, roughly 150 Kansas State students and community members gathered for a protest against racism on campus, marching from Triangle Park to the President’s Residence.

“I think it’s especially appropriate today that we hold this protest on the Fourth of July, when the Declaration of Independence was adopted in America,” Miranda Urban, senior in social work and protest co-organizer, said to the crowd at the start of the protest.

Urban read an excerpt from the Declaration of Independence, then offered a call to action.

“Racial injustice has been prevalent at K-State for a long time, and the rate in which it is improving is far too slow,” Urban said. “The safety and happiness of Black students at K-State is at risk. We do not need more publicity stunts like KSUnite. … We need students to know that blatant, outspoken discrimination is not tolerated and can be reprimanded.”

Following a route cordoned off by Riley County Police and K-State Police officers, participants marched across Anderson Avenue, through the Beach Museum of Art’s archway and across campus to the President’s Residence. President Richard Myers was not at his home on July 4, something the organizers knew in advance, said Tori Swanson, senior in psychology and protest co-organizer.

On the way to the President’s Residence, the group chanted “Beware K-State, the students aren’t safe.” As protesters filed into the residence’s front lawn, the chant switched to “Black lives matter.”

“I am extremely disappointed in our school’s administration and their inaction when it comes to racism and racist events on campus, whether those are words, tweets, nooses on trees or KKK hats,” Swanson said on the president’s doorstep. “I feel as though K-State is waiting until one of us becomes a hashtag, and what I do not want is for that to happen. I don’t want someone to get hurt, I don’t want someone to get killed on campus in order for K-State to do something.”

Swanson outlined six demands for the university:

  • Revise the attendance policy so underrepresented students who do not feel safe returning to campus can access online classes at the same price as in-person courses
  • Implement disciplinary action in the Student Code of Conduct regarding a student’s social media activity that causes fear among students
  • Require that every student take Intercultural Competence in Institutions (AMETH 300)
  • Donate 0.5 percent of K-State Athletics’ earnings to local Black-owned businesses and Manhattan’s Black Lives Matter chapter
  • Allocate resources to resolve issues regarding racist treatment of students and area citizens by the RCPD and KSUPD
  • Give land acknowledgments at all university events and programming to honor the Indigenous people of the land Kansas State is on

At the President’s Residence, Kirsten Novotny, senior in animal science and industry, shared a special statement from Nire Carter, George Floyd’s niece.

“Let me start by saying we love that you all love us,” Novotny said, reading Carter’s words. “We appreciate the love and the support.

“Our children are born a suspect, and we worry every day that they come back in one piece ⁠— hell, even alive,” Novotny continued. “Our babies aren’t able to walk down the street without being racially profiled.”

Lane Porter, senior in secondary education, said he attended the protest because of the university’s lack of action surrounding a K-State student’s tweet that made national headlines.

“To me, it’s sad that it just has to come to this in order to do something about it,” Porter said.

The notion of K-State family is what made Elizabeth Motter, spring 2020 graduate in civil engineering, come to the university in the first place, and she said everyone deserves to feel like a family on campus.

“It’s just really disappointing that some people don’t consider everyone on this campus their family,” Motter said.

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I'm Dene Dryden, and I graduated in May 2020 with a Bachelor's of Arts in English. Before graduating, I worked at the Collegian for more than three years as a copy chief, managing editor and editor-in-chief. I also served a term on the Collegian Media Group Board of Directors. While at K-State, I also worked at Wildcat 91.1 FM. My cat Robyn is the light of my life, and I take compliments in the form of coffee.