Students gathered in front of Anderson Hall on Oct. 23 and marched to the President’s Residence to protest hatred on campus after recent events in which alt-right internet trolls targeted several KSUnite sessions with disruptive messages last week.
What started with venting in a group chat last week quickly materialized into plans for action.
“Some person jokingly said, ‘We should plan a protest,’ or like ‘What if we protested?’ … and then it started happening from then,” RJ Salmen, freshman in personal financial planning and Sexuality and Gender Alliance member, said.
The protest primarily took aim at the university administration’s “inability to take action against hatred on campus,” but also included students sharing their own personal experiences of discrimination.
Several students spoke out strongly against Jaden McNeil, junior in political science, who drew national attention for his tweets after George Floyd’s death earlier this year.
Caitlin McLean, senior in psychology and treasurer of SAGA, also condemned McNeil’s actions but said the issue is bigger than any one person.
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“I don’t want to detract from that, because those things are really important,” McLean said. “But he’s just a figurehead. Before Jaden was so big in the news, there has been like a white nationalist group before him. … After he graduates there’s gonna be more people. People are seeing that they can get away with stuff like that.”
Anna Casner, senior in social work, did not attend the protest but took charge of organizing the event as president of SAGA.
“I also think it was made apparent that it’s not just about that event,” Casner said. “It’s about a series of events that have just continued to go on. … It’s been building up for quite some time.”
Casner said they wanted to give people an opportunity to speak and be heard and “create that space ourselves because it hasn’t been created for us,” so the administration could listen.
“When recommendations were made at KSUnite to have it moderated, and those were ignored, Casner said. “We’re tired of being ignored, we’re tired of being asked our opinions and being told politely, ‘Well we disagree and think we know best.’”
“For people like us, for the people who spoke today, this work isn’t optional.” Casner said. “We don’t get to choose who we are, we don’t get to choose our identity we don’t get to choose our ethnicity, our race. We don’t get to choose these things and K-State continues to treat diversity and inclusion efforts as an option and we would like them to treat it as mandatory. It should not be an option to include parts of your family and make them feel safe.”