OPINION: KSU Administration needs to be better at fighting campus racism

(File photo by John Chapple | Collegian Media Group)

It has been nearly a month since the KSUnite “Zoombombing” incident happened at K-State. The hijack occurred when people of an alt-right group called ‘groypers’ entered the zoom session. The perpetrator of this hijacking continues to walk on this campus as a K-State student. This student also dared to live-stream his attempt at disrupting a beautiful university-sponsored event that promoted diversity and inclusion on campus.

Many students, including myself, called for the suspension or expulsion of this student from this campus. We protested on the campus against hatred on campus. However, our demands have not been met by the K-State administration.

This student is no stranger to controversies. At the beginning of this year, this student and his organization made headlines when they were accused of having ties to white nationalists. After this issue, Kansas City-based Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights released a 64-page report showing the relations this student and his organization have with known white nationalists and the ludicrous ‘groypers’ movement.

This student and his organization are also notoriously known for targeting students who disagree with their points of view. This student has also retweeted my opinion pieces numerous times on his Twitter or shared it on his Telegram account, thereby sending a plethora of alt-right trolls my way in an attempt to cyber-bully me.

Students, including myself, complain about this individual every time he does something snarky, but to no avail. This student still walks on this campus.

K-State seems to have taken little-to-no actions against this student even though the evidence against him is available. For example, in a now-deleted tweet by this student, he asked his followers to “stand back and stand by,” as K-State prepared to host KSUnite, implying the impending disruption of the event.

By doing so, K-State sent a message that our university is so worried about facing a First Amendment-based lawsuit that they will not impose stringent sanctions against their bigoted words and hurtful virtual acts.

When the Zoom bombing issue occurred two weeks ago, there were clear violations of the Student Code of Conduct. I wrote emails to dozens of administrators and student leaders about it, pointing out the evidence and showing how it constituted a violation.

For example, the second code in the code of conduct states a student is subject to sanctions if they disrupt or obstruct “teaching, research, administration, disciplinary proceedings, or other University-sponsored activities.” KSUnite is a university-sponsored educational event about diversity that was hijacked, disrupted and its proceedings were obstructed to a great extent. The sessions had to close their chat, video and microphone functions for attendees, and also had to kick the students out while the session was happening, causing the organizers to lose focus from the event. The attendees, including myself, lost our attention from the event and had to witness a traumatic incident unfold in front of our eyes.

Nevertheless, no known actions were taken against this student. Not to mention there is an absence of transparency in the investigation process when issues like this occur, which is frustrating. Granted that the lack of transparency is due to strict FERPA laws, but having absolutely no idea about what is happening with the case is scary. It leaves students like myself hesitant to come on-campus.

We are tired. We are done. We feel hopeless and helpless. Increasingly, it seems that only students care about the well-being of one another, while the administration is just worried about saving face. It is always the students who have to put their education aside and organize rallies and other activities to protest bigotry and discrimination on campus. When we do so, it affects our academics and our learning. I have experienced this decline in my academics due to this issue.

Due to the cyberbullying and threats I faced, and the decline of my mental health that these things caused, I missed out on some of my academic work which will affect my grades. I may end up getting a poor GPA and potentially losing my future scholarship opportunities because I am too busy doing the administration’s work for them.

I did not travel 8,295 miles from Nashik, India, to Manhattan, Kansas, to do the administration’s job of fighting racism, xenophobia, discrimination and bigotry at K-State. Increasingly, it feels to me that my education has become my second priority, and fighting for my life has become my top one. With the violent threats I have received on social media and the constant cyberbullying at the hands of racist bigots, my mental health has been diminished, and now it’s taking a toll on my physical health. And I am not alone in this story. Countless other students at K-State have faced similar challenges of discrimination, being the victims of hate and bigotry, racism, and cyberbullying.

K-State has a chance to set the precedent that bigots are not welcomed here by expelling the people who disrupted a university-sponsored educational event about diversity and inclusion.

K-State needs to act now. It is about expelling the bigots from our campus, but there is also more to it than that. It is about reinvesting in the underrepresented communities at K-State and supporting their education while at the same time educating the dominant community on campus about the presence of discrimination in our society and how to become allies of students from marginalized communities. I believe that K-State has the potential to make our campus safer and more welcoming for all wildcats. It’s time to achieve that potential.

Vedant Deepak Kulkarni is a Collegian contributor and a senior in management information systems and mass communications. He is also the international student affairs director in the Student Governing Association cabinet. 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.