Steps toward ‘More Inclusive K-State’ remain in early stages

(Photo Illustration by Julie Freijat | Collegian Media Group)

As the end of in-person classes for the fall semester approaches, Kansas State is in the beginning phases of planning and implementing its Action Plan for a More Inclusive K-State.

The administration launched the plan in response to #BlackAtKState circulating on Twitter over the summer, under which students of color shared their experiences with discrimination and microagressions on campus.

Earlier in the semester, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion created a dashboard to track its progress on the action plan. Nine of the eleven steps President Richard Myers outlined in a statement to the university in July are listed on the dashboard.

Myers serves as the delegator of the project while administrators like Bryan Samuel, chief diversity and inclusion officer, carry out the implementation of the action steps.

Samuel said the most quickly realized objective will likely be the creation of a student ombudsperson position to address complaints against the administration. This step is taking longer than initially outlined.

“Our goal was to have it ready for consideration by the end of October,” Samuel said. “We didn’t make that, but we’re continuing. The position description is written, is being vetted and reviewed, and we’ll figure out where that takes us.”

Of the three action plan committees Samuel heads, two met for the first time this week. He said other initiatives his division spearheads, like KSUnite and the Campus Climate Survey, have divided his attention until recently.

“Once we got a little breathing room from those initiatives, we were able to pull the teams together and begin meeting,” Samuel said. “Even though not all of those teams have met, there has still been some work done.”

Each step of the action plan has its own independent timeline, Samuel said. Institution-wide policies, like faculty and staff retention and the requirement of a multicultural overlay in all colleges, will likely take longer than others.

Currently, the College of Arts and Sciences is the only one to require a multicultural overlay.

“You have to think about all the degree requirements, accreditation requirements, how to do it in such a way that you don’t increase the number of credit hours for graduation and you don’t relinquish any of the core courses required for a particular major,” Samuel said. “We’re going to have to do some balancing and working to make that happen. It will probably take us at least a year, if not longer.”

With everything students take on during the semester, Samuel said it’s sometimes difficult to add involvement in an action plan like this to their schedules. He’s grateful that several students found a way to make it work.

Stefan Yates, assistant to Samuel and manager of the action plan dashboard, said there are students on the majority of the committees.

Ayana Belk, graduate student in landscape architecture, got involved over the summer when she wrote a letter to Myers addressing his proposed eleven action steps. The letter was signed by representatives of 23 multicultural organizations with the motivation to give multicultural students a hand in the administrative process rather than receiving information secondhand.

“We wanted [Myers] to know we were watching him, and we still are,” Belk said in an email. “We do not want administrators to continue releasing statements that were never followed up with action. We want to be involved at every stage.”

Rather than working on any specific action step committee, Belk works to connect administrators with students to serve as core leadership on those committees. She’s placed eleven students since the summer.

Belk said based on the action plan dashboard, the only real progress has been planning, but having multicultural students at the center of the action will ensure that the administration is held accountable.

“I know this letter and the work that is happening after it will impact K-State policy and administration-student relations for years to come,” Belk said.