Student Code of Conduct review addresses diversity policy concerns

This year's Student Code of Conduct review aimed to address concerns regarding diversity and inclusion. (Archive Photo by Justin Wright | Collegian Media Group)

As the fall semester draws to a close, the Student Code of Conduct review also reaches its conclusion.

The revised Student Code of Conduct passed through student senate before approval by the Office of General Counsel and Thomas Lane, vice president of student life.

The committee made certain changes in the language which Tyler Burns, graduate student in communication studies and member of the committee, said will hopefully make it more accessible to students.

“You have students that are 18 to 24, sometimes older, and sometimes it doesn’t make sense in the way that it is worded and to make sure people know the Code of Conduct is out there,” Burns said.

When it comes to the Student Code of Conduct, Ashton Hess, Student Governing Association Attorney General and senior in geography and history, said it’s important for students to know where to go for complaints or concerns if they don’t feel safe on campus.

“I think the tricky part is making sure students know where to go to voice concerns and make comments,” Hess said.

For complaints about potential Student Code of Conduct violations, students must file a complaint to the SGA Judicial Branch.

“We reviewed lines that were vague, and it would allow students to reference these lines when reporting other students on campus,” Abigail Archibong, senior in life sciences and member of the committee, said.

Although part of a normal five-year scheduled evaluation cycle, this year’s review was under extra pressure because incidents over the summer that sparked the #BlackAtKState movement as well as controversial social media activity that raised additional questions over what is permissible under the code.

Archibong said when looking to review the Student Code of Conduct, she felt it was the committee’s responsibility to “bring justice” to situation’s like this summer’s.

However, Burns said it’s difficult to take action based on someone’s speech because of First Amendment protections at public universities.

“I think that K-State can do more to put up a strong presence saying, ‘You can say whatever you want because you are protected by your First Amendment right, but we as an institution are going to stand for these things and are going to continue to push for the 20,000 plus students who are actually here to learn and grow and be kind to one another,'” Hess said.

The Student Code of Conduct review is just one piece of a larger Action Plan for a More Inclusive K-State, which includes evaluating the discrimination and harassment, threat and management, Title IX and social media policies.

The university continues forward with the action steps President Richard Myers outlined in July. A dashboard on the Diversity and Inclusion website is updated to track progress on each step.

Burns, Hess and Archibong all said the university has done well in its efforts so far, but there is always space for improvement.

Past university efforts have seemed more PR-focused, Burns said, and some see KSUnite as a way to take a stance against racism just for a day.

Keeping students, faculty and everyone accountable for improving diversity at Kansas State beyond performance is important, Hess said. She said the university is trying to find ways to make to campus safe, comfortable and welcoming for minority students.

“It is something that we are going to always work on,” Hess said. “I don’t think the efforts ever stop,” Hess said.