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Updates on Multicultural Initiatives in the KSUCVM

Letter to K-State community from Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer

Dear K-State Community:

Bryan Samuel

Over the past three months, we have seen a significant resurgence in civil unrest. The protesting and rioting witnessed in cities, large and small, across America — and abroad — is the result of the continued perpetuating of injustices upon members of the Black community. In February 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was hunted, chased and killed while out simply for a jog. In March 2020, Breonna Taylor was killed by police while sleeping peacefully in her bed. In May 2020, George Floyd was killed as a result of extreme police brutality. His murder literally occurred in broad daylight as citizens and pedestrians recorded his killing and joined him in pleading for his life, as we all witnessed the gall of the officer's force and inhumane demeanor to end Mr. Floyd's life. The officers' failure to value the life of Mr. Floyd was the catalyst to the global outrage, resulting in riots and protests as mentioned above. This act was also the stimulus for a universal uprising and movement to declare that blacks, minorities and their allies unapologetically condemn the killing of unarmed, non-threatening citizens and the systemic, institutional racism that perpetuates the taking of our lives.

Perhaps you recall the incident when law enforcement was called because a Black student at Yale fell asleep while studying in a dorm lobby. Certainly, you remember when the police were called to remove a Black student from the classroom at both Ball State University and the University of Texas, San Antonio. Who can forget when the police were called on two Native American siblings while taking a college tour at Colorado State University?

When exploring the impetus for these acts, vigorous debate ensued. We have heard statements such as, "I didn't know them," "I didn't feel safe around them," or "They didn't seem to fit-in." Rooted in these ideologies, the narrative quickly becomes: "They don't belong here" and the actions of the individuals who called the police are seemingly justified. This is because they are of the mindset, "If you see something, say something." What is not debatable is the impact these horrendous acts have on Blacks, as well as students in various minority and marginalized populations. It is not debatable that the students mentioned above had committed no crimes, no threatening acts nor suspicious behaviors that warranted police intervention. It is not debatable that a White student falling asleep in a dorm lobby would not prompt a call to the police.

Across the higher education landscape students are detailing their experiences with discrimination on sites like Twitter. Our students have dealt, and are dealing with, this civil unrest and injustice, just as so many others are on college campuses around the country. The social media movement, #BlackAtKState, invited students to share a time when they felt discriminated against, debased and devalued. The #BlackAtKState stories displayed the hurt, disappointment and frustration students felt in attempting to navigate these concerns; seemingly alone. The reflections described in #BlackAtKState said unequivocally, and unapologetically, that Kansas State University did not explore the resolution of these students' concerns with a value and understanding of how they impacted students' psychological wellbeing, ability and willingness to remain K-Staters. Moving forward, the K-State administration, staff and faculty will address students' concerns of discrimination with full faith and credibility and a tenacity mirroring efforts put forward on acts of vandalism, hazing or violations of Title IX. We stand with our students, for our students, and will support them in this quest for equality and belonging. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with students to bring forward the transformative change we all desire.

It is also important that we not forget our Black employees, their allies and members of various marginalized communities that work at K-State. For me personally, the murder of Mr. Floyd stirred up many painful emotions. First, it took me back to 1977 when a Knoxville police officer shot my father. There have been numerous times when I was stopped by police when I had done nothing wrong. Many Black people that I know personally and professionally, share common experiences wherein a racially, unjust act of prejudice or discrimination had occurred simply because of the color of their skin. Moreover, in addition to dealing with the disparate impact of practices in employment, housing, health, education and the like, in times like these we must continue to identify, challenge and eliminate social injustice at our university, our state and the world.

In closing, these are very difficult times, but working together we can achieve the transformative change that we all desire and need. Currently, we are working diligently to plan and deploy actions to support K-State in achieving a more equitable, welcoming and inclusive university. More details to follow. Please feel free to contact me at bsamuel1@k-state.edu if you have any questions. We are in this together. 

Best, 

Dr. Bryan D. Samuel, CCDP/AP
Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer

Originally published in K-State Today: June 11, 2020