IMPEACH: KU Student Committee Wants To Remove Student Body President For Moving Too Slowly On Racial Issues

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Nov 16, 2015 8:00 PM
IMPEACH: KU Student Committee Wants To Remove Student Body President For Moving Too Slowly On Racial Issues

Mizzou fever has spread to the University of Kansas, where the Student Executive Committee issued a vote of no confidence in the current student body leadership over their reported slow response concerning a host of diversity demands from the student group Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk. The committee then called for their resignations and threatened them with articles of impeachment if they did not vacate their posts. One of the demands was a director for the Office of Multicultural Affairs by December 15 for “mandatory inclusion and belonging training,” according to the Kansas City Star. The chain of events that led to the calls of impeachment began on Novemebr 11, when the KU held a town hall event on race.

The City Star described the gathering as “acrimonious at times,” where students voiced their concerns about the racial climate, specifically how minority students are allegedly ignored on campus.

The Lawrence Journal-World added that the calls for the resignations of the student body leadership are the culmination of reported years of inaction on racial issues:

Shegufta Huma, vice president of the University Senate and a member of the Student Executive Committee, told the Journal-World on Saturday the no confidence motion was the result of months of inaction that culminated in the officers’ reluctance to support Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk's demands.

This is part of a larger pattern and some much bigger issues that (the) Senate has been dealing with in terms of our relationship with marginalized communities at KU,” Huma said, arguing recent issues the Senate has addressed — such as concerns about voting hours, increases in the campaign spending limit for student elections and the use of gender-neutral pronouns — have been made without adequate collaboration with marginalized campus communities.

According to committee members who voted in favor of the motion, Pringle and George did not "stand in solidarity with their black peers and proclaim that Black Lives Matter” at Wednesday's forum.

"Black students do not feel that the Student Senate provides adequate representation, funding and support for their needs," the committee wrote.

[…]

The student group Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk takes its name from a Twitter hashtag created in the wake of the August 2014 death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the decision not to indict the white police officer who killed him. KU graduate Cassie Osei created the hashtag last December, in response to what she called a lack of response to students’ concerns surrounding racial issues on campus. Osei told the Journal-World many of the demands made by the Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk student group are not new.

“Some of them have been in discussions for over two years — it's not as if they are addressing this for the first time by getting up on stage,” she said Saturday. “People ignored it before.”

A 2014 graduate, John Cowan, has engaged in a hunger strike in support of their suffering. He told the Lawrence Journal-World that as a white person of privilege, “my suffering is self-inflicted…others don't have that choice, it's inflicted upon them." Yet, the status of his protest is unknown since the media has been unable to contact him. At Townhall, such efforts were made unsuccessfully as well. He said he would “die or go to the hospital” if the Hawks’ demands are not met. They’re listed below [emphasis mine]:

Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk's 15 demands

1. Director of OMA hired by December.

2. Mandatory, intense "inclusion and belonging" training for all levels of students, staff, faculty and administration.

3. Issue Campus Climate Survey by February.

4. Train and rehire IOA [Institutional Opportunity and Access] staff and implement accountability measures.

5. Increase consistent hiring of diverse faculty and staff.

6. Increase the percentage of underrepresented domestic and undocumented students.

7. Immediate amendments to Senate election code.

8. Increase aid and assistance to active military and veterans.

9. Establish team of multicultural counselors to specifically address severe mental illnesses and the needs of students of color by fall 2016.

10. Ban concealed weapons from campus.

11. Remove all professors who assault, sexually harass, or engage in abusive relationships with students. Apply this policy retroactively as well, specifically to Dr. [name redacted]. Immediate expulsion of those that commit sexual assault.

12. Open investigation into Grant, Starling et al. case as hate crime beginning with IOA.

13. Reopen investigation into the murder of Rick "Tiger" Dowdell.

14. Establish Multicultural Student Government independent of current University of Kansas Student Senate.

15. Thorough plan of action from administration by January 19, 2016

Editor's note: A name is redacted because the individual has not been convicted.

First, let’s go over some of these demands. These kids want to increase the number of illegal aliens that come to the school? I’m sure that will sit well with students who are citizens who were locked out of a KU education due to the administration wanting to fill a quota. Sara Shepherd of the Journal-World, who added some background to the Hawks’ list of demands, added that Hispanic enrollment is up 10 percent, the number of multiracial students remained the same, but black enrollment in this year’s freshman class was down 27 percent. That being said, Shepherd added that even with that statistic, black enrollment in this year’s freshman class is still higher than it was seven years ago.

Second, they want a multicultural student government that’s independent of the current one. So, they want two student governments? One that would in all likelihood be dominated by students of color, so isn’t this just a fancy way of saying they want a safe space for student government? Third, the Starling request deals with an alleged instance of racial harassment and assault against KU’s Black Student Union president Kynnedi Grant, who alleges she and several of her black friends were assaulted and called a racial epithet at an off-campus Halloween party, according Shepherd. She added that local police are looking into this matter as an incident of battery and aggravated assault. The Hawks want it to be viewed as a hate crime. Yet, there’s no way to truly verify the account since Grant refused to answer questions about the incident at the November 11 forum. She did write about the incident on Facebook.

Oh, and the “murder of Rick ‘Tiger’ Dowdell” wasn’t murder. It occurred 45 years ago in 1970, where it was determined that the 19-year-old Dowdell, who was African-American, fired upon police before he was shot by an officer in a justifiable act of self-defense. Also, Shepherd added that KU “does not have jurisdiction over homicide investigations.”

Lastly, there’s the day these demands were being debated in front of the Student Senate Rights Committee last Wednesday, the committee passed two resolutions, one endorsing the demands, while the other said that it would receive the full attention of the senate starting this week. Again, this meeting was also fraught with tension (via The University Daily Kansan):

While the resolution was drafted, Katherine Rainey and other members of Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk explained each of the 15 demands the group had formed. Two of the demands directly affect Student Senate: immediate amendments to the Senate Election Code and the establishment of a Multicultural Student Government independent of Senate.

Once at the front of the auditorium, several members of Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk, including the former Student Senate Director of Diversity and Inclusion, Jameelah Jones, and Rainey, spoke to members of the Rights Committee and Executive Board.

“We are demanding that our University systemically changes so that students of colors and underrepresented students can survive, be academically successful and love our University as much as everyone else,” Rainey said.

[…]

Members of Senate were swearing at each other, accusing each other of misdeeds and speaking over each other. Several senators directed aggressive comments at both Student Body President Jessie Pringle and Student Body Vice President Zach George throughout the meeting.

Are KU’s minority students under existential threat? What’s all this business about surviving? So far, the core of their demands revolve around having a separate arm of student government, a increased diversity drive of the student body that isn’t necessary, and an unverifiable account of racial harassment because the alleged victim isn’t talking about it, except on social media.

I understand if the student body wants more diversity, but to pillory the student body leadership because they were perceived as not standing “in solidarity with their black peers and proclaim that Black Lives Matter” seems like an overblown reaction. Frankly, all lives matter, but that statement has elicited jeers and outrage on the left for reasons that continue to escape rational beings. Also, the racial incident occurred off campus–how is it that the responsibility of the school or its student government? People can be jerks in this world. It's about time these students realize that they're going to get their feelings hurt one day. It’s not the end of the world. There seems to be this false mindset that our overwhelmingly liberal college campuses are bastions of race-based oppression akin to that of Apartheid South Africa. They are not. Ironically, the students of Mizzou engaged in such actions when they decided to have separate healing spaces, one for blacks, the other for their "white allies." Also, both KU and MU have incidents that cannot be verified at present. I’m not talking about the fecal swastika, which is probably the work of an insane person, instead of that of a hardened Nazi. I’m talking about the alleged racial slur that was directed at Payton Head, Mizzou’s student body president, who claims that he was subjected to racial epithets from perpetrators driving in a red truck. No truck was ever found; the incident occurred off campus; and it doesn’t help Head that he blatantly lied about the KKK being on campus.

At KU, these students probably should work harder at student recruitment in class elections than calling for the heads of the student leadership. Yes, diversity is a concern among those in higher education, but this year’s freshman class seems to be quite diverse. Moreover, the statement released by Pringle and the rest of the leadership was met with insincerity for some of these members demanding change because they came after threats of impeachment. That’s one way to look at it. Another way is to view this as an opportunity to engage with Pringle since the Hawks obviously got their attention, which was the point all along, right?

Also, there's little evidence to suggest that Pringle, or anyone on the student leadership, is racist, so is the beef really the fact that they're not as passionate about these issues? That's why they need to be impeached or something?  

H/T Jazz Shaw