On Friday, April 30, the State of Kansas hosted an open forum to improve the campus climate. This open forum aimed to facilitate a dialogue with students to understand students’ perceptions of the campus climate and discuss the steps needed to make K-State more inclusive.
However, as soon as the open forum started, it was clear that it wasn’t exactly open.
Merriam webster defines a public forum as government property open to the public for expressive activities of any kind. However, nothing in this forum was open-ended or expressive.
First, what the students thought was an opportunity to interact with administration essentially turned out to be an administrative presentation, which took most of the time. While the presentation contained important information about K-State’s plans to make the campus more inclusive, students were unable to interact or provide feedback.
The only action available was sending questions to the Q&A section.
Chatts disabled, microphone and video capabilities disabled, and some simple, unanswered questions were just a few of the issues. Students could not use their First Amendment right to freely express their support or disagreement with any part of the forum discussion. It was as if it was some kind of violation of students’ right to free speech and free speech.
In my opinion, given that the audience for this event were largely representatives and allies of under-represented students who have first-hand experience of bigotry on our campus, systemic discrimination could have played a huge role in the suppression of public rights.
Funny enough, in my previous one-on-one conversation with President Richard Myers, I was assured that all students have an absolute right to free speech at K-State. However, this forum did not allow students to support or challenge the policies discussed during the session.
To someone like Myers, who has held long and important national security press conferences in his role as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he seemed more concerned about the 20-year-old dissidents.
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When the members of the Intercultural Leadership Council first discussed the public forum, I specifically said that the public forum should allow students to freely express their feelings. The previous public forum was much better because students could ask questions live – and at least talk.
By the end of the ILC chat, I felt like everyone in the audience could log into the Zoom panel, use the chat feature, and turn on their microphone to speak freely with the administration. Dude, was I wrong about this?
This shows that the concerns of under-represented students are not the top priority of most administrators. In my opinion, he felt that this public forum was a call to students not to be too critical of certain actions of the KSU administration.
I remember when an administrator lectured me after mentioning the presence of an invisible social class system in K-State similar to what was present before the French Revolution in France. However, this panel made me accept this theory, that the administration of K-State is the First Estate Clergies and the students are made the Third Estate Commoners – the voices and opinions of the latter are rarely heard and rarely taken. seriously.
While I’m only 21 and only recently started living a public life, I’m confident that I can host a better public forum, if need be, than what this forum was. I would allow at least my participants to participate – to be part of the Zoom panel, to speak in chats, and to re-enable their video and microphone functions.
The administration must understand that if it is to regain the trust of students, especially under-represented students, it must do better. This act perhaps further strained relations between the administration and the students.
Has the administration become so blinded by the arrogance and power it wields that it cannot see the issues facing them? The university is surrounded by its students – countless courageous students disappointed with the inability to lead the administration as they are about to leave K-State.
What is the administration doing to pacify us? They stoke the fires of our outrage by dismissing our concerns or suppressing them with superficial and meaningless statements or such limited open forums.
But notice my words, if the attitude of this administration continues, student recruitment and retention rates – especially underrepresented students – will continue to decline. This situation will ultimately lead to the end of K-State.
Therefore, dear administration of K-State, be better.
Vedant Deepak Kulkarni is an associate of Collegian, a member of the board of directors of Collegian Media Group and a manager of management information systems and mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect official policy or the position of the college student. Please send your comments to [email protected]