In a statement sent on Nov. 18, Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk gave detailed reasonings for each of their 15 demands. The demands require action from University administration, the Office of Diversity and Equity, the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access, University and Student Senate, the Lawrence Police Department and a variety of University departments.
“Administrators and staff are working on identifying who will be on the advisory group and developing an extensive charge for the group to address," Jill Hummels, communications manager for the Office of the Provost, said in an email. "It’s still a work in progress. It is a top concern."
Here’s a breakdown of the 15 demands:
1. Director of Office of Multicultural Affairs hired by December.
Since former OMA Director Blane Harding resigned in May, there hasn’t been a permanent director for the Office of Multicultural Affairs, an issue the Nov. 18 statement says is “imperative” the University resolves.
“They need to be able to connect well with students, understand the current campus climate, have a plan of action to address issues, and have intentional dialogue with administration to create systemic change,” the statement said.
Harding served in the position for three years. Since then, Precious Porras has been serving as interim director.
Katherine Rainey, a member of Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk, said in an interview that Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk is looking for the Office of Diversity and Equity to “actually make a sound decision and choose someone.”
“We’ve gone long enough without a director, and I think moving into the spring semester it’s important that someone’s in that office and ready to go and advocate for students,” Rainey said.
Rainey said the Office of Diversity and Equity is in the application process and are in the final rounds of the hiring process.
2. Mandatory, intense “inclusion and belonging” training for all levels of students, staff, faculty and administration.
“An important part of creating systemic change is educating those around you and equipping them with the training to work with, respect and support people from all demographics,” the statement said.
Rainey said that ideally the training would take the form of required classes rather than an online module.
Rainey said online trainings are a good start, but students don’t respond to those as well and “just click through it without learning.” Rainey said the classes could be in African and African American Studies or Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies; or a class about indigenous studies.
Part of the demand would include a tiered system of cultural competency training with different levels of intensity for students, faculty and staff, and administration.
On the “most basic level of training” students would be required to take cultural competency classes as part of graduation requirements. The class would be for credit rather than a course online like Alcohol EDU. The highest level of training would also include training for resident assistants because they have so much interaction with students, Rainey said.
The University is currently working on developing a social justice minor.
“Ideally those classes would be underneath the social justice minor,” Rainey said.
3. Issue a campus climate survey by February 2016.
Earlier this semester, the Office of Diversity and Equity, led by Nate Thomas, announced that it was working on formulating a campus climate survey to “make sure that no one feels excluded or unsafe on campus due to their race, religion or sexual orientation,” Thomas previously told the Kansan.
“The goal is to learn more about how KU’s environment supports or hinders a variety of populations, such as underrepresented student groups and faculty navigating the tenure-track process,” Jeffrey Vitter, provost and executive vice chancellor, said in a statement in spring. “We want to understand the disruptions we face in completing our jobs and the challenges that make us lose focus on our studies.”
“We feel like Dr. Nate Thomas has been in his position for far too long for them to not have made enough progress to have the climate survey out by this spring,” Rainey said.
Rainey said she believes using a similar survey created by Sue Rankin, a senior research associate in the Center for the Study of Higher Education at Pennsylvania State University, would be a way to expedite the process.
“We also know that the person that they are using to create the climate survey, Mrs. Sue Rankin, already has surveys she has used and we believe are very effective and almost identical to what we would want here at KU, and so essentially we don’t feel like it’s necessary to reinvent the wheel,” Rainey said. “We would much rather have a survey put out in February that just needs minor details or adjustments to fit our campus instead of waiting for there to be an entire new survey created.”
Rankin has worked with more than 70 institutions and organizations in “implementing assessments and developing strategic plans regarding social justice issues,” according to Rankin and Associates Consulting.
4. Train and rehire Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access staff and implement accountability measures.
According to the statement, “there have been many grievances made about the ineffectiveness and bias” of the office. The office is in charge of investigating cases of discrimination and sexual harassment and assault.
Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk is calling for a review of the office’s training, hiring and case review processes. The Office of Diversity and Equity, along with Thomas, would oversee a review of IOA to make sure it is doing its job and being transparent, Rainey said.
“I don’t think they have a grasp of any of them, which is why we have consequences for students and where their only punishment is an essay,” Rainey said.
Rainey said she would also like to see the empty positions at IOA filled with diverse voices.
5. Increase consistent hiring of diverse faculty and staff.
According to the statement, Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk said they believe “increasing a consistent hiring pattern of diversity in all workings of higher education will create a more inclusive campus culture.”
Rainey said the administration should look critically at its hiring process.
“It’s not necessarily a quota so much as just looking at the system that we already have in place, and the fact of the matter is that our system highlights and amplifies the voices of white professors,” Rainey said. “The reality is that we do not hire diverse faculty and we do not place them on a strong tenure track so that they have job security and so that they can really voice their concerns with administration and University problems.”
Rainey also said Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk has been contacted by a few departments about ways they can be more inclusive in their hiring.
“It’s not just numbers. It’s not just statistics," Rainey said. "It’s a mentality change."
6. Increase percentage of underrepresented domestic and undocumented students.
This demand should be looked at through Admissions and the Office of First-Year Experience, Rainey said.
“We’ve seen throughout this past year, especially that there is not a strong push for increasing the domestic diversity; however, there have been goals set and plans of action put in place to increase international diversity,” Rainey said. “And they are intertwining all of those numbers to make it seem as though KU is more diverse and it’s increasing their diversity.”
7. Immediate amendments to the Student Senate Election Code.
On Nov. 18, Student Senate reversed itself and lowered the general election spending cap to $1,000 after raising it to $2,000 earlier this semester.
The decision to raise the cap came under fire as many said it would be harmful to lower-income students who want to run for Senate.
In the statement, Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk said “this will create an extreme disadvantage to students who are already underrepresented on this campus and in the Senate chambers.”
Rainey said the group feels satisfied with this action and considers this demand met.
8. Increase aid and assistance to active military and veterans.
In the statement, Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk said they feel the resources for active military and veterans are insufficient for fully integrating military personnel back into campus life, stating their resource offices are “understaffed.”
“Throughout the past couple years, we’ve had a lot of military personnel come to us and say, you know, they have issues with their professors not allowing them leave when necessary,” Rainey said. “There may be issues of PTSD or not knowing how to adjust back to not only being a civilian, but to being a student. And that is so crucial in making sure that they succeed here at KU.”
Rainey said the Office of Veteran Affairs would be a good starting place to address this demand.
9. Establish a team of multicultural counselors to specifically address severe mental illness and the needs of students of color by fall 2016.
The statement from Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk said that, currently, students with severe mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder, are turned away at the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS. According to the statement, “this presents a huge problems for students who cannot find treatment elsewhere due to financial/insurance complications.”
In an email on Nov. 12, Pam Botts, associate director of CAPS, told the Kansan that because of the nature of bipolar disorder, CAPS cannot responsibly manage or treat this disorder.
“We provide services that are within the scope of what we can reasonably and responsibly manage, given our resources and our mandate,” Botts said in the email.
CAPS Director Michael Maestas told the Kansan that CAPS has been working with Student Senate to look at increasing staff numbers. That could take the form of an increase in student fees for the 2016-17 academic year.
In an email, Holdover Senator Taylor Zabel said that if an increase in student fees for CAPS is passed in the spring, Maestas and the Senate board will look at placing counselors at the Office of Multicultural Affairs to assist students.
10. Ban concealed weapons from campus.
Rainey said that because students do not have much access to the Kansas Legislature, Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk is pushing for administration, Student Senate and University Senate to “use their voices in those spaces to make sure that concealed weapons are permanently banned from campus.”
A bill passed by the Kansas Legislature allows concealed weapons in most public buildings in the state. Universities are exempt from this law until July 2017. With the deadline approaching, students and faculty have expressed safety concerns about allowing concealed carry on campus.
Earlier this month, a survey was sent out to students to get their opinions on the policy. Student Senate officers are hoping to bring those results to the Kansas Board of Regents as it prepares to draft a new weapons policy to comply with the state law.
Additionally, Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk wrote in the statement that weapons on campus would “be used to terrorize students of color.”
According to Kansas State Representative Dennis Highberger, in order to extend the deadline, the Kansas Legislature would need to change the statute. Highberger said that, as of right now, chances of that happening are slim.
Highberger said although he hopes the Legislature will take the concerns of Kansas Regents and its students into consideration, he doesn’t see strong support for extending the exemption.
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.
Rainey said she believes the University’s process for sexual assault investigations needs to be critically analyzed.
“Rape is unacceptable. KU must stop assigning essays as punishment. KU must stop allowing rapists/harassers, abusers to circumvent justice,” the statement said.
Rainey said departments need to be holding professors accountable.
“We are also looking at the IOA as well as administration to make sure that there is a creation of a clear policy that removes these professors,” Rainey said. “In addition to that, making sure that there is a fair process that they go through because this whole concept of well they were proven innocent and therefore they can return is kind of sickening.”
12. Open investigation into Grant, Starling, et. al. case as a hate crime, beginning with IOA.
Currently, the Lawrence Police Department has filed a report and investigation is underway regarding Black Student Union president and Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk member Kynnedi Grant’s experience with a hate crime, according to Sgt. Trent McKinley.
At the town hall forum on Nov. 11, Grant said she and her friends were assaulted after attending a house party on Kentucky Street. She said two white males verbally attacked her, put her in a chokehold and pulled a gun on her friends.
Grant said that when police arrived, they did nothing.
In the statement, Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk said the “Institutional Office of Opportunity and Access has a responsibility to any and all perpetrators associated with the Grant and Starling case.”
McKinley said LPD is looking into the case and has been in contact with the University.
“It’s still continuing to be an ongoing investigation, and we’ve not made any arrests,” McKinley said.
13. Reopen investigation into the murder of Rick “Tiger” Dowdell.
In summer 1970, Rick “Tiger” Dowdell, a KU student, was shot and killed by Lawrence police.
According to Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk, Dowdell was a “leader and advocate for black liberation during his time at Lawrence High School and KU."
McKinley said he is unaware of any action being taken to reopen this case, and said if an investigation were to take place, it would likely be done by a third party.
“Lawrence is a city, but it’s completely centered around KU,” Rainey said. “And I think that if administration was to seek out LPD and say, you know, ‘This was one of our students. We, in the name of accountability, and in the name of justice we want to reopen this investigation. We want it to be looked at,’ then I think that would hold a powerful weight. And it would also bring closure to a lot of people who were affected.”
14. Establish a multicultural student government independent of current University of Kansas Student Senate.
Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk has demanded a multicultural student government because many members don’t feel the current Student Senate has done enough to represent multicultural students.
Student Senate started impeachment proceedings on Nov. 18 for Student Body President Jessie Pringle, Student Body Vice President Zach George and Chief of Staff Adam Moon.
Rainey said Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk is working with students at the University of Missouri to see how a multicultural student government would work. The University of Missouri has “a very ideal situation going on where both of their student governments coexist and they interact well,” Rainey said.
The formation of a multicultural student government would be done through an election, and everyone would be welcome, Rainey said.
“As you’ve seen this year, they [Student Senate] have been less than willing to work with multicultural students to address our issues and so to a certain extent it’s not really on us as to whether they’re going to put their issues aside to make sure all students are being served,” Rainey said. “We are by no means cutting ties with them and saying we will never speak with them.”
15. Thorough plan of action from administration by Jan. 19, 2016.
“While it may not be 100 percent obtainable to have all of these completed by the spring of 2016 semester, it is imperative that the administration and governing bodies show, thorough actions to resolve longstanding issues on campus,” the statement said.
The Office of the Provost released a statement on Nov. 17 addressing this demand.
“We are assembling a small advisory team of faculty, students, staff, and administrators,” that statement said. “The group will deliver an action plan by mid-January that addresses challenges put forward by Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk, as well as concerns from others at the forum. The action plan will target retention and graduation rates of students, in addition to mandatory education, through facilitated sessions, on inclusion and belonging for all students, faculty, staff, and administrators and a plan for accountability.”
Editor's note: A name is redacted because the individual has not been convicted.