Tiara Floyd made history in 2019 when she was elected as the first woman of color student body president at the University of Kansas.
But halfway through the spring 2020 semester, the University closed its campus after the new coronavirus pandemic spread across the United States, and Floyd faced leading a student government remotely, all while overcoming obstacles she said may not have been obvious to others.
“It was much more of this unconscious bias I felt,” Floyd said. “I wasn’t put in a situation where I was told no or people would shut me down because I’m a woman of color, but rather they would question my agency, or there were moments of tokenization.”
Floyd said she entered her term as student body president wondering if she was ready for the role, but despite moments in which she said she experienced micro-aggressions and doubt, she gained a newfound confidence in herself and her ability to lead.
Almost a year after its Student Senate victory, the former staff of the Crimson and Blue coalition reflects on the progress of their campaign promises, including campus road and parking infrastructure, expansion of student transportation and more.
“I’ve learned to stay firm in what I believe in while making hard decisions for the student body,” Floyd said.
Since she first entered office, Floyd and her administration have accomplished several of her coalition’s original platforms. A proposal to the Lawrence City Commission to bring e-scooters to the KU campus resulted in an agreement for a pilot program, though it was put on hold after the University closed due to the coronavirus.
She said she is most proud of implementing a pilot program for transit to Bert Nash Community Mental Health, a project that Policy and Development Director Isabella Southwick championed, and finding a new space for the Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, which Floyd said was her number one goal when she became president.
“Most of those [platforms] were able to happen, even if they took a different shape or different form later down the line,” Floyd said. “I’m so proud of what we were able to accomplish.”
As the University moved all classes online during the spring semester, Senate meetings were moved online as well. While Floyd said the quick turnaround to being online was difficult, she was able to continue serving students. Floyd advocated for a later date for students to elect classes pass/fail after she and the executive staff saw students calling on administration to extend the deadline.
“There were so many meetings to coordinate, and we had to figure things out pretty quickly every day, but I just took it head-on and tried to stay on schedule as much as possible,” Floyd said.
Floyd said the strong support system she had in the executive staff was what helped her work through a tumultuous semester.
“I tried to make sure that Tiara understood she was understood and she was heard, and that her experiences were valid,” Southwick said. “And I think that was a real challenge that we faced this year with a lot of people questioning the validity of her experience.”
The Office of Multicultural Affairs debuted a new annual award in Floyd’s name: the Tiara Floyd Award of Outstanding Service and Breaking Barriers. Floyd was the first recipient of the award.
Floyd will be moving to Kansas City, Missouri, to work with the AmeriCorps City Year program in underserved schools in the area. She will be providing one-on-one support to students to ensure academic success and help with behavioral management.
“I’m on a mission,” Floyd said. “A mission to make sure that every space I’m in, everything that I do is focused around [diversity, equity and inclusion] work and social justice to make spaces better for people like me.”