Racial tensions are growing at the University of Kansas with a call for three top Student Senate leaders to resign and a recent graduate initiating a hunger strike.
The Senate’s Student Executive Committee is demanding that Student Body President Jessie Pringle, Student Body Vice President Zach George and Chief of Staff Adam Moon step down by Wednesday and that the full Senate to take up impeachment measures if they refuse to leave, the Lawrence Journal-World ( http://bit.ly/1LfUc9v ) reported. The committee registered a 6-3 “no confidence” vote Friday for the three leaders. One member abstained from the vote.
The resignation demand comes after last week’s unrest at the University of Missouri and after a forum that University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little moderated on Wednesday, where a student group Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk presented diversity demands, which include hiring a director for the Office of Multicultural Affairs by Dec. 15, mandatory “inclusion and belonging” training for students and faculty and increased diversity in hiring.
Senate vice president Shegufta Huma, who is also member of the committee, told the newspaper that the vote was the result of months of inaction that culminated in the officers’ reluctance to support the diversity demands. Pringle and George were singled out, with the committee saying they did not “stand in solidarity with their black peers and proclaim that Black Lives Matter” at Wednesday’s forum.
“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.
The three leaders released a statement Saturday, saying they plan to continue serving and professing support for minority groups. “Black lives matter. Black lives matter at the University of Kansas,” they wrote.
Gray-Little, who is black, said in a message to campus Friday that her administration will begin sharing information “early next week” about how the school will move forward on the issue of racism.
Meanwhile, John Cowan, a white 2014 University of Kansas graduate, began a hunger strike on campus Friday morning in solidarity with KU student group movements. If the activist groups’ demands are not met or if a plan of action is not issued by KU, “then I die or go to the hospital,” Cowan told the newspaper, echoing the sentiments of a graduate student at the University of Missouri who ended his hunger strike last week after the resignations of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe and Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.
“I’m kind of at an advantage because of my white privilege, so my suffering is self-inflicted,” said Cowan. “Others don’t have that choice, it’s inflicted upon them.”