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Archive for Wednesday, December 20, 1989

MINORITY ISSUES DISCUSSED AT KU

December 20, 1989

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Students involved with a sociology class presentation at Kansas University will meet Thursday with Judith Ramaley, executive vice chancellor, about minority issues at KU.

Ramaley initiated the meeting after hearing that three KU teaching assistants had made a class presentation about minorities.

Rebecca Merz, a Wichita sophomore and one of the assistants, said she was excited about the chance to help combat racism on campus. It is her first year as a teaching assistant for Daryl Evans, assistant professor of sociology.

She and two other assistants produced a film about minority students at KU, which was presented to Evans' class in Hoch Auditorium.

"Racism is something very covert," Merz said. "It is based on ignorance and misunderstanding. Our goal was to educate people and raise an awareness for minority issues."

THE FILM, which incorporated about 30 interviews with minority students, as well as footage from other films and enlarged still photography, was presented Nov. 30.

Evans, who has several assistants because of the size of the class, said the project focused mainly on blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, Jews and Asians.

"I asked them to do something creative," Evans said. "It was a wonderful kind of montage."

He said the second day of the presentation, Dec. 5, Hoch was packed.

"Students usually bring roommates, friends, family members . . . during these presentations, but this was really full," Evans said.

Heads of KU minority organizations were part of a panel discussion that raised questions about racism on campus.

"I hadn't realized the depth of feelings of students concerning this issue," Evans said. "It was clear from the number of students who showed up that this wasn't just a splinter group."

Evans said that all the minority students on the panel except a Jewish student concurred that white students wouldn't take a seat next to them if another seat was available on the bus.

"THIS MIGHT not seem like a big deal," Evans said. "But it says something to them."

A day after the class presentation, minority concerns were raised in another way. Some black students protested what they described as a lack of university action in responding to minority issues. Protesters burned a copy of a 1988 report that outlined ways KU could combat racism, saying there hadn't been sufficient action taken on the part of the administration. The report was the product of a minority issues task force, which Ramaley appointed in response to tensions that developed at KU and in the Lawrence community when members of the Ku Klux Klan spoke on campus in the spring of 1988.

Evans said the timing of his class presentation and the Black Student Union protest was completely coincidental.

However, Evans said that the attendance at both the presentation and the protest showed that students were ready to address minority issues.

EVANS AND Merz said they believed the university was heading in the right direction to solve minority problems at KU.

"I read the minority task force report and thought it was well-written and well-planned," Evans said. "It seemed like a good first step. I think there's a greater realization that we need to nip this thing in the bud."

Ramaley said she met frequently with students and faculty about minority issues and was interested in what Evans and his teaching assistants had to say.

"I'm not asking for formal recommendations, but I will gladly listen if they have ideas and concerns," Ramaley said.

She said she thought more students were talking with her and other university administrators because racism was a common concern among students.

"Everyone is very concerned about this," she said. "Because of the Margin of Excellence and other programs, we've had a chance to create more positions dealing with minority issues. We're very happy to listen to students' concerns."

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