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Archive for Thursday, April 12, 1990

KU BOFFICIALS MEET WITH PROTEST LEADERS

April 12, 1990

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Less than 24 hours after a student protest, Kansas University Chancellor Gene Budig and other administrators today met with members of a black student group to discuss ways of combating discrimination in the campus community.

Two members of Black Men of Today talked with KU officials for more than an hour about their desire to make KU a place where all students feel welcome. Judith Ramaley, executive vice chancellor, said the discussion was productive.

"We talked about the agenda we all share," said Ramaley, who joined Budig at the meeting. "It was a very helpful . . . fruitful discussion. This is a positive development for the campus, because people are talking with each other."

One of the students, Mark McCormick, said after the meeting that "I feel like they respect us more now and that we can communicate better now. They mentioned some good things and we are encouraged." He declined to elaborate on details of the meeting.

THIS MORNING'S meeting came after Budig met Wednesday with about 500 student demonstrators to respond to their allegation that KU isn't taking sufficient action to combat discrimination.

After a peaceful march to a fraternity involved in a racial incident and a 3 -hour sit-in outside the chancellor's office, about 500 students jammed the rotunda in Strong Hall to hear Budig.

Protesting students demanded the university take a proactive stance against racism, rather than a reactive one.

The students focused on an incident March 30 at Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity in which Ann Dean, a black KU student, reported to police that Matt Willenborg, a white SAE member, threw a pizza at her and insulted her with a racial slur.

Budig told the students gathered around him that he was "appalled" by the incident involving Dean at the SAE fraternity and that he was "ashamed for the university." The act as reported was unacceptable in an academic community, he said.

MCCORMICK of Black Men of Today, a student group that played a dominant role in the protest, demanded that the university punish the SAE house. The fraternity was placed on probation several years ago for hazing pledges, he said.

If the fraternity isn't again placed on probation, McCormick said, "What that shows to me is if you violate a woman, a black woman, nothing happens. If you violate the rights of a white male here you get put on probation."

"I today offer the institution's apology to Ann Dean," said Budig, who has asked administrators to take "appropriate action" to address the situation and pledged to cooperate with Dist. Atty. Jim Flory, who is reviewing the case for a possible criminal charge.

"I realize that it is not popular to stand before a group like this and say we honor due process. Being a chancellor at times isn't a lot of fun. But we live in a society of law and we adhere to due process as we would in any case," Budig said.

DEAN, WHO HAS filed complaints with KU and Lawrence police, also spoke to the crowd Wednesday. She thanked the protesters for their support, and said it was sad it took the SAE controversy to bring recognition to problems on campus.

Andrea Katzman, a representative of Students Concerned About Discrimination, said before Budig spoke that no one should be surprised by the SAE incident, because it "represents how people feel towards minority students on campus."

"We have an administration that is allowing an environment that is not welcoming to minority on campus. And by our silence we are saying, `That's OK.' I think all of us here have to stand up and say, `It's not OK.'" Katzman said.

Kristen Lange, an Overland Park sophomore who spoke as a representative of women attending KU, said the SAE incident had as much to do with racism as it did with "the kind of violence toward women that we accept as a society."

John Lewis of Black Men of Today said he wants a cultural center for minority students, an open search for a new KU director of minority affairs and a stronger commitment to recruitment and retention of minority students and faculty.

After students addressed the audience, Budig responded to a broad range of questions. He promised "an open and fair search" for a minority affairs director but didn't comment on the cultural center idea.

BUDIG DEFENDED the university's efforts to recruit and retain minority faculty and students as well as female faculty. He said that of 28 new faculty hired for the next academic year, 11 are women and six are minority group members.

He said there are 300 minority graduate students at KU this year, a 50 percent increase from last year. Ten graduate teaching assistantships have been added in the past 12 months. More scholarships for minority students are available, he said.

In addition, KU officials released a plan Tuesday designed to improve race relations on the campus. It includes teaching student leaders about cultural diversity and appointing a student advisory committee to the Office of Minority Affairs.

Frequently interrupted by protesters, Budig said university officials haven't done a good job of articulating to students, faculty and staff what work was being done to improve the campus climate for the frequent targets of discrimination.

"We have done a miserable job in communicating what we are doing," he said. "There have been a number of . . . things, incorporated, instituted, advanced. We have done a poor job communicating things to the total campus community. I apologize."

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