Student protesters upset by a racial incident at a Kansas University fraternity said they're satisfied that a demonstration Wednesday got the attention of KU administrators.
The protesters, demanding that KU take steps to curb racism, also say they'll keep pressing the administration to take action.
"We want to pressure KU into taking action against people who violate other people's human rights," Mark McCormick, a protest leader and member of the organization, Black Men of Today, said Wednesday.
In the protest, students marched into Strong Hall and demanded to meet with KU Chancellor Gene Budig. Budig, who was in a meeting at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., returned to Lawrence to talk to the students.
Students went inside Strong Hall after an attempt to block traffic on Jayhawk Boulevard was thwarted by KU police officers, who redirected traffic so vehicles could not enter campus.
Earlier in the day, protesters marched to the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and delivered a "get-well card.''
"WE HAVE a get-well card to give to the SAEs because they have a sickness that the university and entire country has," McCormick told a crowd of about 80.
A fraternity member, Matthew Willenborg, has been accused by a black student of insulting her when she delivered pizzas to the fraternity on March 30.
After going into Strong Hall, the protesters waited for Budig for more than three hours. Speaking to the crowd estimated by police at 500, Budig said KU is committed to improving the campus climate for minorities and offered the "institution's apology'' to Ann Dean, the student who delivered the pizzas to the fraternity.
After hearing the chancellor, McCormick said, "Setting up another committee isn't the answer. If they don't act, we're going to tack our list of demands to their door . . . We want Matthew Willenborg expelled, and we want the fraternity off campus. We will do something every day until the administration acts."
WHEN THE marchers went to the SAE house, the "get-well card'' was handed to the house president, Bryce Petty, by Toni Lawhorn, a Grandview, Mo., senior.
Petty said today that he knew the protesters were planning to come to the fraternity, 1301 West Campus Rd.
"We heard it through the grapevine," Petty said. "Everyone here understands their frustrations, and they're sorry it happened. But we still believe it was an isolated incident. We're not a racist house, and we don't condone racism."
Protesters, however, are calling for the university to suspend the SAE house.
"We are sending a message to both the administration and fraternity, as well as the community as a whole, that we won't tolerate racism or acts of violence," said Cedric Lockett, the new president of Black Student Union. "In addition, we feel that something needs to be done immediately to eradicate the current situation."
PROTESTERS came not only from minority groups. Thomas Paszkiewicz, a Lawrence resident, said he wanted to support Ann Dean and other students who have experienced discrimination on campus.
"I am a skinhead against racism regardless of who it is against or who it is by," said Paszkiewicz, who is a member of Anti-Racist Action, a nationwide group. "Whenever there is an opportunity to protest, I protest. The university is dragging its feet trying to cover this up."
He joined the other protesters who at 12:30 p.m. marched into Strong Hall, where they shouted "We want action."
"The more we say we want action, the more they say there's very little that they can do. How long do you want to wait?" McCormick asked, gathering applause from the crowd. "Don't you see what happens when you want to be nice? They try to fool us and block up traffic. This is reflective of the administration. They act like they don't care. Now I don't know if any of us are going to leave. How many of you have even seen the chancellor?"
MCCORMICK then met with Caryl Smith, dean of student life, who told him that Budig was at the medical center. McCormick and other Black Men of Today leaders, John Lewis and Darren Fulcher, told Smith that they demanded to see Budig, who came back to the Lawrence campus at 4 p.m.
Smith at first told McCormick that Budig preferred to meet with only a few of the protesters and not the entire crowd.
"We've had meeting after meeting after meeting, and nothing has happened," McCormick said. "He has to deal with us. If four of us sit down, nothing would happen. He will address this entire body of people first. He's been putting us off all year."
Lewis said he was frustrated with the university's hesitation in imposing sanctions against Willenborg and the fraternity.
"The university has been inactive during this whole situation," Lewis said. "They say this is an `off-campus incident.' Are they saying we have no control? We need to stick together on all of these issues. We will be bargaining and negotiating, but we are not meeting to just talk about what we want.
"We need to strive for change for everyone on this campus.''
Lewis said KU's Office of Minority Affairs wasn't doing much to help minority students at KU. Marshall Jackson, interim director, said the minority affairs office stood behind the students.
"OUR OFFICE is here to serve students," Jackson said. "I stand behind the students. I have been involved with the students."
But McCormick and Lewis said that Jackson had earlier called the members of Black Men of Today destructive. Jackson said that was taken out of context, and he said that he called the division of black students destructive.
Andrea Katzman, organizer of Students Concerned about Discrimination and member of Hillel, a campus Jewish organization, also spoke to the crowd and said the university should take a proactive role instead of a reactive role.
"We wouldn't be here if they had listened to our concerns," Katzman said.
Although protesters said they wouldn't have staged the demonstration in Strong Hall if police hadn't blocked off Jayhawk Boulevard, officials today stood behind their decision to cut off traffic.
"I believe we gave the appropriate response to shut down traffic," said KU police Sgt. Schuyler Bailey. "It was for their safety."
A total of 23 officers from the KU and Lawrence police departments were assigned to Strong Hall after the protesters went inside the building.
There was no damage in the building and no incidents of violence occurred, officials said.
"The crowd was extremely cordial and just wanted to exercise their right of free speech," said Lawrence Police Chief Ron Olin. "It was a very, very good crowd."