Archive for Thursday, August 30, 1990

S FIGHT AGAINST RACISM

August 30, 1990

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Kansas University's effort to foster cultural and ethnic diversity on campus may create a backlash of discriminatory behavior, the university ombudsman said.

Robert Shelton, the ombudsman, said Wednesday at a University Forum that it's possible KU students angered by attention given to minorities will react in protest.

He expects white students to form a White Student Union to parallel the existing Black Student Union. KU should prepare for an increase in "hate group" activity, he said.

"Skinheads are just one of the hate groups that are active," he said. "We need to know what we're going to do rather than react badly when it happens."

MINORITY students who believe they have been slighted by the university community will add to the mixture by continuing to press for change, he said.

Shelton, ombudsman for the past five years and an associate professor of religion, lectured on "Harassment, Pranks, Discrimination and the KU Vision of Community."

His speech was an attempt to bring into focus the cultural and ethnic strife at the university this spring, which apparently will continue this fall.

Shelton's job is to give students, faculty and staff, who otherwise might fall through the cracks, an outlet for discussing harassment and discrimination problems.

His workload has increased in recent years. In his first academic year as ombudsman, he recorded 120 contacts with individuals. In the last academic year the total was 314.

DURING his lecture, Shelton offered numerous examples of sexist, racist and culturally insensitive incidents that were aimed at KU students and faculty.

For example, recently several men pulled two women from a car and threw them into the Chi Omega fountain and a minority faculty member had ice thrown on her from a passing car.

"Some call that a prank. It's assault. It's sexual harassment," he said.

"Having fun at the expense of the dignity and rights of another person has long been recognized as unacceptable behavior."

Shelton said everyone associated with KU should work to create a "university community."

"We have some rhetoric, some excellent statements by the chancellor and policy formulations . . . that suggest that we see our univeristy as a community," he said.

"But we're not all clear about what that means. We need to talk about what it means for this university to be a community," he said.

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