KU Senate votes to give additional funds and seats to new Multicultural Student Government

KU Student Senate logo

The Kansas University Student Senate, amid debate, has ceded its first powers to the newly formed KU Multicultural Student Government.

Wednesday night, the Senate voted to give Multicultural Student Government control over allocating the Multicultural Education Fund — which will have about $90,000 in it next school year, according to Senate leaders — and also to give Multicultural Student Government equal seats on the Senate’s campus fee review subcommittee — adding 12 seats to the existing 12 for a total of 24.

Earlier this month, the Senate allocated about $90,000 in required student fees, disseminated through KU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, to establish the Multicultural Student Government. Representatives of the new group said the money would be used for stipends to pay leaders and for advertising and other operating expenses.

That allocation is pending final approval by Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, who had not yet received the fee package to consider late Wednesday, according to university spokesman Joe Monaco.

Shortly before the Senate’s March 9 meeting, KU Multicultural Student Government became listed as an officially registered KU organization.

However, there are still steps that would need to be taken before it is officially recognized as a governing body of KU, including a process of approval to be included in the University Senate, Student Senate finance committee chairman and law student Tyler Childress said. He said the Multicultural Student Government also has yet to write its rules and regulations.

The group also has not yet held elections.

KU student Trinity Carpenter, who spoke on behalf of Multicultural Student Government at the Senate meeting, said the group was in the process of planning for elections but that it may be next school year before elections take place.

Student Katherine Rainey, currently listed as the organization’s primary contact, declined to answer a reporter’s questions about the status of the organization or a timeline for next steps.

That lack of formal establishment as a government was the reason some Senate representatives opposed the Multicultural Education Fund and fee committee bills.

“We’re putting the cart before the horse on this issue,” said Student Senate Chief of Staff Adam Moon. “Right now the body that we are intending to (give) authority and power to has not been given authority to govern by the body it will represent. … Once that vote occurs, then I’m all for the next Senate deciding what to do.”

Elections for the 2016-17 KU Student Senate will be held in mid-April. Moon said all presidential candidates have indicated excitement about working with the new Multicultural Student Government.

“There’s no reason for immediacy here really,” Moon said. “There’s no reason that this provision can’t go until next year.”

Senators arguing for the measures giving power to Multicultural Student Government pointed out the Senate is elected by students and therefore does have the power to cede authority.

Others argued the Senate passing measures to empower the Multicultural Student Government should happen during its formative phase, to show support for it fully forming as a governing body.

Carpenter, who is not a Senate representative, said Multicultural Student Government has had “ample response” from people who want to be involved and also has already formed relationships with many multicultural groups on campus that the current Senate has not adequately reached.

Carpenter called dissenting senators’ arguments like backstepping on their previous decision to fund Multicultural Student Government a “ploy to push this off and not have it be a reality.”

“It was such a huge accomplishment for us, and for you guys to disrespect it, to undermine it … is shameful at best,” she said.

Ultimately, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to approve both measures.

The Student Senate’s budget for salaries, advertising, supplies and rent is about $200,000 annually, according to the Senate’s 2016 budget.