Archive for Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Activist banned from part of KU campus for making students feel unsafe is hired to teach on another part of campus

Caleb Stephens, an organizer of the Lawrence chapter of Black Lives Matter, addresses the Lawrence school board, including board member Vanessa Sanburn, at left, during an Oct. 24, 2016 meeting at the district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. Stephens and other BLM allies spoke out against the district's handling of, among other issues, recent allegations against a South Middle School teacher who had reportedly made racist comments during class.

Caleb Stephens, an organizer of the Lawrence chapter of Black Lives Matter, addresses the Lawrence school board, including board member Vanessa Sanburn, at left, during an Oct. 24, 2016 meeting at the district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. Stephens and other BLM allies spoke out against the district's handling of, among other issues, recent allegations against a South Middle School teacher who had reportedly made racist comments during class.

October 24, 2017


A Lawrence activist who is banned from one University of Kansas building after an outburst left students and staff fearing for their safety has been hired to teach students on another part of the KU campus.

Caleb Stephens, a licensed social worker and organizer with the group BLM-LFK, was banned from KU’s School of Social Welfare building, Twente Hall, after a contentious confrontation in 2015 with the school’s then-dean. University officials said the profanity-laced tirade had disrupted the learning environment and caused students, faculty and staff to feel unsafe.

On Monday, university officials confirmed Stephens’ employment with KU as a graduate teaching assistant in the department of theater, where he is also a doctoral student.

Joe Monaco, KU's director of strategic communications, also confirmed that Stephens' ban is still in place until the end of 2018. Monaco, however, wouldn't comment on whether the ban and the safety issues that were raised by it were considered when hiring Stephens to be a graduate teaching assistant.

In a December 2015 letter addressed to Stephens from KU’s Office of the Provost, Diane Goddard, vice provost for administration and finance, describes the events that led to Stephens’ banning from Twente Hall. She wrote that on Dec. 9, 2015, Stephens showed up at the dean’s office “unannounced and without an appointment.”

Stephens, according to Goddard, then “demanded that the Dean send an email to members of the School — telling him you would not leave until the message was sent, and attempting to dictate the precise terms of the message.”

“You then began shouting at the Dean, from the doorway, and your voice could be heard up and down the halls,” she wrote. “Your shouting — captured on video that I reviewed — disrupted classrooms, and caused instructors and other students to fear for their personal safety.”

In a statement addressed to the University Daily Kansan from February 2016, Stephens explained that he had confronted then-Dean Paul Smokowski after weeks of discussion between the dean and KU’s Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk student activists over concerns about racial equity issues at KU.

Stephens, saying that he was dissatisfied with Smokowski's response to requests that Smokowski write a letter (as dictated by Stephens and his fellow activists) in solidarity with RCIH, said he then began yelling at the dean.

“I used (the F-word) a lot throughout the four-minute conversation, but did not attack him, advance towards him, threaten him in any way, and was at least three to four feet away from him the entire time,” Stephens wrote of the encounter, also claiming that Smokowski “didn’t (expletive) care about” people of color and that the dean “wasn’t following the requirements of his licensure through the BSRB (Behavioral Science Regulatory Board).”

Stephens could not be reached for comment Monday or Tuesday.

It is unclear when Stephens was hired at KU, though the situation was brought to the Journal-World’s attention via an anonymous email that the sender had originally relayed to the KU chancellor’s office.

The anonymous sender was concerned about Stephens’ language on Facebook, in which he wrote — seemingly in response to an issue of racial injustice — that “yt (white) people are such pieces of (expletive),” with “no accountability and responsibility.” It’s not clear what specifically had prompted Stephens’ remarks, though he regularly posts about race issues on social media.

Jill Hummels, communications manager at KU’s Office of the Provost, said Tuesday that she was familiar with the scenario but declined to comment further, instead pointing the Journal-World to the university’s social media policy.

It was unclear whether the social media policy applies to Stephens' statement, and it also is unclear how the university administers the social media policy or handles complaints made about social media activity by staff. Hummels declined to answer questions about any of those topics.

The Kansas Board of Regents in 2013 approved a policy that would allow disciplining, including firing, university employees if they communicated through social media in a way that negatively affected the school.

The policy was made in response to a tweet by KU professor David Guth that was critical of the National Rifle Association.

Guth went on administrative leave after a Twitter post following the shootings that left 13 dead at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. Guth wrote: “The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you.”

Stephens’ ban from Twente Hall will remain in effect until Jan. 1, 2019, “unless withdrawn in writing,” Goddard said in her 2015 letter.

“Please note that if you engage in a similar disruptive and threatening conduct in other University buildings, you may be subject to arrest for disorderly conduct, and this ban may be expanded to include the entire campus,” the letter to Stephens said.


Joe Norgay 4 months, 3 weeks ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Brock Masters 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Black privilege and White guilt at its finest.

Richard Aronoff 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Regarding Stephens' current position, nobody could do a better job. Nobody.

Nathan Anderson 4 months, 3 weeks ago

On his Instagram, he posted a pic on Oct 4th stating "Unless you FINALLY gonna define ytness as a mental illness, you need to stop talking about mental illness and violent crimes." I can't imagine how he can be an effective TA with this mindset.

Also, on Sept 30th he posted a pic of someone's facebook post that he disliked and incited his social media mob to "expose his ass". Given his group BLM LFK's actions to bully businesses, that's disconcerting to say the least. I'm sure this is just scratching the surface.

Joe Norgay 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Totally agree Nathan. If you look at his Facebook page, he links to this article and one of his "followers" calls the author of the article a POS. Someone who acts like they're tolerant and doing good for the world is calling a newspaper reporter a POS for writing an obvious public story of interest. A person who was banned from campus for being a bully and harassing an administrator is now teaching at the same institution.

Now.. the above is just fact and common sense. But I'd like to say a few things that are opinion. My first comment got removed likely because I said Caleb is as bad as the people he protests against. If you look at his posting history (as has been pointed out) he uses intimidation, violence and hatefulness under the guise of social justice to prey on those he doesn't like. He does not care about POC, about disadvantaged people or anyone who's been oppressed or marginalized by society. He is simply using the movement of social justice to cast a spotlight on himself and use it for personal gain. If Caleb were reading this comment, he would think I'm a white person trying to keep him down when in reality I have a PhD in clinical psychology from KU and can clearly see a troubled young man who's latched onto a social movement and used it to make himself feel big.

It could not be any more cut and dry that someone who paints such large generalizations about groups of people different from himself is as bad as those he's generalizing against. The day his "followers" realize that they've been swindled by a snake oil salesman who doesn't have their best interest in mind but is instead using them for his own self interest, is the day that they'll grow in a more positive way as a person. It's disgusting that he manipulates people into being hateful and divisive towards those who often don't deserve it. Of course racism is horrible as is sexism, xenophobia, etc. And yes there are still injustices in our society that go unchallenged. But he and his "followers" need only look at MLK, who mind you knows a thing or two about the subject, to see that Caleb Stephens approach is disgraceful when compared to prominent black rights leaders of the past.

I plan to voice my concerns to the chancellor and hope other alums, students and citizens of Lawrence do as well.

Bob Summers 4 months, 3 weeks ago

What's not to like about this guy? He is a congenital Liberal. He is Black. He hates. He is antisocial.

He is perfect for KU.

Michael Dennis 4 months, 3 weeks ago

We aren't reading you anymore, Bob. Go back to your word find puzzles.

Bob Summers 4 months, 3 weeks ago

You wish you couldn't read my insightful, cutting edge, critical thinking retorts to the fast moving Liberal fantasies of the day.

You are at the mercy of my profound wisdom.

Francis Hunt 4 months, 3 weeks ago

If a white person preached the hatred that Caleb does (not to mention posting it on social media) and behaved the way this young man does KU would boot them off campus so fast their head would spin. Hypocrisy at it's best, KU continues to disappoint and disgust me with their actions. I've always been curious about Caleb, who was raised by a very affluent, white, Lawrence family yet preaches such hate towards white people. Is he over compensating for his white privilege?

Brock Masters 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Remember what KU did to the professor who dared utter the N word one time and in a constructive context? They destroyed her because students felt unsafe but different standard for this guy I guess.

Francis Hunt 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Brought to you by the same people who invited Lil Yachty to Late Night. A rapper who features the N word throughout his musical repertoire.

Brock Masters 4 months, 3 weeks ago

If I read his shirt correctly he claims to be a grandchild of a slave. I call BS on this considering slavery ended over 100 years ago. Maybe he is, but I’m not buying it.

MerriAnnie Smith 4 months, 3 weeks ago

That's a bit of an ignorant statement, Brock.

It stands to reason that most black people in this country came from slaves.

Some, of course didn't. They've come here since slavery was abolished. But MOST of them would have come from former slaves. That's just a logical conclusion.

And I'm 74 and still walking around. I remember before the 60's when black people were given civil rights. That, in itself, was a form of slavery. When I worked in high school as a waitress black people were not allowed to come in the front door. Black employees had to go to the back door to come inside. They could not come out of the kitchen. They had their own bathroom. in the kitchen.

When I was a child I would get on the New Orleans city bus and the bus driver would make elderly grandmothers get up and stand in the aisle so I could sit down.

The situation for black people then, whose parents had been literally slaves, was just short of slavery status. And many of those people are now my age and can well remember how it was.

Your indication that you don't think black people today came from slave families is laughable and ignorant.

MerriAnnie Smith 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Btw, Brock. I'm a liberal and proud of it. But I do agree this guy was wrong in the way he went about airing his complaints. He sounds a bit too hyper and for that reason I'm not sure he'd be a good staff member either. We can agree on that.

Brock Masters 4 months, 3 weeks ago

He didn’t say he was descended from a slave. He said he is a grandchild of a slave which means his grandmother or father must have been a slave.

‘Your indication that you don't think black people today came from slave families is laughable and ignorant.’

What is it about you that you feel the need to lie about what I said. Of course some black people are descended from slaves, but I doubt any his age had a grandparent that was a slave in this country.

MerriAnnie Smith 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Or a great-grandchild, or a great-great grandchild. It works that way too.

I see what you meant now, but I disagree because a grandchild might be a grandchild of a great great great grandparent.

Not something we think about often. But there are great grandparents today with great grandchildren whom they consider like their own children. So his family may well have referred to a great grandparent as a grandparent.

I've said a few times that my grandchild's grrrrrrrt-grandpa was War Chief Waubaunsee for whom counties and lakes are named here in Kansas. He likes to hear that and he considers Waubaunsee a grandparent - just one he's never met

I'll add that my grandson never met my grandfather but he was a beautiful hearted person and I do think of my grandson as Gpa Dan's grandchild.

You may have to get old like me to know that it's all in how you feel about your ancestors.

At any rate.... good discussion, Brock..

MerriAnnie Smith 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Btw, my gr'daughter threatened me with the job of helping to raise her child (she's 28 now) the way I helped raise her. I'd find that to be a great joy.

Brock Masters 4 months, 3 weeks ago

MerriAnnie, a great grandchild is just that, a great grand child. There is a difference. If that is what he meant he should have said as you stated, descended.

I’m not as old as you but not a spring chicken either.

Thanks for sharing a bit of your family history.

Clara Westphal 4 months, 3 weeks ago

This is a terrible hire. How will he treat the students in his class(es) that are not black? KU needs to get its act together and terminate this person.

Marcia Epstein 4 months, 3 weeks ago

  1. My training and belief is that all people with light skin like mine are racist to varying degrees because of the privilege we are accorded due to our skin. And we must all work to learn, understand, believe, and improve our own behavior and that of others.

  2. I also believe that when we prevent people - individually or in certain groups - from having impact, one of their options, if they have the ability to take this risk, is to "yell louder" rather than to give up.

  3. When people with light skin like mine embrace, to any degree, false and damaging stereotypes, such as "black men are dangerous," the thoughts (and emotions caused by those thoughts) of those with light skin are not determined by actual danger or safety.

Bob Marley, in the song "War" "Until the philosophy which hold one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned everywhere is war."

"White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack" by Peggy McIntosh, 1989

Brock Masters 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Wow, just wow. Demonizes stereotyping by stereotyping. I and most , as you put it, light skin people, do not believe we are superior to anyone because of our light skin. Damn, I’d be an idiot to think so when there are, should I say dark skin people, like Ben Carson, Clarence Thomas, Martin Lither King, Jr. and on and on who are far more intelligent and accomplished then me.

You don’t know me, but please tell me how my skin color got me to where I am today?

Who is more privileged - the dark skin Obama daughters or the white child in rural Appalachia?

Just how are we stopping people from having impact? Specifics please.

I don’t think black men are dangerous, but I do think men in general are. You have to wary of all men including fat white men like Harvey Weinstein or weasel like men like Anthony Weiner.

You need to educate yourself on the Nation of Islam, the new black panthers and the BLM. They are black Supremacist organizations. Just as bad as the KKK.

What do you think the Congressional Black Caucus is? It is a government funded organization whose goal is to legislative based on the needs of a certain group defined by their dark skin.

Racism exists no doubt but you cannot tell who is a racist by their skin color - only by their actions. Your stereotyping is just as evil as Hitler’s or KKK members.

Clara Westphal 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Take a look at photos of the multi-million dollar Pro Football and Pro Basketball players and then take a look at the photos of the US military killed in action in the Middle East. Then explain again to me the 'white privilege'.

Francis Hunt 4 months, 3 weeks ago

So Ms. Epstein are you saying that because he is black that his behavior is okay? Does the color of his skin justify his behavior? He was raised with a heck of a lot more money and privilege than most white people I know. His outburst at Twente Hall isn't the only time he has behaved that way. Can you honestly tell me a white professor or white student would still be associated with KU in any way, shape or form if they behaved like him? It's discrimination, anytime you treat ANYONE differently. Why is it he can discriminate against ALL whites and it is acceptable? How can KU justify hiring someone who openly discriminates AND preaches hatred against ALL whites?

Richard Aronoff 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Ms. Epstein: I would advise you to leave your statement off of your resume and to avoid those comments during an interview, unless you aspire to a position that would require you to ask your clients, "Do you want fries with that?"

David Holroyd 4 months, 3 weeks ago

And to think White Owl got banned from the campus for loving and being a peaceful person.

Who would think that at KU the premier institution of Diversity that an old man, White Owl would be banned.



David Holroyd 4 months, 3 weeks ago

Mr. Stephens,,

I hope you would take the time to read about Etta Moten Barnett and Moses Gunn.

Both graduates of the University of Kansas.

Ms. Etta Moten Barnett was Bess in Porgy and Bess and was the FIRST black to perform at the White House in 1933. She lived to be 102.

Moses Gunn did Graduate work at KU and was in ROOTS as an actor.

You would do well to read about these fine people and their careers and follow llkewise.

They were fine examples of what KU had as students. I could elaborate on my classmates in the Theatre Department years later , bringing achiements to the Theatre Dept. But Moses Gunn and Etta Moten Barnett were shining examples of the their successful careers.

DO NOT tarnish the Theatre Dept with your antics . Strive to be like Ms. Moten Barnett and Moses Gunn.

It's too bad that the Journal World doesn't strive to recount their accomplishments.

David Holroyd

Alex Williams 4 months, 2 weeks ago

Telling Stephens to remember MLK, pointing at black exceptionalism like it means black people aren't generally oppressed, & claiming the "not all white people" argument. That's what I expected Lawrence to comment with & it sure did.

What I didn't expect people to do, however, is confuse socioeconomic status with white privilege. Or to assume it knows what being a black or mixed-black child to a white parent(s) feels like. That was certainly a leap in the more ignorant, self-important direction.

Joe Norgay, I hope you stay away from people of color in your line of work as you are definitely not fit to offer us anything whatsoever pertaining to our psychology. We have completely different worldviews from one another. As a psychologist, shame on you for thinking white assumptions about black worldviews were in any way accurate. As a clinical psychologist, shame on you for presuming you know what any black man needs in order to feel equal & human in this society. Shame on you for referring to MLK (or rather, the early MLK because Caleb resembles the late MLK that white-Americans choose to ignore). Just like every other white person, you pointed at your beloved, whitewashed iteration of MLK.

This is directed at everyone. The issue with always pointing at MLK is, does anyone who refers to MLK know any other black activists or revolutionaries? Can you name someone besides Malcolm X, MLK, and.....can you name 5 more? What makes any of you the experts on what protest, specifically black protest, looks like? Until you know more than MLK or the Obamas, why don't you just choose not to speak? You choosing to speak anyway is a form of your entitlement & privilege. I wouldn't speak about football because I don't know much about football. Using that example, you all sound like non-sport enthusiasts trying to narrate a football game, wherein your missteps results in very real injuries to others.

Be mindful. Take a step back.

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