Last year, a group of minority and underrepresented students trying to establish their own separate “multicultural student government” at the University of Kansas cited unfairness in the current Student Senate election process as one reason such a body was needed. Among other things, they complained that the election spending limit was too expensive for all to afford.
There isn’t going to be a separate multicultural student government. But there is now something to help students secure more money to campaign for election to the existing Student Senate, starting in the spring: KU Endowment’s Equitable Student Elections Fund.
Senate leaders worked with KU Endowment over summer break to recruit donors and set up the fund, Student Body President Stephonn Alcorn said.
Money, administered through KU’s Office of Student Affairs, will help student coalitions meet the Senate’s current $1,000 campaign spending limit, according to a Senate news release summarizing the fund. Coalitions can receive up to $700, though they must raise at least $300 on their own first. Funding amounts will be based on the coalition’s percentage of candidates slated for the election.
“The purpose of this fund is to eliminate inherent monetary disadvantages and inequities in the Student Senate elections process,” according to the release. “This will allow for the broader participation of all students in student government, especially the voices of those most underrepresented.”
For context, Alcorn pointed out that up until a few years ago there was no cap on election spending and some coalitions spent $10,000 or even more. But, he said, $1,000 is still a lot of money.
“That number kind of still serves as a barrier,” he said. “It should really be about a student’s leadership experience and their ideas.”
How much money have donors ponied up for this cause? I asked, but KU Endowment representatives and Senate leaders declined to share the amount raised. Senate communications director Connor Birzer said, “We want to keep the integrity of the donors and students who will benefit from the fund.”
Alcorn said he was pleased with pledges so far and optimistic the effort will be a success.
— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.
Voter turnout for the 2016-2017 Kansas University Student Senate elections was 19.25 percent, the KU Elections Commission shared this week. That represents 4,278 votes.
KU students elected their top two execs by a landslide. The team of Student Body President Stephonn Alcorn and Vice President Gabby Naylor with the One KU coalition took 90.6 percent of the vote, or 3,800 ballots cast in their favor, according to the Elections Commission. Their opponents, Richie Hernandez and John Castellaw of the CARE KU coalition received 9.39 percent, or 394 votes.
Students also elected their Senate representatives from various KU schools and sectors.
Elections took place last week, on Wednesday and Thursday, with results announced Thursday night. The Elections Commission released certified results and voter turnout information on Sunday.
A little more about KU’s next student body president: Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little introduced Alcorn, a junior from Gardner, to the Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday (the board met in Manhattan; I listened via livestream).
Alcorn, who’s been the Student Senate’s Government Relations Director this academic year, is a member of the Sigma Nu fraternity, Mortar Board, business school ambassadors, and several other things — and is the first KU student body president to have graduated from KU’s Hawk Link program, Gray-Little said. Hawk Link, housed at KU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, is an academic enrichment program designed for students of color in their first year at KU.
“We are delighted to welcome Stephonn in this new role and to congratulate him,” the chancellor said.
In other recent KU student news:
• Beckman Scholars named: KU has announced its new Beckman Scholars for 2016. They are Kathryn Brewer, a junior from Overland Park majoring in chemistry, and Collin Clay, a sophomore from Edmond, Okla., majoring in chemistry. This is just the second year for this scholarship program (a large one — each scholar receives a total of $21,000 via stipend and travel and supply funds over the course of the 15-month program, according to KU), aimed at supporting undergraduate research.
Brewer and Clay are researching things such as a “siderophore biosynthetic enzyme” in E. coli and “small molecule probes” in biochemical pathways, according to KU. Read more about them here.
• A first for Mock Trial: KU’s Mock Trial club just wrapped up a season of “unprecedented success,” team representative Robert Santamarina, a sophomore from Overland Park, said.
For the first time in team history, KU Mock Trial competed at the American Mock Trial Association National Championship Tournament, held last weekend in Greenville, S.C. KU earned an Honorable Mention, placing it in the top 27 teams in the country out of more than 650 teams, Santamarina said. KU’s Jackson Laughlin was named an American Board of Trial Advocates Intercollegiate All-American Attorney at the tournament, one of just 21 students nationally to earn the honor.
• Fast car unveiling: The KU School of Engineering’s Jayhawk Motorsports team will publicly unveil its new combustion car at 3 p.m. Sunday at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St. According to KU, the team spent all year designing and manufacturing the car and will race it at national competitions in May and June.
With that, I will leave you with this video of the chancellor driving a previous Jayhawk Motorsports car into Memorial Stadium for Traditions Night 2015. (OK, I’m not convinced she’s actually the one at the wheel on the track, but it's still fun.)
— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage at KUToday.com. Reach me by email at email@example.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.
Kansas University's Student Senate, Haskell Indian Nations University and the city have worked together to create a paid student liaison intern position with the city. Interim Lawrence City Manager Diane Stoddard mentioned the position in her report Tuesday night at City Hall, and the Student Senate announced it Wednesday.
The intern will work for the city manager and be selected through a committee with student leadership input, with the final decision resting with the city manager, according to Stoddard’s report. She said it’s hoped to have the internship position established in early 2016.
The intern will work 15 to 20 hours a week on projects for the city and serve as a representative for students at both universities, according to Student Senate. Working to improve relations with the city was an initiative proposed during the Student Senate spring elections.
"We are excited to have created a formalized relationship with the city of Lawrence and have student input on projects and issues that affect student life across both campuses,” Student Senate government relations director Stephonn Alcorn said in the Student Senate news release.
In other campus news:
• Outgoing KU Provost Jeff Vitter has moved on to Ole Miss — on Twitter, at least. This week he took the reins of the University of Mississippi chancellor’s Twitter account, @UMchancellor, and seems to be getting a warm online welcome. Vitter’s official last day at KU is Dec. 31, he told me today, though incoming interim provost Sara Rosen will be taking over his KU Twitter handle soon.
• Who says Comp 101 papers have to be, well, on paper? KU’s First and Second Year English program is planning its first Writers’ Faire to highlight what program director Frank Farmer called “multimodal” writing projects. “It’s not just a bunch of pages tacked up to poster boards,” he said.
The public is invited to the Writers’ Faire, set from 1 to 5 p.m. Dec. 10 at The Commons in Spooner Hall. While traditional academic writing will be on display, other kinds of texts will be exhibited as well, including zines and comics, chapbooks, websites and blogs, children’s books, video essays, public service announcements, photographic essays and posters. Farmer said there’s even a fan fiction essay on a real door, to give you an idea of what’s in store.
How do Kansas state university students really feel about concealed guns coming to campus? And what do they think about various policy scenarios that might be put in place to deal with that impending reality? A new survey — which students at Kansas University and other state schools should have in their email inboxes today — seeks answers.
At least at KU, I’ve overwhelmingly heard students and employees flat-out ridicule the law and say they hate the whole idea. But that’s just conversational. Most academics would probably agree with us journalists, the more hard data the better, so I’m pretty interested to see what this survey will reveal.
Members of the Students Advisory Committee to the Kansas Board of Regents (KU Student Body President Jessie Pringle is chairwoman) have been talking about doing the survey since their retreat in August and worked with the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays State University to create and execute it. Students have until Nov. 25 to take the survey, and results are expected to be out in December, according to a KU Student Senate news release.
“It’s important that students have a space to say something about their feelings of safety and security on campus whether that means carrying or prohibiting,” Pringle said, in the release. “Leaving out student voices does not create sound policy.”
In case you missed my previous articles on the issue, here’s a CliffsNotes version of why guns are coming to campus: Under Kansas law, anyone who is legally allowed to carry a concealed weapon will be able to do so on college campuses as of July 1, 2017. If universities want to prohibit weapons inside any building, that building must be equipped with “adequate security measures” such as metal detectors or guards. Concealed weapons are already allowed on public property, but universities have an exemption that runs out in 2017. The Regents have drafted updates to their statewide weapons policy that they hope to vote on in mid-December. Then individual universities are supposed to develop more detailed implementation policies for their respective campuses.
“From the survey, SAC hopes to gain an aggregate and university specific opinions regarding guns on campus,” the KU Student Senate statement said. “SAC plans to bring the results to university administrations and the Kansas Board of Regents to ensure that the voices of students are heard.”
Here's some of what the survey wants to find out from students (questions paraphrased):
• Do you think concealed guns be prohibited or allowed in campus buildings, at sporting events or in outdoor areas? Do you feel the same way for employees, students and visitors?
• How strongly do you support or oppose gun storage lockers in various areas of campus? Does your opinion differ for handguns v. hunting rifles?
• How high a fee would you be willing to pay for your university to install these adequate security measures in buildings?
• In your opinion, how would allowing concealed carry on campus affect campus crime levels?
• How would allowing concealed carry on your campus affect your decision to attend this university?
Another chapter in the Kansas University student body "Burritogate" saga was written Thursday.
Its authors were the University Judicial Board, a body of faculty, staff and students that resolves "to whatever extent possible" conflicts, complaints and grievances brought before them.
The board had the final say on the matter of the Jayhawkers' disqualification from the student elections earlier this month.
On Thursday they upheld the disqualification, a move that will free the Election Commission to finally release the results of the student elections held two weeks ago. Jake Rapp, chairman of the commission, said in an email that the commission will do so by Monday.
As many on the hill probably know by now, the Student Senate Election Commission disqualified the Jayhawkers days before the election, though they remained on the ballot for the election.
Another coalition, Grow KU, alleged that Jayhawkers spent $300 at Chipotle to woo potential voters and then failed to report the expense to the commission. The Election Commission agreed, and disqualified the Jayhawkers, per new rules passed by the Senate in the fall.
The Jayhawkers appealed to the student government's judicial branch, which resulted in an injunction that has kept the election results under lock and key thus far.
The case then got kicked to the University Judicial Board. With no one disputing the burrito money itself, Thursday's decision by the board boiled down to definition of the word "campaigning."
In its decision, the board said the Jayhawkers "argue that the term is limited to activity that is designed to win over undecided potential voters." The Jayhawkers contended that all who attended the burrito party had already expressed interest in the coalition, and so they were engaged in fomenting party leadership, not trying to win over voters.
The commission and board disagreed, citing evidence that general information about the Jayhawkers platform was dispensed at the burrito summit — something not likely to take place at an intra-coalition strategy session of insiders.
The Jayhawkers alleged that the commission had applied new campaigning restrictions arbitrarily, noting events where Grow KU offered free cappuccino and snacks to event-goers. But the board said the cappuccino, in the one case, didn't represent an incurred expense (they were available to all via a nearby cappuccino machine); the snacks, in the other case, the board said were given at a meeting that did not involve campaigning, and so did not need to be reported.
The Jayhawkers were among three coalitions that formed to launch students into student government for the next school year. Student coalitions have a long history of "conflicts, complaints and grievances" in student elections.
They are formed by likeminded students who want to pool their resources to run for student government on a common platform. They exist as campaigning entities. They are not meant to govern.
One coalition, KUnited, dominated KU student elections for nearly two decades, a streak broken last year by Ad Astra. Moreover, elections were often punctuated by squabbles and questionable campaign practices.
Last fall student body executives Marcus Tetwiler and Emma Halling and some senators advocated for ending the coalition system altogether, but they were rebuffed by the full Senate. However the Senate did pass new regulations on campaigning, including spending limits, meant to make elections more fair and meaningful. The new rules include the ones the Jayhawkers broke.
The Board thinks perhaps the rules themselves go too far.
Concluding their decision, the Board said:
We are admittedly not experts in student elections. Still, the extreme remedy of party disqualification seems to us disproportionate to the severity of the violation and arbitrarily insensitive to the Jayhawkers' effort to cure any violation. But the source of these problems, it seems to us, is the inflexibility of the pertinent regulations rather than any arbitrariness on the part of the Commission.
On Monday we should see which coalition was chosen by the student body to lead next year. Depending on the vote, there could be more Burritogate drama ahead.
Kansas University students have joined in the call for the Kansas Board of Regents to suspend a social media policy passed in December.
The KU Student Senate passed a resolution this week urging the regents to ax the policy while a regents-created work group reviews it and recommends revisions.
Garrett Farlow, a KU freshman in journalism, was one of the primary authors of the resolution, which states the social media policy "inhibits free speech of faculty and staff, depriving them of the academic and personal freedoms necessary to effectively educate students."
Farlow said he was concerned that the policy could inhibit faculty members who engage with peers and students on social media. "Although the policy is directly targeted at faculty and professors, it obviously affects students," he said.
The policy allows university heads to suspend and fire employees for social media posts that conflict with the best interest of the university or its ability to perform services, among other violations.
After passing the policy unanimously in December, the regents announced they would review it in response to widespread criticism that it was too broad and could restrain free speech.
The regents established a work group of faculty and staff from state universities to study the policy and make recommendations to the board by April. But faculty and staff groups have repeatedly asked the regents to suspend the policy until the work group makes its findings. Yesterday the regents pushed back against those calls.
Farlow said the issue hasn't gotten much attention from students largely because they don't follow media accounts as closely as faculty and staff. But Farlow is trying to make it an issue with students, starting with last night's resolution.
"The more people that know about this, the more impact that we can have," he said. "The First Amendment is very near and dear to my heart."
A contingent of Kansas University students spent the day in Topeka Tuesday advocating for higher education issues with lawmakers.
Members of KU's Student Senate joined students from other Kansas Board of Regents universities traveling to the capital as part of Higher Education Day.
On behalf of their student bodies, the delegation is calling for lawmakers to eliminate sales taxes on textbooks as well as discuss higher education funding.
Marcus Tetwiler, KU student body president, said in a release that getting rid of sales taxes on text books would "help alleviate these rising costs" of textbooks and decrease the overall cost of education.
Eric Hurtt, a KU senior in political science and government relations director for the Senate, helped coordinate meetings and events.
While student delegations have traveled to Topeka to talk with lawmakers before, Hurtt said he thought this year's student delegation had better talking points.
"This year we're picking things where we all have skin in the game," he said. "You get a better seat at the table if you pick issues we can actually do something about."
KU student-government leaders planning to lobby state legislators on concealed carry on campus, higher-education funding
We're just a few days away from a new Kansas legislative session, and KU's student government is getting ready to join in the fun.
Student Body President Hannah Bolton is rounding up students to come along on Higher Education Day, Feb. 11, when student governments from all the Kansas Board of Regents institutions will head to Topeka to lobby on the sorts of issues that might matter to college students.
Bolton said the KU representatives would focus on three issues in particular:
• Concealed carry on college campuses. The KU students will lobby against this, as they did last year at the same event. Bolton said the student-government groups at the other Regents universities would each be writing resolutions opposing on-campus concealed carry, as well.
• Potential higher-education funding cuts. Gov. Sam Brownback won't unveil his recommended state budget until the session starts, but the state Division of Budget last month recommended cuts of approximately 8 percent to higher-education funding, according to the Board of Regents. Bolton said that number is worrisome to students, so they'll hammer this one hard.
• And, finally, issues related to international students. Bolton said some of these issues (such as working restrictions) will apply more to the federal level, but one issue the KU students might consider will be in-state tuition for illegal-immigrant students who've lived in the state for at least three years. She said she wasn't sure how other student governments might feel about that issue, though.
KU student-government folks will also head to Washington, D.C., to lobby along with contingents from other Big 12 schools in March.
It is "stop day" at KU, but the only thing we'll be "stopping" here at Heard on the Hill is the course your day was taking before you saw this link and clicked on it.
The current academic year at KU may be nearly half over, but the political chess pieces already are arranging themselves on the board in preparation for the spring student-government elections.
The Daily Kansan reported on the political maneuverings during this last week of classes for the semester. Topeka senior Brandon Woodard, the current student body vice president, will run for student body president on the ticket of the juggernaut KUnited coalition, with Salina junior Blaine Bengtson as his running mate (Bengtson led the introduction of a new gameday recycling program this fall).
Rising up in the opposing corner (yeah, I know, I'm switching from chess to boxing; I can't be expected to keep my metaphors straight this early in the morning) will be the new Ad Astra coalition. Paola junior Marcus Tetwiler will run for president on that ticket, backed up by running mate Emma Halling, a junior from Mishawaka, Ind.
Other competitors, though, could emerge in other corners (I'm not sure what the metaphor is now).
Student elections at KU do not quite have the pendulum-like nature of our national politics. The KUnited outfit has won 18 of the past 19 elections, the Kansan reports. It remains to be seen whether this new group can present a challenge, but as your go-to campus pundit here at the Journal-World, I can say one thing about it: It has a good name.