Posts tagged with Ku

KU mourns recent deaths of professors emeriti

As March comes to a close, the Kansas University community is missing three notable professors emeriti, who combined had amassed well over a century of teaching in Slavic languages, English and history of art. Stephen Parker, Melvin Landsberg and Marilyn Stokstad died this month.


Parker, 76, died March 14 from complications of Alzheimer's, according to his obituary. A celebration of life was to be planned at a later date.

University leaders described him as renowned for his research in Slavic languages and literatures, particularly the author Vladimir Nabokov. According to a university news release, Parker taught at KU from 1967 until his retirement in 2011, and chaired the Slavic department from 1987 to 2000.

“Steve was so generous to the Slavic department, its faculty and students in donating his mother's (Professor Fan Parker) and his comprehensive collection of Russian literary works, as well as funds to build the Parker Slavic Library,” Marc Greenberg, director of the KU School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures and former Slavic department chair said in the news release. “I will always be grateful to him.”


Landsberg died March 5 at age 89, according to a KU news release. Services were March 9.

Landsberg was known as perhaps the world’s leading expert on 20th century writer John Dos Passos and authored the book “Dos Passos’ Path to USA: A Political Biography, 1912-1936,” according to KU.

He taught in KU’s department of English from 1961 to 2009, according to his obituary, and his “deep knowledge and understanding of literature and history informed his teaching, fueled his lifelong interests in a wide range of topics, and made him an often fascinating conversationalist.”


Stokstad, KU’s Judith Harris Murphy Distinguished Professor Emerita of Art History, died March 4 at 87. A celebration of life is planned for the fall, according to a KU announcement.

Stokstad wrote art history textbooks used widely by universities (personal disclosure: I still have Stokstad’s “Medieval Art” and the massive and encyclopedic hardback “Art History” in my bookshelf at home). According to KU she joined the KU faculty in 1958 and retired in 2002, including directing the then-KU Museum of Art in the 1960s and serving as associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in the 1970s.

In addition to her academic legacy, Stokstad's financial gifts to KU included one announced in 2014 to establish the Spencer Museum of Art Marilyn Stokstad Directorship, making that job an endowed position at KU. Here’s a snip from the story I wrote at the time: “Stokstad said the museum was in her will but that she decided it would be ‘much more fun’ to make the donation, an undisclosed amount, while she was around to see it.”

In this 2001 photo, KU art history distinguished professor Marilyn Stokstad is pictured with the recently completed second edition of her book, "Art History," a 1,200-page comprehensive collection of the history of all types of art. Her work got a lot of national publicity, including being selected on a list of top 24 books for holiday gifts on the "Today" show.

In this 2001 photo, KU art history distinguished professor Marilyn Stokstad is pictured with the recently completed second edition of her book, "Art History," a 1,200-page comprehensive collection of the history of all types of art. Her work got a lot of national publicity, including being selected on a list of top 24 books for holiday gifts on the "Today" show. by Mike Yoder/Journal-World Photo


— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

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Legislating restrooms and religious clubs: How would bills affect KU?

Kansas lawmakers in the past week have advanced a couple pieces of legislation that could affect certain Kansas University populations: transgender students who need to go to the bathroom, and students who want to join a religious club they don’t necessarily agree with.

One was just signed into law, and I’m unqualified to guess whether the other is going anywhere, but I did do some poking around to find out how they compare with the status quo at KU.

First, restrooms.

In short, two separate but identical bills proposed in the House and Senate would require transgender students at Kansas public schools and universities to use restrooms and locker rooms designated for their chromosomal sex at birth. (This story provides more details.)

With help from KU spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, I determined that with the exception of a KU Libraries policy that prohibits use of library restrooms “for purposes other than which they are intended,” KU doesn’t currently have any rules or regulations about where people can go to the bathroom.

There are a number of single-occupancy restrooms on campus (often called family restrooms), some of which have signage specifying that they are gender-neutral — even though by definition they already are. It doesn’t seem this bill would apply to those, but rather only restrooms that are designated for one sex or another.

None by Hugo Macias, Jr.

The Kansas Board of Regents doesn’t have any overarching bathroom policies, either, but says federal laws prohibiting sex-based discrimination would dictate what’s required. According to a memo from the Regents legal team, transgender students seeking to use restrooms designated for the sex they identify as have repeatedly won court cases, and the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights has also ruled that they can use the restroom of their choice.

Next, religious clubs.

None

Gov. Sam Brownback signed this bill into law Tuesday, and it will take effect in July — although, according to The Associated Press, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled nearly six years ago that universities can require membership in such groups to be open to all. The bill will allow college religious groups to restrict membership to like-minded students.

Currently at KU, all registered KU organizations are open to all students, KU spokesman Joe Monaco said. Whether they actually receive university funding or not (clubs often get money in the form of student fee revenue) doesn’t matter, Monaco said — all registered KU organizations are eligible to request it so they’re all in the same category and follow the same rules.

There is an overarching Regents policy specifically addressing club membership. Relevant passages:

The established policy of the Board of Regents prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, race, color, religion, sex, marital status, national origin, physical handicap or disability, status as a Vietnam Era Veteran, sexual orientation or other factors which cannot be lawfully considered, within the state universities. All fraternal and campus related organizations shall follow this policy in the selection of their members, except the prohibition against sex discrimination shall not apply to social fraternities or sororities which are excluded from the application of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. Sec. 1681 et seq.).

The right of organizations to establish standards for membership is acknowledged, provided that all students are afforded equal opportunity to meet those standards. Just as all students have the right to choose those with whom they would associate on the campus, an organization shall have the right to select its members subject to these principles.

There are currently 36 registered KU organizations in the “Religious” category, according to a search of groups listed on RockChalkCentral.ku.edu. Those include lots of Christian groups, several Jewish ones, the Muslim Student Association and the Society of Open-Minded Atheists and Agnostics, to name a few.


— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

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Outtakes from Wednesday’s Student Senate meeting: More on Multicultural Student Government talks and visitors from Mizzou

Wednesday night’s Kansas University Student Senate meeting was six and a half hours long.

At least it wasn’t dull.

In the most significant news of the night, the Senate voted to approve a bill allocating $90,000 a year in required student fees to create a Multicultural Student Government at KU, pending final approval by the chancellor. After a couple hours of discussion, that vote happened at 11 p.m., just in time for me to turn around a story for the next morning’s paper. (The Senate took two more hours to finish other business, including electing a new student body vice president to finish the year.)

As with other discussions at KU involving race this year, that one was tense at times. Here are some outtakes that didn’t make it into my main story.

• About 50 visitors — almost all of them black, most KU students — lined up in support of the Multicultural Student Government as students Jameelah Jones and Katherine Rainey made a pitch for funding their organization.

Senate, of course, is open to any student, and the Multicultural Student Government would be open to any student as well. But Jones and Rainey said the separate government was needed because multicultural students don’t feel comfortable participating in or speaking up in the predominantly white Senate, nor does it prioritize the things these students need.

At one point Student Body President Jessie Pringle asked the 50 visitors how many would run for positions in a new Multicultural Student Government. All raised their hands. Then she asked how many would participate in the current Senate. Only one or two raised hands.

• Informal talks about a Multicultural Student Government have been happening for months; creating such a group was one of 15 demands the student activist group Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk — specifically, Rainey — read on stage during KU’s universitywide town hall forum on race in November. Funding for it was added to the Senate’s fee bill in committee last week, and Wednesday night was the first time the full Senate heard a formal presentation, the second-to-last full Senate meeting of the year.

Jones and Rainey presented their new group’s mission statement, addressed a list of misconceptions they described as “the master narrative versus reality,” and said the new organization would help address a “multigenerational, long-term problem.” They provided a slide showing how the group’s allotted $90,000 would be budgeted: $48,000 for executive board stipends; $10,000 for speakers and event programming; $10,000 for Multicultural Student Orientation; $15,000 for supplies and advertising; and $7,000 for miscellaneous expenses. They said the new government would have “equal representation in all university spaces” and “equal seats in campus fee review.”

KU Multicultural Student Government mission statement.

KU Multicultural Student Government mission statement. by Sara Shepherd

What they did not present or answer questions about yet was specifically how that will shake out, logistically. Rainey said that, to her, the question of the night wasn’t about details at this point but rather about whether the Senate wanted to increase fees to create positive, long-term change for KU’s multicultural students.

Some, however, called the act of questioning a race issue. Senate finance committee chairman Tyler Childress said he didn’t remember senators questioning other new student organizations about details such as their bylaws. Student Senate Chief of Staff Adam Moon said that wasn’t true, that Senate does ask groups receiving large amounts of money, including Alternative Spring Breaks and Center for Community Outreach, for detailed plans.

• The people who seemed the maddest about such questioning weren’t the KU students. They were a handful of black University of Missouri students who said they were part of the Concerned Student 1950 activist group. (That’s the group that started the Mizzou campus protests that spurred the resignation of both the university president and the system chancellor in November.)

One Mizzou student who said she was visiting KU for the first time told Senate members to start “centering your privilege.” “This whole presentation, what they gave, is like a form of oppression,” she said. “They don’t need to come to you and explain why their blackness, their brownness, matters. I just find it very problematic that we’re even engaging in this conversation.”

Another Mizzou student used the n-word — twice — in describing how the Missouri Students Association President, who is black, was called that word on their campus. He said Multicultural Student Government supporters should not have to “diplomatically plead” with the Senate to have a separate space. “If they were to turn into us,” the Mizzou student said, “you all would have a serious problem.”

None by Alex Robinson

Later when Student Body Vice President Zach George raised a point of order for a speaker talking out of turn, that student said, “We don’t operate under point of order, we’re not from KU.”

• A number of Senate members spoke strongly in favor of the new government, and hardly anyone spoke against funding it. But Moon, the Senate Chief of Staff — after taking a deep breath — did.

Moon said allocating resources to multicultural communities was essential and that he saw a lot of positives that could come from it. However, he said he had reservations about funding the group without yet knowing specifics about how it would work going forward.

“I understand my opinions are unpopular,” Moon said.

One of the Mizzou students pointed at him and said, “Oppression! Oppression! Privilege!”

• The vote to approve the fee bill, including the Multicultural Student Government, passed with 51 senators for, 9 against and 6 abstaining. The Senate normally votes on measures via electronic clicker, but after some visitors and senators demanded a verbal roll call vote, the body voted that way instead.

For the measure to become final, Pringle must next approve the fee bill and forward it to the chancellor for approval. Thursday afternoon, according to university spokesman Joe Monaco, the chancellor had not yet received the new fee package.


— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

Reply 1 comment from Clara Westphal

‘Intellectual discomfort’ and ‘new ideas’: Newly released chancellor’s report issues challenge for KU

Kansas University’s newly released Chancellor’s Report draws a parallel between the tumultuous times in which the university was founded and some of its present challenges.

The annual report highlighting a variety of success stories and projects at KU went live online Friday, and print copies are being distributed around campus early this week, I’m told by KU public affairs. In a video introduction to this year’s collection of stories, headlined "My call to you ...," Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little recalls when KU was founded 150 years ago, on the heels of the Civil War.

Other KU faculty, staff, students and alumni then chime in:

Since its beginning this university has been central to our nation’s story and has grappled with our society’s greatest challenges. Some of those challenges today — citizenship, race, state’s rights — aren’t that different from those of 150 years ago.

Responding to those challenges is why they’re here, they say:

It’s not always easy. It makes some people uncomfortable, but that’s good ... to be challenged, to experience intellectual discomfort, to learn and to test new ideas.

Familiar faces from the video, to name just a few, include KU alumna Alyssa Cole, the then-student and single mom who introduced President Barack Obama for his January 2015 speech at KU; physics and astronomy professor Alice Bean, who’s led a team helping with upgrades to the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva; professor of ecology and evolutionary biology Jim Thorp, lead investigator on a $4.2 million grant to study climate change via U.S. and Mongolian rivers; and associate professor of film Kevin Willmott, who co-wrote the recent film “Chi-Raq” with Spike Lee.

See the full Chancellor’s Report and read stories about some of these KU representatives and others online at report2016.ku.edu.


— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

Reply 1 comment from Scott Quenette

KU administration’s weapons policy committee is officially underway; email set up for comments and questions

The Kansas University administration’s Weapons Policy Advisory Committee is officially formed, has a website and is accepting questions and comments through it, KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little announced this week.

The website is weaponspolicy.ku.edu, and the committee’s email address is weaponspolicy@ku.edu. On the site is a brief description of the newly formed committee and its next steps, a timeline, links to other resources including the Personal and Family Protection Act, which is the reason for all of this in the first place, and links to news articles about campus carry (several of which you avid Journal-World readers have probably already seen).

KU’s five-member Weapons Policy Advisory Committee, convened in February, is made up of chairman Jim Pottorff, university general counsel; the Lawrence and KU Medical Center campus police chiefs; University Senate president and KU faculty member Mike Williams; and KU Medical Center Faculty Assembly Chairwoman Patricia Kluding, according to the chancellor’s Monday message to campus.

That committee is supposed to present Gray-Little with a final universitywide plan — covering all KU campuses across the state — by Sept. 1. The Kansas Board of Regents wants all state universities’ plans by October. (Background: Kansas law says that beginning in July 2017, state universities will no longer be allowed to prohibit concealed guns from their campuses. To comply with the law, the Regents approved amendments to their statewide weapons policy in January. Now state universities must develop their own policies to implement the law on their respective campuses.)

Helping KU’s main committee will be two subcommittees, or “campus implementation committees,” which are still being assembled, the chancellor said. One will determine a campus-specific plan for implementing the law at the Lawrence, Edwards (Overland Park) and Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center (Yoder) campuses. The other will do the same for KU Medical Center’s three campuses (Kansas City, Wichita and Salina).

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus.

No guns signs are posted on a side door of KU's Art and Design Building, as well as other buildings on campus. by Sara Shepherd

Gray-Little also took questions about guns Tuesday, during an informal general update and Q&A session with students, faculty and staff at KU Medical Center.

Refusing to comply with the law is not an option, she said. Also out of the question is writing a policy prohibiting guns from all buildings, because universities would have to place adequate security measures at every entrance where they wanted to do that.

One estimate showed it would cost in the neighborhood of $30 million a year to secure all KU entrances statewide, Gray-Little said. “So no, we are not able on a wholesale basis to provide gun detectors and guards at our entrances.”

The two subcommittees will be important, Gray-Little said, because there are a lot of differences in KU’s various campuses. For example, guns are widely used for educational purposes at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center, but that campus will need to figure out a way to distinguish between those and personal concealed weapons. At the Lawrence campus, there’s a preschool and students living in dorms, which pose different challenges.

Gray-Little said the committees also will watch for evidence of how campus carry has — or has not — affected safety on campuses in states that already allow it. But so far, she said, “we don’t have anything but our judgments and beliefs.”

• KU Medical Center weapons info session: An informational session — similar to the one University Senate held on the KU Lawrence campus in December — is planned for noon to 1 p.m. March 10 in the School of Nursing auditorium at the KU Medical Center. Kluding said faculty assembly leadership is organizing the session, which is open to all KU Medical Center students, faculty and staff.


— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

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Free speech group urges KU to exonerate professor who used N-word in class

A national free speech group issued a strongly worded message to Kansas University this week about the case of a professor under investigation for discrimination after using the N-word in class.

An article published this week by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), highlights the case of Andrea Quenette, assistant professor of communication studies.

Quenette remains on administrative leave while KU conducts its investigation stemming from complaints by students that she discriminated against them when she used the N-word and made other remarks they considered racially disparaging during a class meeting the day after KU’s Nov. 11, 2015, town hall forum on race. Quenette did not direct the term at any individual; she said she used the word as an example in an educational discussion about racism. After the outcry, Quenette requested and was granted leave for the remainder of the fall semester. (Here’s my initial article on this, in which I hopefully succeeded in presenting the contentious situation more thoroughly and fairly. The story made national news.)

The FIRE article, "What’s at Stake in KU’s Investigation of Professor’s In-Class Comments? Only Academic Freedom as Faculty Know It," says:

The students’ demands for retribution are utterly inimical to academic freedom... It’s alarming—not to mention ironic—that a group of graduate students has called on the university to punish a professor for constitutionally protected speech when such a reaction would, in turn, decimate the freedoms necessary to pursue their own careers as academics.

FIRE further lays out its case in a direct letter — basically a university version of an amicus, or friend of the court, brief — to KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. The full letter is viewable here. Key passage:

The students’ argument that Quenette’s speech constitutes discriminatory harassment unprotected by the First Amendment is profoundly mistaken, and KU must reject it. Quenette’s expression is fully protected by her rights as a professor at a public institution. If KU were to find otherwise, it would undermine any meaningful commitment to academic freedom. Faculty must be free to expose their students to arguments, viewpoints, and ideas with which they may disagree to cultivate an atmosphere of debate and discussion befitting a public university.

Some Kansas University students filed a discrimination complaint with KU against assistant professor Andrea M. Quenette, who they accused of using racist language, in November 2015.

Some Kansas University students filed a discrimination complaint with KU against assistant professor Andrea M. Quenette, who they accused of using racist language, in November 2015. by Mike Yoder

As concerned as FIRE appears about the Quenette case, it appears the organization didn’t find it bad enough (or at least not yet) to merit adding KU to its annual list of the “10 Worst Colleges for Free Speech,” which also came out this week.

Recall that last year, the entire Kansas Board of Regents did make that not-so-desirable list. The Regents’ offending move, according to FIRE, was its implementation of the statewide social media policy, which did stem from the case of a KU professor’s controversial tweet.


— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

Reply 2 comments from Ray McKamy Scott Quenette

KU’s international recruitment program expanding to include grad students; revenue key funding source for Central District

Kansas University has a lot riding on the success of its new International Academic Accelerator Program. The program, launched in fall 2014, aims to exponentially increase the number of international students enrolled at the university — and, along with it, increase tuition revenue coming from that category of students.

In its recently finalized Central District redevelopment plan, KU is counting largely on AAP revenue to fund about $6.4 million of the $21.8 million annual sublease payment required to realize the project.

Partly because it’s important financially, partly because it’s new and partly because it’s not 100 percent transparent because of being a partnership between KU and a private business called Shorelight Education, I’ve been trying to routinely check in on the program.

For the same reasons, KU faculty also are following it closely, and AAP leaders have visited Faculty Senate and Faculty Senate Executive Committee meetings to answer questions and give project updates. (Background: When the Journal-World requested a copy of KU’s 15-year contract with Shorelight, a Douglas Country District Court judge granted the company an injunction barring the contract’s release to the newspaper. However, AAP folks have always been available for interviews and provided numbers for my subsequent stories.)

On Tuesday, two administrators shared a few new AAP developments with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.

From left, KU students Shiran Zhang, Kejing Wang and Boling Huang, all from China, participate in their Kansas Environment and Culture class, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. All are enrolled in KU's new International Academic Accelerator program.

From left, KU students Shiran Zhang, Kejing Wang and Boling Huang, all from China, participate in their Kansas Environment and Culture class, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014. All are enrolled in KU's new International Academic Accelerator program.

Most notably, starting this fall the AAP — so far just for freshmen — will open to first-year graduate students, said Roberta Pokphanh, AAP academic director.

First, here’s how the current program works: Shorelight recruits students from around the world, who pay a flat fee of about $45,000 to participate. The all-in-one-style program provides 12 months of room, board, tuition and activities. Coursework focuses on intensive English and cultural instruction. Students emerge with about 30 credit hours and, hopefully, go on to enroll at KU as sophomores and continue through graduation.

The AAP’s new master’s program will work basically the same way, but the students will be first-year graduate students and emerge with six to nine credit hours toward a master’s degree, Pokphanh said. A number of master’s programs have already agreed to participate, she said.

Pokphanh said she expects the first year’s cohort to be very small, probably less than 10. Although they probably won’t be able to provide a count until the semester begins — it turns out international students don’t exactly plan ahead like stateside college applicants are accustomed to.

“These are students who expect to be applying in June or July for a program beginning in August,” Pokphanh said. “That’s the international reality that we face.”

She said the AAP also has started offering a shorter version of the program (two semesters instead of three) for freshmen who come in with higher English proficiency and thus need fewer English classes to move forward.

At the beginning of this school year, there were about 250 students total participating in the AAP program. In the program’s first year, participants came from China, India, Vietnam, Russia and Nigeria.

Stuart Day, KU’s acting senior vice provost for academic affairs, told the Faculty Senate Executive Committee that Shorelight continues expanding to new countries. Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is a current recruiting target, and Latin American countries including Colombia and Mexico will come next, he said.


— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

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The writings of Wilt Chamberlain on display, and other Black History Month events at KU

Here’s something I for one did not previously know about Wilt Chamberlain: He wrote books.

The 7-foot-1 former Kansas University and NBA basketball Hall-of-Famer's 1991 book "A View from Above" — in which he discusses race relations and other issues he faced during his basketball career — will be displayed this week along with written works by former KU track star Ernie Shelby, former KU basketball star Lynette Woodard and other Kansas athletes. “Black Literary Suite: Sports Figures with a Kansas Connection,” presented by KU’s Project on the History of Black Writing, will be on view in Watson Library through March. A public program and reception with special guest Kevin Powell is planned for 2 to 5 p.m. Thursday at the library.

Wilt Chamberlain poses with copies of his book "A View From Above" at New York's Waldenbooks store Oct. 28, 1991.

Wilt Chamberlain poses with copies of his book "A View From Above" at New York's Waldenbooks store Oct. 28, 1991.

"Athletes aren't generally recognized for their writing. You've got those stereotypes, and we want to push against any form of stereotype," said Maryemma Graham, a KU distinguished professor of English who founded and directs the Project on the History of Black Writing. "Our focus is always on writing. These athletes have published their stories, and they are involved in helping sports to become highly visible and important to our culture."

“Many of the athletes and authors featured in the suite found their voice using writing,” added English graduate student Matthew Broussard, the project’s digital coordinator. "KU rightfully gets a lot of attention for our long tradition of athletic excellence, but we also want to shed some light on another side of some of these athletes.”

Wilt Chamberlain plays in his first game as a Kansas Jayhawk against Northwestern University on 1956. Wilt had 52 points and 31 rebounds in his debut.

Wilt Chamberlain plays in his first game as a Kansas Jayhawk against Northwestern University on 1956. Wilt had 52 points and 31 rebounds in his debut.

Project on the History of Black Writing - Timeline | Facebook

Project on the History of Black Writing - Timeline | Facebook by Project on the History of Black Writing

The Project on the History of Black Writing, within KU's Department of English, is the only archive of its kind and has been in the forefront of black literary studies and inclusion efforts in higher education since its founding at the University of Mississippi in 1983 and subsequent move to the KU in 1998, according to KU. (I visited and wrote about another of the project’s events last summer, an institute for scholars of black poetry.)

“Sports Figures with a Kansas Connection” is one of several Black History Month events planned at KU. Here are several more that are coming up, according to KU’s Langston Hughes Center. All are free and open to the public.

• “The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy's Journey To Manhood,” featuring author and activist Kevin Powell. 5 p.m. Wednesday at 110 Budig Hall.

• “Black Lives Matter,” featuring Opal Tometi, co-founder of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. 7 p.m. Feb. 24 at the Lied Center.

• “An Evening with Black Physicists,” featuring Vera Loggins of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; Kevin Reynolds of NASA Ames; and Christopher Bruner, Theresa Amante and David Menager of KU. 7 p.m. Feb. 29 at the Commons in Spooner Hall.

UPDATE: Here's one more event we reported separately from the original writeup here.

• “The Power of Sport: A Conversation on Business, Race and Sports,” featuring keynote speaker Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation, and Shawn Alexander, associate professor of African and African-American studies and Langston Hughes Center director, leading a panel discussion with former KU athletes including Wayne Simien, Lisa Braddy and Ernie Shelby. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday in the Kansas Union Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required through eventbrite.com. (Read more here.)


— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

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KU student’s winning piano design is a work of art

Musical instrument? Art? Both? (I'm going to say both.) A Kansas University student’s striking sculptural piano design beat out more than 100 international submissions to be among seven winners of the first Roland Corporation Digital Piano Design Awards.

The design, entitled “Amber Unleashed,” was created by Rebekah Winegarner, an industrial design student from Overland Park.

Winegarner’s “free-form” piano, for now a digital design created using several kinds of software, would be cast in amber-colored resin with a keyboard, circuitry and pedals attached, according to KU. Winegarner said in KU’s announcement that she wanted a design that was kinetic and aggressive — “an energetic and fluid form as powerful as the music it creates.”

This digitally created image shows a piano design by Rebekah Winegarner, a Kansas University industrial design student from Overland Park, that was among seven winners of the Roland Corporation’s 2015 Digital Piano Design Awards. The design is entitled, "Amber Unleashed."

This digitally created image shows a piano design by Rebekah Winegarner, a Kansas University industrial design student from Overland Park, that was among seven winners of the Roland Corporation’s 2015 Digital Piano Design Awards. The design is entitled, "Amber Unleashed."

Her project was completed as an industrial design studio taught by professor of design Lance Rake.

Roland, a Japanese manufacturer of electronic musical instruments, picked “Unleash” as the theme of the competition — winners of which look nothing like the grand pianos you’re used to. (To see them all, click here.)

“As Roland Corporation continues to set new performance standards and design expectations for the digital grand piano,” Roland said on the company’s website, “it’s possible that some of these unique and inspiring award-winning concepts could one day become a commercial reality.”

— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

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‘We promised’: KU provost shares list of diversity and inclusion steps made so far

The Kansas University provost’s office now has, on paper, a “Diversity Action Plan” listing things KU has done and things it will do in the coming semester and year to improve diversity and inclusivity on campus.

Interim provost Sara Rosen shared the plan Thursday in a letter to the campus. Last fall, a town hall forum on race and ensuing protests and meetings made clear KU needs to do more to create an inclusive environment, Rosen wrote.

“We promised to provide a list of action items to ensure members of the KU community are understood, accepted, and successful in their individual pursuits,” she said in the letter. “Today we are sharing with you the first iteration of coordinated diversity and inclusion activities at KU.”

According to the action plan, these are some of the actions KU has already completed (several of which we’ve had stories on, if you want to click the links to read more):

• Created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Group to investigate issues raised at the Nov. 11 town hall forum on race. The group — co-chaired by Clarence Lang, chair of the Department of African & African-American Studies, and Sheahon Zenger, athletics director — had its first meeting in December.

• Held an all-day social justice and diversity training session for all deans and vice provosts. Held a workshop on faculty mentoring for department chairs.

• Made several key hires. Precious Porras is the new director of Office of Multicultural Affairs. Jennifer Brockman will be director of the new Sexual Assault Prevention and Education Center. Catherine Johnson will be director of Accessibility and ADA Education. Interviews for director of the Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access were completed Jan. 12, though a new hire has not been announced.

• Extended the Office of Multicultural Affairs Hawk Link program to support first-generation, low-income and minority students to include the spring semester.

• Started process of creating the KU Climate Study, beginning with small group discussions to help determine survey questions.

• Established several other work groups on diversity and inclusion issues.

Students hold signs in the back of Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union during a town hall forum on race on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. The group later took the stage and read a list of diversity and inclusion related demands for the KU campus. KU scheduled the forum in the wake of problems at the University of Missouri, where the system president and chancellor resigned under pressure from students who said the school failed to properly respond to racial problems there.

Students hold signs in the back of Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union during a town hall forum on race on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. The group later took the stage and read a list of diversity and inclusion related demands for the KU campus. KU scheduled the forum in the wake of problems at the University of Missouri, where the system president and chancellor resigned under pressure from students who said the school failed to properly respond to racial problems there. by Mike Yoder

The plan includes many more next-steps. Rosen urged KU community members to provide feedback by Feb. 16.

She reminded: “The plan should tie closely with the goals of the university strategic plan, Bold Aspirations, and be informed by data we are in the process of gathering now. A strong plan will take time.”

— I’m the Journal-World’s KU and higher ed reporter. See all the newspaper’s KU coverage here. Reach me by email at sshepherd@ljworld.com, by phone at 832-7187, on Twitter @saramarieshep or via Facebook at Facebook.com/SaraShepherdNews.

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