KU students and faculty react to Ferguson decision

Students, faculty and media gather at the Sabatini Multicultural Resource Center to discuss the situation in Ferguson, Mo., on the Kansas University campus, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014.

Chancellor Adams, a KU freshman from Kansas City, Kan., talks about his experiences with discrimination and racial profiling during an open forum Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014, at the Sabatini Multicultural Resource Center at KU. Students and faculty discussed reactions to a grand jury's decision not to indict a Ferguson, Mo., police officer in the shooting death of black teen Michael Brown.

Blane Harding, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs, begins discussions on the situation in Ferguson, Mo., at the Sabatini Multicultural Resource Center on the Kansas University campus, Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014.

Black Kansas University students, some shaking or in tears, said they were so hurt and angry about the Ferguson verdict that they struggled to get out of bed and focus in class on Tuesday.

Those students were among more than 80 students, faculty and community members who gathered to share reactions about Monday’s grand jury decision not to indict a police officer who fatally shot a young black man in Ferguson, Mo., during an “open space” event Tuesday at KU’s Sabatini Multicultural Resource Center.

The event was organized by KU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs and American Studies faculty, and moderated by professor Jennifer Hamer.

“Last night it was a very sad evening,” Hamer said. “It was a very difficult evening for lots of people regardless of race.”

Some speakers directly criticized the jury’s decision and the ensuing report, but most addressed the bigger picture.

Several said the decision epitomized negative attitudes about black people they’ve dealt with their whole lives.

One student shared a story of being called a racial epithet as a young child. Some said they felt like no one cared about them. Others recounted fear they felt when being pulled over by police.

One of those was Leawood junior Bobby Gay. Gay said in high school he lived in a nice neighborhood, had a nice car and often was with white friends. Before he got his keys, his father made him sign a pact with instructions to follow if pulled over — among others, say “yes, sir” and “no, sir.”

Gay said he still felt like police treated him like he wasn’t supposed to be in his own neighborhood.

Hamer said KU is far less active than other schools when it comes to gathering and taking action. She encouraged students to change that.

“I don’t think KU does well with race, ethnicity, gender,” she said.

“It only takes a small group. Students have more power than faculty. You can raise the issues; we’re here to support you.”

Some related events are now planned, including a march on campus Monday night.