KU Today, March 9, 2016
A request to establish a multicultural student government at Kansas University–which proponents said would be unprecedented among U.S. universities–was approved after intense debate Wednesday night.
The KU Student Senate voted on allocating a list of required student fees for the upcoming school year, including a $2 fee increase to fund the newly created Multicultural Student Government. The fee would generate about $90,000 annually and be disseminated through KU’s Office of Multicultural Affairs.
While many senators agreed with the concept of the new governing body, others expressed concern that more detailed logistics had yet to be established and shared because the group was so new.
After a prolonged debate, senators overwhelmingly voted to approve the fee package including the recommended fee to create the Multicultural Student Government at 11 p.m. Wednesday.
Ultimately, for the new organization to function the way its leaders envision, Student Senate’s current bylaws would need to be edited to allow for the new body to have representation in decision-making, Student Senate finance committee chairman and law student Tyler Childress explained.
About 50 students of color attended Wednesday’s meeting and lined up behind proponents of the Multicultural Student Government, who presented to the full senate for the first time a written memo explaining more about their ideas for the new organization, along with a slideshow presentation.
“Multicultural students are best equipped to create spaces in which fellow multicultural students feel safe and accepted,” according to the memo. “The current Student Senate does not advocate for students of color in part due to refusal by select members, and because of lack of understanding and empathy.”
Students Jameelah Jones and Katherine Rainey stressed that the Multicultural Student Government would not be “separate but equal” and would not be divisive.
“What we do does not negate what you do, and vice versa,” Jones said. “The goal is not to pit one student body against another. That’s not our intention.”
Rainey said each of the eight executive board members would receive a $6,000 annual stipend as opposed to an hourly wage, which would enable participants to hold other campus jobs. She said elections would be held to fill the Multicultural Student Government, and that students could serve on both the Multicultural Student Government and the Student Senate.
She said the government would have “equal representation in all university spaces” and equal seats in the campus fee review process.