K-State says it can’t punish individual responsible for white nationalist comments on University forum

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A statement written on a dry erase board in the Morris Family Multicultural Center at K-State sparked dialogue with administrators Monday. Courtesy: Vedant Kulkarni

MANHATTAN, Kan (KSNT) – K-State administrators held a public forum Monday evening to address white nationalist-tied comments written on public forums in the Morris Family Multicultural Student Center.

The forums, meant to give students a place to express why they celebrate Black History Month, took a turn when an unidentified individual wrote sayings like, “because it is a huge joke” on the dry erase boards.

“When I first saw those writing on the wall I was very disgusted, and I could not believe my eyes,” said K-State Student Vedant Kulkarni.

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This isn’t the first time officials at K-State have held dialogues in response to racism at the university, which was noted by officials at the start of the forum.

“I want to open up the floor for some conversation and dialogue regarding why we keep ending up at this point,” said Trumanue Lindsey Jr., K-State Director of Diversity and Multicultural Student Life.

Dr. Thomas Lane, Vice President of Student Life for K-State, confirmed the Morris Family Multicultural has security cameras but said the footage of the individual writing the statements can not be released due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

He also noted the unidentified individual did not violate any university policies.

“Given the circumstances surrounding this act, after the act occurred, I had conversations with other administrators with other folks who are responsible for the execution of university policy. We do not have in this instant where university policy was broken,” Dr. Lane said.

Some students were not satisfied with the current response from the administration. Some chose to leave the dialogue early in protest.

“A number of the Black students in this room left this room simply because we are tired, we are very tired of the majority of the students on this campus feeling unloved and like we are unheard,” said K-State student Christopher Burrell. “We feel like this is a weak excuse. We feel like this is a sorry excuse and another band-aid that you are all putting on another multicultural on an insensitive problem that continues to happen on this campus and we are tired of it. That is why we walked out.”

K-State President Richard Myers was absent from Monday night’s forum. Students who joined via Zoom and in-person noted his absence. Officials in the room said he intends on planning diversity meetings with stakeholders scheduled in March.

These events are not the first time K-State has experienced controversy surrounding racist issues on its campus. This past summer, a now-former K-State student, tweeted racist remarks that sparked statements from the university president and lead to some student-athletes speaking out.

A spokesperson for K-State told KSNT News the student who tweeted those remarks is no longer enrolled at the university.

In October of 2017 severe weather caused the destruction of a Sukkah, or a booth constructed during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. K-State President Richard Myers referred to the incident prematurely as a “hateful, criminal reaction.” An investigation later confirmed the incident was caused by weather.

Then a month later, an individual reported racist remarks written on their vehicle in Manhattan. An investigation completed by the FBI in conjunction with the Riley County Police Department later revealed the suspect wrote the graffiti on their own car.

Also in 2017, students reported what was believed to be a noose tied from a tree. K-State Police later concluded in an investigation that the rope was not meant to be an act of racism.

However, some students have made it clear that some acts of racism on college campuses go unreported, or are not addressed properly. During the summer of 2020, K-State students began to tweet personal experiences using #BlackatK-State to share their experiences.

K-State President Richard Myers later addressed the tweets in a video posted on the University’s social media pages.

The most recent remarks bring forward students’ voices and expose policies that leave University officials with their hands tied.

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