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Kansas Student Leaders Say They’re not ‘mimicking Mizzou’

by Associated Press LAWRENCE, Kan. — Protest leaders at the University of Kansas said Monday that they’re pushing for changes that ensure problems faced by minority and other “marginalized” students are addressed swiftly and effectively, rather than “mimicking Mizzou” by seeking the ouster of administrators. Leaders of the Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk group in Kansas acknowledged that they felt inspired by protests at the University of Missouri, which led to the system president there resigning along with the chancellor of its flagship Columbia campus. The Kansas group leaders also believe they seized a timely moment last week when they presented demands to the university that included increasing faculty diversity, forming a team of counselors for students of color and requiring “inclusion and belonging” training for all students and staff. Some of the students with the demands stood on stage with signs at the end of a contentious two-hour forum on race and discrimination that Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little moderated last week. On Monday, the only sign of protest on the leafy Lawrence campus – where 70 percent of the student body is white – was a hunger strike by a former student not affiliated with the Invisible Hawk group who apparently later ended it. The leaders of the group also said they’re not involved in a separate effort being pursued through the university’s Student Senate to oust the student body president, vice president and their chief of staff, partly over their response to Invisible Hawk demands. “Our desire is to get effective change and effective leadership,” said Kynnedi Grant, a junior from the St. Louis area. “Regardless of who is sitting in that spot, the issues will still exist, so actually at this time it may be important to have consistent leadership.” The Invisible Hawk hashtag campaign on Twitter – using #rockchalkinvisiblehawk and #howmuchmore – began last year after a white police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black and unarmed. But Grant, who’s also president of the Black Student Union, said the Invisible Hawk group’s concerns echo decades of complaints that university administrators don’t deal with incidents of discrimination seriously enough. “We are all people who have interacted with the administration and have been in countless meetings,” said Mark Maiden, a junior from Overland Park, a white, self-described queer student. “We’re of all talk, no action.” Grant said the group had “to seize that moment on stage” at the end of last week’s forum. “If we had not done that, where would we be right now?” she said. “We would have lost opportunity to give our demands.” Gray-Little, who is black, issued a statement Friday in which she said, “We can do better.” She also said change must involve everyone at the university, including students. She promised more details later this week on actions the university would take. The university declined to issue further statements Monday. The chancellor’s statement did resonate with some students. Sinclair McDonald, a sophomore from Atlanta who is black and studying marketing, described Gray-Little as “pro-active,” and sophomore Gabrielle Frank, a black nursing student from Springfield, Missouri, called the university leader’s statement “a step in the right direction.”

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