KU Chancellor vetoes resolution demanding 'Multicultural Student Government'

The Chancellor of the University of Kansas has vetoed a student government resolution calling for a $2 student fee increase to fund the country’s first ever “multicultural student government.”

“I believe that the independent student government proposed in the document sent to University Senate is not an optimal way to achieve the goals we have for diversity and inclusion at the university and, indeed, may lead to greater divisiveness,” Bernadette Gray-Little wrote in a letter to the Student Senate Executive Committee last week.

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Additionally, Gray-Little cited several university policies that the new student government would violate. Primarily, the multicultural student government does not actually exist yet, meaning student funds would be diverted to a non-existent group.

“I am writing to inform you that I cannot recommend that fee for Kansas Board of Regents’ approval because the separate multicultural government for which the fee was created does not exist, nor will the separate government be developed for 2016-2017, the year for which the fee is intended,” she explained.

Further, Gray-Little notes that university policy prohibits multiple student governments from representing the same constituent (students) in the university senate.

“Thus, there has been no University Governance recognition of a separate multicultural student government as a part of University Governance, and as a result there is no official internal recognition of a separate, parallel multicultural student government as part of University Governance,” Gray-Little concludes.

The request for a multicultural student government was one of 15 demands submitted to the student senate earlier this year by an activist group known as “Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk (RCIH).”

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“Establish Multicultural Student Government independent of current University of Kansas Student Senate,” the group wrote in its list of demands, but neglected to address what sort of real authority the multicultural governing body would actually have.

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Considering KU’s population of 28,000 students, a $2 hike in fees would amount to a total budget of $56,000 for the new student government, likely more, since the student senate’s list of rules and regulations dictates that “every student enrolled in any semester” is required to pay student fees. Yet RCIH again fails to explain how the budget would be used and, in fact, never addresses the nature of the multicultural student government beyond calls for its establishment.

Members of RCIH, however, promised to continue advocating for their own governing body, saying they will appeal Gray-Little’s veto.

“We are meeting with the chancellor and the interim vice provost to discuss their decision and to immediately discuss if there is any possibility of repeal or changing her mind,” student Jyleesa Hampton told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “We are hoping to convey to her that a lot of students who are multicultural and non-multicultural support this initiative.”

Hampton also responded to Gray-Little’s claims that an additional student government would violate school policy, saying she thinks Gray-Little interpreted university policy with an eye towards limiting the power of the student body.

“It does not mean that the Student Senate can’t be thought of as a bicameral system where there are two bodies that make up a single body,” Hampton protested. “The idea was for them to work together on a number of issues; it’s just the programs and perspectives that would be different. I think if we looked at the code and interpreted in a more liberal way, we could find a way to do that. I think they are interpreting it to limit student power and governance.”

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