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Statement in Support of the Black Student Union

Statement in Support of the Black Student Union, and Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk 

Department of African and African-American Studies Faculty 

The Department of African and African-American Studies (AAAS) emerged directly from student protest at the University of Kansas in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Aside from our teaching, research, and professional service duties, we are a community of scholars with a special responsibility to support students in the pursuit of equity, inclusion, access, and racial and social justice at this university and beyond. As a result, we stand in full solidarity with the goals of members of the KU Black Student Union and affiliates of Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk, who staged a demonstration at the Chancellor’s November 11, 2015 Town Hall Forum on Race, Respect and Responsibility. We join these students in urging the Office of the Chancellor to respond concretely to their demands in a timely and meaningful manner. 

KU students of color testified to a disturbing pattern of anti-black intimidation and violence in residence halls, classrooms, and other campus spaces – as well as spaces in the larger Lawrence community. Many who spoke voiced the opinion that KU, and its surrounding environs, is not welcoming to students of color; nor do they feel that KU is a safe place for them. Equally distressing, students expressed the view that from residence hall managers to the offices of the Provost and the Chancellor, the University has been far more interested in avoiding public exposure of racist incidents, suppressing student discontent, and “protecting” KU’s reputation than in substantively addressing grievances by students of color. This ineffective University response adds insult to the injuries of racial microaggressions and hate speech, and it only feeds KU’s inability to recruit and retain students of color, particularly black students. These forms of violence also buttress a hostile campus environment for faculty and staff of color. 

The problems faced by students of color at KU have multiple sources, including a lack of attention to recruiting a diverse undergraduate and graduate student body, particularly from among historically underrepresented domestic minorities; an unwillingness to “put teeth” to the University’s rhetorical support for a diverse faculty across departments and colleges; the absence of systematic, proactive education and training in racial/ethnic sensitivity and cultural competency for all students, staff, and faculty; and a tendency to leave “diversity work” largely to the Office of Multicultural Affairs, and non-traditional, interdisciplinary departments like AAAS. 

Our solutions will have to be as equally complex, and they must involve many more stakeholders. Further, these issues affect the welfare of all students, not simply that of students of color. A diverse learning and social environment is beneficial to everyone. In order for all KU students to achieve their potential as global citizens and contribute to KU’s mission of preparing them “for lives of learning and for the challenges educated citizens will encounter in an increasingly complex and diverse global community,” regardless of identity/ies, they must have a safe and inclusive environment. As AAAS faculty, we are willing to continue rolling up our sleeves to do the work of making KU a more inclusive intellectual and cultural community that is truly representative of the domestic constituencies and global interests that the University claims to serve in its “Bold Aspirations” strategic plan. But we call on our senior-level administrators to match our ongoing efforts with their own labor, seriousness, and resources. Quite literally, our students’ lives depend on it.

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KU announces first Diversity Leadership Awards
Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Langston Hughes Center received a $180,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct a June 2017 summer institute for high school teachers, entitled "Teaching the 'Long Hot Summer' of 1967 and Beyond."  The project will be led by Shawn Alexander, Clarence Lang, and John Rury.

Teresa Leslie-Canty, AAAS Lecturer and a Topeka High School teacher, nominated by her students in February, won a free Nissan Versa Tuesday night as the KSNT News and Capital City Nissan of Topeka “Teacher of the Year”. Teresa Leslie-Canty was previously the February “Teacher of the Month” after being nominated by 13 of her students.

Professor Jessica Gerschultz has been awarded the prestigious American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellowship for the 2015-16 academic year. The Fellowship is for her book project, Decorative Arts of the Tunisian Ecole: Fabrications of Modernism, Gender, and Class in Tunisia (1948-1972).

African and African-American studies professor Professor Beverly Mack wins inaugural engaged scholarship award

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Professor Dorthy Pennington was inducted into the Central States Communication Association Hall of Fame (April 2015)

Student Spotlight

Second year AAAS MA student, Caroline Kastor is also a professional athlete.  This summer Caroline, former KU soccer standout, signed with FC Kansas City and topped off her rookie season by helping lead the organization to their second straight National Women’s Soccer League championship on October 1, 2015.

Previous Student Spotlight »

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