Clarification: The defaced car mentioned in the article was the result of a "Halloween prank that got out of hand," according to Riley County Police Department. The full story has been linked to provide more context for the incident. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the mistake.
Kansas State University cancelled classes and closed offices for two hours Tuesday afternoon so faculty and students could participate in a campus-wide event promoting diversity.
Jack Ayres, KSU student body president and organizer of the event, said the event, KSUnite, was in response to discriminatory actions on campus challenging the University’s values of diversity, inclusion and equity. A noose was found hanging from a tree on campus in May, and a car was defaced with racial slurs earlier this month.
“We wanted to take the opportunity to come together to reaffirm our commitments, principles and values,” Ayres said. “We don’t want to let other people define what we’re all about here at Kansas State.”
The event was intended to create a dialogue of diversity within the Kansas State community between students, staff and the greater community, Ayres said. The Unity Walk began at 1 p.m. — everyone was encouraged to walk from wherever they were on campus to the main lawn in front of Anderson Hall, the university’s main administrative building. The KSUnite event officially began at 1:30 p.m., Ayres said.
“Speakers representing groups from across campus, including our university president, Gen. Richard B. Myers, spoke about our commitments and what they mean to motivate everybody in the audience to be a part of advancing our university,” Ayres said.
The third part of the event was a series of breakout sessions focused on education, reflection and action, Ayres said. The goal was to discuss ways to create a multicultural student center and bolster cultural competency education.
UNC-Chapel Hill’s administration has responded to several incidences on campus this semester regarding free speech and diversity. The Office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs released a message in August in response to protests over the Silent Sam memorial and controversy surrounding outside speakers on campus.
“The First Amendment prohibits the University from ‘abridging the freedom of speech,’ which included speech that is offensive or hateful,” the message said. “Extremely hateful, hurtful speech is protected under the First Amendment.”
The message also said North Carolina law requires the allowance of outside speakers to rent University facilities and the obligation to treat all speakers equally — no matter the content of their speech.
“We cannot prohibit a person from coming to campus because the University community does not agree with what that person has to say or because the speech would be offensive to most people,” the message said. “However, it is critical that the campus community understands that complying with the law does not mean the University — in any way — endorses such speech.”
Graham Lowder, a UNC-CH sophomore and chairperson of the LGBTQ Rights Committee through the UNC-CH chapter of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said he thinks a diversity event at UNC-CH would be beneficial and well-received.
“We need to be able to engage with different ideas and perspectives in order to get a thorough education,” Lowder said. “An event promoting diversity at UNC would be a great way for students to learn how to engage with people from different backgrounds and understand different cultures.”
Ayres said he was thrilled support for the event was coming in from universities and organizations across the country. This event will hopefully be the first of many at Kansas State, he said.
“I hope that there are other universities across the country that do something similar,” Ayres said. “I think we can progress our country in regards to issues with diversity that we’re having nationwide. Higher education institutions can — and should — be the leaders of that.”
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