KU chancellor vetoes fees for multicultural student body

LAWRENCE – The future of a proposed multicultural student government at the University of Kansas is in doubt after Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little vetoed a proposed student fee meant for it.

In a letter to the Student Senate on Wednesday, Gray-Little said she could not recommend a $2-per-semester student fee because it would be collected in the 2016-17 school year although the parallel student government would not yet be functioning, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.

The Student Senate approved fees for the Multicultural Student Government on March 9 before details of how it would be structured and co-exist with the current student government were decided. Proponents said they did not want a separate government but one that would work side-by-side with the existing student senate while focusing on issues important to minority students

Gray-Little argued that the university’s code prohibits multiple independent groups representing separate constituents, such as faculty, students or staff, within the University Senate.

She also said state law allows only one student from each university to represent students before the Kansas Board of Regents, meaning a member of an independent student government cannot be officially recognized.

“Finally, I believe that the independent student government proposed … 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,” Gray-Little wrote.

Trinity Carpenter, one of the students who led efforts to form the multicultural student government, said the group would continue trying to create one.

She said University Senate president Michael Williams told the MSG leadership that a change in the language of the bill that created the group – shifting it to a bicameral legislative body from an independent one – could resolve some of the objections raised in Gray-Little’s letter.

“That is what we wanted all along – to be an equal body with the Student Senate,” Carpenter said. “This hurts, because we are the marginalized students who know there is a need for this resource. It’s even harder to accept because they have admitted there is a need for this institution and are not supporting it.”

Gray-Little wrote that she is committed personally and as chancellor to developing a university environment, including governance, that makes all students, faculty and staff feel included and respected.

The $2-per-semester fee would have brought in an estimated $90,000 annually. Group leaders said about half of that money would have gone to stipends for executive staff and the other half toward programming, supplies and advertising. The Student Senate voted to give MSG control of allocating the Multicultural Education Fund.