Kansas college group rejects funding for transgender speaker

SALINA, Kan. | Student leaders at Kansas State University at Salina have rejected a request for $1,000 to bring a transgender speaker to campus.

The campus' Student Governing Association voted 4-2 Tuesday night against a request to pay Ryan Sallans' fees and expenses for a Nov. 23 speech. Sallans, 30, of Lincoln, Neb., who used surgery and hormone therapy to become a man, gives frequent speeches on sexuality and transgender issues.

Student leaders who supported the funding said they will resubmit a request for some of the money and raise the rest privately to bring Sallans to campus.

Shae Blackwell, student body vice president, who submitted the funding quest, said those who voted against it thought the funding was "a waste of student money, that no students would attend."

She said that despite the SGA vote, about three-fourths of the 75 students who attended the meeting supported bringing Sallans to campus.

Student Body President Brian Koester said the funding request caused "one of the biggest debates we've had in a little while in SGA."

Koester said members questioned whether students would attend the speech during Thanksgiving week.

"We didn't want the speaker to come and speak to an empty room," Koester said. "We've had poor turnouts for speakers in the past."

Blackwell and Koester plan to reapply for $600 from the SGA to cover Sallans' booking fee. Nearly $400 already has been raised from private donors. If the $600 request is rejected, Blackwell said, all of the money will be raised from private sources.

Sallans is already scheduled to speak to classes on family studies and human services on Nov. 24.

He wrote in an e-mail to The Salina Journal that this is not the first time he's met resistance to his presentations.

"Typically the resistance is due to misunderstanding or fear of public perception," he wrote. "The individuals that raise this ruckus don't attend the event and I never hear of any problems upon completing a talk."

Sallans was asked to come to campus by Safe Zone, a group that is an ally of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students on campus, Blackwell said.

Sallans will help start an official LGBT group on campus, she said.