K-State to suspend classes for campuswide anti-racism rally

Responding to a recent spate of racial incidents, Kansas State University will suspend classes on Tuesday afternoon for a campuswide rally against racism to be hosted by student leaders and keynoted by university President Richard Myers.

Myers announced the mass demonstration in a letter sent Wednesday night to students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni.

“We care about each other, and when others attempt to tear us apart it’s time for us to demonstrate our strength by showing our unity,” Myers wrote.

All classes will be suspended at the university from 1 to 3 p.m. for the event, that has been dubbed “KSUnite,” Myers’ letter said.

“In a sign of solidarity, students, faculty and staff will walk in unison from classrooms and offices to the Anderson Hall lawn,” Myers wrote.

There, Myers will “provide a message of unity and outline steps that all K-Staters can take to help move our campus and community forward.”

Student Body President Jack Ayers and Black Student Union President Darrell Reese Jr., will co-host the event.

“Our legacy at K-State is about family and supporting one another,” Myers wrote. “That hasn’t changed. We cannot and will not allow the actions of a few detractors to attack our values or divide us.”

Following the mass rally, students are invited to gather at the Student Union for facilitated conversations on the issue of racism and what to do about it.

K-State and Manhattan have been rocked by a series of racial incidents – some real and some hoaxes – that have spread virally on social media and tarnished the university’s reputation.

In May, a noose was found hanging from a tree on campus, apparently intended to invoke imagery of the lynching of African-Americans in the south during the civil rights movement.

Racist flyers were found on campus in September, and last month an anti-gay slur associated with Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church was found written on a concrete column in the Bosco Plaza, outside the Student Union.

The most recent incident, anti-black graffiti painted on a car last week, turned out to be a hoax when a police investigation found that the car’s owner, who was not a student, had done it himself in what he called a Halloween prank.

Myers addressed that issue in his letter and cautioned members of the university community not to believe everything they read on social media.

“We address every reported incident and have adopted a policy of making certain that our statements are based on facts and the outcome of formal investigations,” Myers wrote. “We understand information moves swiftly across social media channels, and as a result, it often spreads inaccurate and confusing information before investigations have been conducted.”

The university is in the process of hiring two administrators to address racial issues on the campus.

Myers also said the university has provided training to faculty, staff and students on how to recognize actual discrimination and report it.

“As a result, the overall number of reports has gone up, that was expected and will help us confront these issues,” Myers wrote.

Contributing: Associated Press

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas

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