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Student Body President Hungate’s parents subject of alleged racial incident directed at former Student Body President Shepard

Student Body President Paige Hungate’s parents are subject of criminal investigation for battery and ‘fighting words’ against Student Body President Emeritus Joseph Shepard following an end-of-the-year SGA banquet.

Student+Body+President+Emeritus+Joseph+Shepard+says+he+was+verbally+attacked+by+Stacey+Steffes-Sundquist%2C+mother+of+Student+Body+President+Paige+Hungate+following+the+Student+Government+end-of-year+banquet+Thursday+night+at+the+Beggs+Ballroom+in+the+Rhatigan+Student+Center.+
Student Body President Emeritus Joseph Shepard says he was verbally attacked by Stacey Steffes-Sundquist, mother of Student Body President Paige Hungate following the Student Government end-of-year banquet Thursday night at the Beggs Ballroom in the Rhatigan Student Center.

Student Body President Emeritus Joseph Shepard says he was verbally attacked by Stacey Steffes-Sundquist, mother of Student Body President Paige Hungate following the Student Government end-of-year banquet Thursday night at the Beggs Ballroom in the Rhatigan Student Center.

Brian Hayes

Brian Hayes

Student Body President Emeritus Joseph Shepard says he was verbally attacked by Stacey Steffes-Sundquist, mother of Student Body President Paige Hungate following the Student Government end-of-year banquet Thursday night at the Beggs Ballroom in the Rhatigan Student Center.

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Student Body President Paige Hungate’s parents — who work at local high schools — are under criminal investigation for battery and anti-black, hate “fighting words” following an altercation at a student government banquet, according to police reports and multiple sources that attended the event.

Rhatigan Student Center facilities workers contacted university police to report “an act of disturbance at the Rhatigan Student Center” at around 9:15 p.m. Thursday, immediately after the end-of-the-year banquet.

Student Body President Emeritus Joseph Shepard, who was the second black student body president at WSU, gave a farewell speech at the banquet, which was attended by several members of the 59th and 60th Sessions of student government and their parents, administrators, and university staff. In his speech, Shepard said he acknowledged that Hungate was not his “first choice” for student body president but offered his support for her during her presidency.

“I didn’t feel that it was wrong for me to say that — it was out there,” Shepard said. “But this is who the student body elected, and we need to respect her — we need to work with her.”

Sophomore Juan Garcia, who was in attendance photographing the event, said Shepard’s speech “elevate[d] the tension” in the room. Garcia said the speech was “politically charged” and left Hungate and her parents visibly upset.

“You could tell by their faces, they were not having it,” Garcia said.

Shepard said Hungate’s mother, Stacey Steffes-Sundquist, approached him after the speech because she had taken exception to his speech. He said they then moved the conversation outside of Beggs Ballroom, where the conversation escalated to an argument.

Shepard said Steffes-Sundquist said his speech was “divisive” and an attack on her daughter.

“She told me, ‘You’re the problem. Everything is about you. Everything is the Joseph and Taben show,’” Shepard said.

Shepard said Steffes-Sundquist raised her voice while continuing to express animosity toward him, and with tensions building, former Student Body Vice President Taben Azad stepped in, telling Shepard to leave the altercation. Agreeing to leave, Shepard responded to Steffes-Sundquist saying, “Act your age, not your shoe size and then maybe, moving forward, we can have a conversation.”

Shepard said as Steffes-Sundquist left, she mumbled a racial slur directed at him.

Multiple sources that witnessed the altercation confirmed Steffes-Sundquist then directed a racial epithet toward Shepard. After the argument, Hungate’s father, Trent Hungate, “charged” Shepard, bumping Shepard’s mother, who is listed in the police report as a victim, in the shoulder, multiple witnesses said.

“He had intent to physically harm me,” Shepard said of Trent Hungate.

Courtesy Steven Shepard
Steven Shepard, father of Joseph Shepard, posted the following after an alleged incident at Thursday evenings end-of-year SGA banquet.

Steffes-Sundquist is an assistant principal at Wichita Northwest High School. Trent Hungate is a football coach at Kapaun Mount Carmel High School.

In a statement to The Sunflower, Susan Arensman, news and media relations manager for Wichita Public Schools, said the district is aware of the incident.

“To the extent that it impacts our district, we are following district protocol and investigating,” she said.

Sophomore Amena Elamin said she witnessed the altercation between Trent Hungate and Shepard.

“I had seen that Joseph was walking out. He was talking to Paige’s parents,” Elamin said. “Suddenly I see Paige’s dad charging after Joseph.

“That’s when they held Joseph back, they held her dad back. They were struggling to get loose, still yelling at each other.”

‘What’s it going to take?’

Hungate did not respond to The Sunflower’s request for an interview about the altercation.

The WSU Student Government Association, through its Facebook page, released a statement Friday afternoon, distancing the organization from the situation.

“The events relating to the parents of the incoming and outgoing Student Body Presidents are private matters,” the social media post said. “Making the Association involved would be outside of the Association’s functions.

“With questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to reach out to members of the Association’s cabinet,” the statement said.

At about 2 p.m. Friday, nearly 40 students went to the student government office in the RSC asking for answers from Hungate and Vice President for Student Affairs Teri Hall.

“This has become a legal concern,” Hungate said, “a personal, private matter with my family, and I can’t really give any more detail than that. I really can’t. It’s becoming a legal concern with my family, that’s really all I can say.

“I’m not going to incriminate my family. I’m not going to incriminate myself. I was not there last night when anything went down. I was not there. I do not know the facts,” Hungate said.

“I don’t condone those words being used,” Hungate said of the allegations against her parents. “I don’t condone those actions being taken.”

“I don’t know what you want from me because this situation involves my family.”

Hungate left the meeting after one student asked, “How do we know the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree?”

Hall took over the meeting and answered questions from students.

“I want to apologize on behalf of Wichita State University,” Hall said, “I promise you that we’ve been working and responding on this incident since last night. …But if we haven’t communicated that appropriately to you, we want to respond to it, we want to get to the bottom of it, and if we don’t, we don’t support this kind of behavior on our campus … If we haven’t been open and communicating quickly enough or clearly enough that we’re concerned about this situation … I apologize.”

Hall went on to discuss improving the reporting system for incidents of hate crimes on campus.

Students said they are growing increasingly frustrated with the university administration, including President John Bardo, who they said have continuously failed to address similar, concerns over treatment of minority students in the previous two years, including death threats, lack of support for the Black Lives Matter Resolution, and disparities in the way the university serves underrepresented groups.

Students asked Hall whether she cared at all about growing tensions at the university, including those directed at Shepard.

“We all here want a policy here saying Wichita State will not support or condone hate speech or racial slurs and I want it in writing and I want it fast,” said Tracia Banuelos, who ran against Hungate in the SGA elections.

“What’s it going to take: One of us to get shot?” Banuelos said.

There was no response to Banuelos’s question. Hall said she wanted to collect everyone’s email and schedule a meeting with everyone in attendance after finals.

“Last night was tough for my family and friends,” Shepard said. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It was supposed to be a night of healing, a night of reform, and a night of being proud — and that was taken away from me.”

Facebook Live Video Courtesy Demetrius Sterling, Wichita State student

40 Comments

40 Responses to “Student Body President Hungate’s parents subject of alleged racial incident directed at former Student Body President Shepard”

  1. Dale Small on May 5th, 2017 4:47 pm

    Absolutely great coverage. My only note is on the “fighting words” to define racial charged statements. Why not define it as it is at least being speculated as rather than as something that detracts from the more than prevalent issue of racism in this situation? Nigger is not a fighting word. It’s a racist statement of hatred and demeaning towards Black people. State it right, or not at all.

    Thank you.

    [Reply]

    Carolyn Marie Fugit Reply:

    Dale: “Fighting words” is actually a specific legal term. While hate speech is protected under the First Amendment, there are times when they are said in situations where there is a risk of immediate physical assault. Given what happened, “fighting words” would be the correct words to use.

    [Reply]

    Dale Small Reply:

    I am aware per the Cornell University Legal Information Institute. As well as the legal parameters set surrounding hate speech under Constitutional Law.

    “Fighting Words – Words which would likely make the person whom they are addressed commit an act of violence. Fighting words are a category of speech that is unprotected by the First Amendment.”

    Despite, the context and regardless of the University Police Department’s report. The usage of “fighting words” vs calling it what it is, racist speech, for some creates an inferential connotation. One that in some regards potentially detracts from the historical context regarding the word n*****, as well as the context of the actual situation faced by Shepard, the university, its students, and all potentially affected by this issue.

    I say that in lieu that what happened extends past a matter of physical altercation, but one with a myriad of social and cultural implications regarding the local community surrounding and WSU students and faculty.

    [Reply]

    Carolyn Marie Fugit Reply:

    I mean, short of mentioning more of the specific hate speech, the headline says there are charges of battery and fighting words, both of which are illegal, but goes on to say there was a racial slur.

    That wasn’t me attempting to dismiss anything. WSU has a long history of racism on campus, especially anti-Black racism, and Joseph Shepard has been the target of a great deal of hatred from all sides.

    concerned student Reply:

    Dale,

    the university is calling it fighting words because that’s what the charge is, And as far as I have found there have been no official statements of hate speech or the n word being used. The investigators have a duty to be entirely obejctive in the face of hard evidence. That is why things are worded the way they are.

    [Reply]

  2. Jesse Allen on May 5th, 2017 5:20 pm

    To the above commenter, please either attach a cw or blank out certain letters of that word. It is a hard and ugly word for people who have been pushed to the limit these last 24 hours (and semester, arguably).

    To Ms. Hungate, and the administrators remaining silent through all of this: using language as harmful and derogatory as the n-word sustains systems of oppression and white supremacy. This specific incident is representative of a much larger issue at Wichita State that has nothing to do with political affiliations; this university (both the administration and the current student government cabinet) are perpetuating violence and intolerance against people of color. I don’t know why you feel emboldened to use this language– perhaps its indicative of the nation’s movement toward the alt-right. Regardless, it is never okay. It will never be okay for you to use that language.

    However, I (and a significant part of the student body) are more offended by your silence. Is this a flippant response to yesterday’s events? Are you so removed from the adversity and struggle of students of color that you fail to realize the grave actions of your words? Or is this your way of cowardly dissociating from blatantly prejudice and racist actions? You’ve already caused enough pain and divisiveness to this campus; the ongoing reticence is doing nothing in your favor.

    -Jesse Allen
    GTA/English Department

    #blacklivesmatter #standwithshepard

    [Reply]

    Mike Reply:

    Jesse: I doubt the needs of a student body for transparency on this issue is greater than the legality of giving a statement under duress. She wasn’t present and isn’t responsible for the actions of her parents. Your behavior and continued harassment of Paige is slanderous and appalling.

    #virtuesignaling

    [Reply]

    Jesse Allen Reply:

    Hey, “Mike,”

    Ms. Hungate’s refusal to speak on this extremely sensitive and critical matter is unprofessional and a failure to her constituents. To me, that is the appalling. If she doesn’t want to (or rather can’t) speak publicly on this matter, then she is failing to fulfill her duties and should thusly resign. The student body deserves answers; they deserve transparency.

    Furthermore, I’d like for you to point out anything that I have said publicly regarding this matter as slanderous. Ms. Hungate’s parents are under investigation for hate speech and attacking Joseph Shepard– this is a fact. Ms. Hungate has yet to make a public statement. This is also a fact. Maybe your moral compass allows for racial slurs, violence, and silence from elected officials, but mine doesn’t. #virtuesignaling

    -JA

    [Reply]

    A. P. Vague Reply:

    I don’t think you understand the definitions of the words “harassment,” “slanderous,” “appalling,” or “virtue signaling.” If asking for a statement from a student body president is “duress,” what is actually expected of someone in this position?

    [Reply]

  3. Insider on May 5th, 2017 5:30 pm

    Hey Dale: I think they’re using “fighting words” to mean “words expressing an insult, especially of an ethnic, racial, or sexist nature.” Depending on where they looked up the definition of “fighting words”, of course.
    This was a much better article than I expected. Good job, Sunflower.

    [Reply]

  4. Walter Wright on May 5th, 2017 6:14 pm

    I hate to be “that guy”, but Alvin Teague in 91 was the first black student body president at WSU. Joseph was the first to serve two terms though, which is a quite the accomplishment

    [Reply]

    WSU alumnus Reply:

    Thanks for pointing that out. Alvin Teague was and remains an outstanding servant of the community, just as Joseph has been.

    [Reply]

  5. Weary, worn down student on May 5th, 2017 6:36 pm

    How do we start a Republican newspaper?

    [Reply]

    Emily Reply:

    I don’t understand your comment, a republican newspaper should be just as angry correct? About the disrespect and attack on a past president? Seems to me this article has been reporting the facts, not skewing with a certain bias.

    [Reply]

    Natalir L Reply:

    I feel like this article was in no way biased. They got all the facts they could and interviewed willing people- which is all they can do. If you want to see the other side- write the article!

    [Reply]

    Hasan Raffi Reply:

    Weary, worn down student,

    Excuse me but how dare you politicize a racial attack on our former Student Body President. How dare you politicize an attack on the first African American Student Body President to serve two terms at Wichita State University. This article is simply reporting the events that transpired on Thursday night after the SGA banquet. I was there. I saw the new student body president’s father attack Joseph Shepard.

    If reporting the details of an assault that actually took place makes The Sunflower a “Democratic newspaper,” then you honestly need to take a hike. I am sickened that you actually want a “Republican newspaper.” I am assuming you want this because you want a newspaper that will skew the facts in order to appease your narrow-minded world view. The Sunflower is a non-partisan newspaper, and they simply reported the events that occurred. If you don’t like hearing about racial attacks from non-partisan newspapers, then you can always read Breitbart or watch Fox News.

    Thank you and have a nice day.

    Hasan Raffi
    At-large Senator

    [Reply]

    Dan Close Reply:

    I agree!

    [Reply]

  6. Natalir L on May 5th, 2017 10:08 pm

    Really informative article! I didn’t know what happened and I feel like this was a really unbiased report given the information available! Hope to see more work like this soon!

    [Reply]

  7. Daniel Wilson on May 5th, 2017 10:46 pm

    I am not sure that your assertion that Joseph Shepherd was the first black WSU student body president is correct. If memory serves, Alvin Teague, who is also black, served as the SGA president at WSU in 1991.

    [Reply]

  8. Heidi on May 6th, 2017 3:17 am

    I love that so many people are so concerned about who was the first black SGA President and not voicing concern over the young man being called a n****r. Where you put your energy is a huge statement. Gross.

    [Reply]

    Will Deer Reply:

    I actually think pointing that out shows that WSU has a history of breaking down racial barriers.

    [Reply]

    Heidi Reply:

    Because there was one before him? That’s as bad as Paige saying America isn’t racist because we had one black Peesisebt.

    [Reply]

    Heidi Reply:

    President. Ugh.

    Will Deer Reply:

    Really? Wow. The point is that Alvin Teague was the first African American SGA President at WSU. No one said anyone was racist or not racist, simply that there was a factual error in the article. Again, WSU has a long history of breaking down racial barriers. Willie Jeffries also comes to mind.

    Daniel Wilson Reply:

    I respectfully disagree. The language used and the manner in which it was directed toward Mr. Shepard was reprehensible. However, I feel that failing or refusing to acknowledge the contributions and/or accomplishments of a Black man can be even more destructive. In that it makes it that much easier for people to justify discriminatory beliefs and actions. While I agree that the way Mr. Shepard was treated was horrendous, I think that pales when compared to pretending or denying that an individual even existed.

    [Reply]

  9. Van Williams on May 6th, 2017 7:06 am

    Sunflower editors, correction request: the first black WSU SGA president was Alvin Teagues in the early 90’s. the first racial ethnic minority president was his predecessor, Steve Cisneros. I was a student and worked with both student leaders. I also worked at the Sunflower.
    Thanks
    Van Williams

    [Reply]

  10. Wade Robinson on May 6th, 2017 8:51 am

    I would like to give some historical background to some who might be new to the topic of bias/harassment/discrimination at WSU. Joseph Shepard did a tremendous job for two years. To get elected the first time was an amazing accomplishment. To get reelected given the issues he faced in his first year was even more of an accomplishment. People do not realize the lack of support and kind of exclusion he experienced. Even I know just some of it. Yet Joseph persevered in support of marginalized students.

    Most people do not know Joseph and Taben were investigated by a private attorney out of Kansas City this past year that was hired by the administration for several months and yet that person found nothing they did in violation of the Code of Conduct or anything else. They experienced a great amount of stress and uncertainty while this was going on that no student should have to experience. It also seems that last Fall a statement was made in an Executive Team meeting that anyone who could control Joseph would get a reward of some kind. These kinds of experiences are just a few of the negative and hurtful things he encountered. Yet Joseph persevered in support of underrepresented students.

    The WSU Climate Survey results from November 2016 (web link below) report the number of people experiencing bias/discrimination/harassment at WSU. The numbers should be concerning to someone. When looking at the entire 16,500 WSU community of students, faculty, staff, and administrators, this is what they reported experiencing:

    http://webs.wichita.edu/depttools/depttoolsmemberfiles/wsunews/Climate%20Survey%20Analysis%20-%20Wichita%20State%20University%5B1%5D.pdf

    1. 1,986 university community members personally experienced verbal comments of bias, harassment, or discrimination related to sex, gender expression, or gender identity. 1,490 experienced Exclusion.

    2. 1,821 university community members personally experienced verbal comments of bias, harassment, or discrimination related to Religion/Ideology. 828 experienced Exclusion.

    3. 1,655 university community members personally experienced verbal comments of bias, harassment, or discrimination related to Age. 993 experienced Exclusion.

    4. 1,159 university community members personally experienced verbal comments of bias, harassment, or discrimination related to Race/Ethnicity. 1,159 experienced Exclusion.

    That is a lot of people in all categories.

    For the students stating they have been asking for help for several years, they are correct. Staff and I tried to work on these issues for many years with little support. Good luck trying to make progress at this time as well. I support you.

    Joseph Shepard did a tremendous job and faced exclusion and dead ends at every turn. Yet he kept persevering. In November 2015 I came back to campus to speak in support of Joseph and what he had experienced. Go back and read the Sunflower articles from November 2015 where he was planning to protest the KBOR meeting on the WSU campus because of lack of support from President Bardo. Then there were quickly some promises and some forums and when the Board meeting was over, so was the support – or so it seemed. The issues of racial discrimination go back decades and not just years.

    When we developed programming in support of gender identity and gender expression it did not go well. When we tried to do things in support of racial minority groups it did not go well. When we tried to do things in support of religious diversity it did not go well.

    When we promoted programming in support of the gay community in the Fall 2014 it was criticized by Andy Schlapp and John Bardo because it might upset legislators.

    The Gender Neutral Shower project in the Heskett Center done in support of transgender students was a great success for 18 months after it was completed until Andy Schlapp made the Heckett Center staff take the Gender Neutral Shower banner down that identified the space.

    The renovation of the Chapel to meet the needs of all faiths was opposed by Andy Schlapp and President Bardo because it would upset legislators and donors. Then President Bardo approved the changes in March 2015 when material presented over several months showed everything was supported by the Grace family will and the initial plans from the campus committee in the 1960s. Then a donor complained and things seemed to change.

    The Peace Pole initiative was not supported when students proposed it. The students wanted it located on the main walkway outside the northeast entrance to the new RSC facility but that was not allowed. I wonder how many people on campus know there is a Peace Pole and where it is located. The compromise was that if we in Student Affairs wanted a Peace Pole we could put it in the Shocker Hall courtyard, but hardly anyone sees it there.

    The black Greek sororities wanted to use a spot on the new walkway by Fine Arts where the street was taken out to display some of their traditions. It would have been easy to do and not cost anything but that was not supported either.

    I noted these issues and more in the Letter to the Editor I sent the Sunflower back on November 7, 2016. The issues that minority student groups face at WSU are real and have existed for many years. There have been staff who worked diligently in support of these individuals over the years but some people did not want to support the needs of these groups. I again wish the students luck as they are promised again that something will happen. All you can do is keep trying.

    Sincerely,

    Wade Robinson
    Vice President for Student Affairs 2009-2015

    [Reply]

    WSU Student Reply:

    Dr. Robinson,

    If you haven’t yet, would you mind sending this as a Letter to the Editor?

    Many of the things you pointed out about the administration are quite disturbing, but not shocking unfortunately. Thank you for advocating for the student body during a time where few people in the community are doing so.

    [Reply]

  11. John on May 6th, 2017 3:25 pm

    Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! 🙂

    [Reply]

  12. Who PD? on May 6th, 2017 4:07 pm

    Is it the WSUPD who are investigating or WPD? If it is WSUPD, they are very good but do ultimately report to John Bardo who has had major issues with Joseph for two years.

    [Reply]

    The WSUPD is a joke Reply:

    You better believe the WSUPD is on this case and they don’t care.

    [Reply]

  13. Purple Rain on May 8th, 2017 7:50 am

    I think a great healing is needed. Perhaps we should spend some time in the interfaith chapel and seek forgiveness of others

    [Reply]

  14. Steve on May 8th, 2017 8:15 am

    If the allegations of hate speech are true, Paige Hungate needs to resign her position as SGA President immediately. Allowing someone’s parents to come to campus call people niggers and physically attack someone is way over the line. This is the kind of stuff that happens when the students elect a racist, right wing pile of crap to represent a large diverse student body.

    [Reply]

    Ben Reply:

    That’s not how this works steve. She can’t control the actions of her parents. Would you be saying the same thing if Joseph’s parents had done something similar?

    [Reply]

  15. Tu on May 8th, 2017 2:31 pm

    Huh, I went to Northwest… I think there’s more to the story, but regardless of who’s right/wrong, the mother should be fired from her position as assistant principal (if she did use the word). No matter the scenario, a person of her position should never use the term during conflict. This can not only degrades the image of our city’s education system, it may also be an attack to the image of our community’s morality if we allow this to go unpunished.

    [Reply]

  16. Steve on May 9th, 2017 11:07 am

    Since this involves the WSU PD, we all know where this is headed. Dr. Bardo will do everything he can to cover this up and make it go away quietly. If he has to pressure the WSU PD, he will and we all know it. The only way to handle this properly is with an independent investigation from another law enforcement agency. Dr. Bardo is not going to do anything that harms the relationship between him and the new SGA puppet government. You can count on the University administration to keep their pet Paige safe.

    I heard that Paige Hungate is related to Andy Schlapp, a member of the President’s Executive team. If that is true, that presents some serious conflicts of interest and destroys any chance at a full and fair investigation of this incident.

    [Reply]

    The WSUPD is a joke Reply:

    Absolutely correct on that. The Wichita State Police Dept is full of people you cannot take seriously: Sara Morris, Dennis Rider, Guy Schroeder just for starters. They will not do any justice. They lie. They are corrupt. And they answer to your Majesty Bardo and administration.

    [Reply]

    Curious Reply:

    If they’re corrupt how are they not in trouble, that’s just wrong and could you please tell how they lie?

    [Reply]

  17. The WSU PD is a joke on May 12th, 2017 11:08 pm

    The WSU police are the peons for the Administrators and other parties at the top. They hide things that administrators have done. If you read the police reports, find out how many cases are actually solved, if that, in a reasonable timely manner. Sara Morris makes vague public relations comments whenever they PD is under fire or there are any serious safety concerns for the campus. Does anyone actually follow up with any promises she makes to make our campus safer? Guy Schroeder forgets to file battery reports, Dennis Rider forgets to investigate cases, and then he forgets to take cases to the DA’s office. For the size of WSU, negligible in size, WSU Police do not -functionally and specifically-protect females on campus in cases of sexual assault, rape, stalking, battery, and personal safety. Digging done by anyone in public records reveal major WSU PD eye sores.

    [Reply]

  18. Curious on May 16th, 2017 9:36 am

    Ok, but what I’m getting at is there proof, because I don’t recall any rapes taking place on campus or other heinous crimes that have happened to women on campus. I thought I read that WSU was one of the safest universities in the nation. I think that’s pretty good for being surrounded by some of the worst that society has to offer.

    [Reply]

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