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Staff Editorial: Now is not the time for silence

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The events that transpired Thursday and spurred a police investigation have incited discussions of racism on campus and brought to the attention of students a seeming lack of timely and sufficient responses from those in positions of power on campus.

Thursday evening’s events resulted in a tense meeting in the SGA office Friday that drew nearly 40 concerned students, a social media firestorm, and a police investigation of the alleged racist speech and battery by Student Body President Paige Hungate’s parents targeting Joseph Shepard following his farewell speech as outgoing student body president.

Steven Shepard’s account of the evening, which was posted immediately following the incident, has amassed nearly a thousand shares on Facebook. Steven Shepard is Joseph Shepard’s father.

Even though university officials were immediately made aware of the incident, it took the university nearly 24 hours to release, via Shocker Blast, a statement about the situation.

“Wichita State University does not in any way condone or tolerate violence, discriminatory behavior or hate speech,” the response reads.

“We regret that waiting for the investigation to conclude has been perceived by some as a lack of concern about inappropriate speech.”

The response also promised that university efforts “to deter incidents of discrimination in the future” will be “broadened in weeks to come.”

A response issued by Student Government Association the following day was an effort to distance the association from the incident without any direct mention of the alleged racially charged attack.

“Student Government Association as a functioning body does not have any involvement with personal legal matters,” the statement read.

It seems apparent that the decided style of response to controversy by those in positions of university leadership takes on the form of generic statements of lackluster denunciation and flimsy, hollow promises of nothing in particular.

President John Bardo has yet to release a statement regarding the situation, which seems in-line with his recent absence from campus issues.

Following a series of chalk drawings that included racial slurs were left on campus in December, Bardo released a swift statement of condemnation. “We deplore all forms of hate speech, including these acts of vandalism,” Bardo said in the statement.

In an interview with The Sunflower late last month, President Bardo discussed his changing role as president and his move away from a focus on the university’s internal functions and towards external operations at the state and federal legislature levels. He said such a role is typical of presidents at major research universities.

“A lot of these issues should be wrestled within the organization with not necessarily everything coming to the president’s office,” Bardo said at the time.

As president of a university — research or otherwise — Bardo is a top figure of authority and the face of the university. A president of a university cannot simply remove himself from on-campus situations. Student issues should be a top priority and cannot continue to be put on the back burner by leaders. This situation will not go away by putting our heads in the sand.

The Sunflower stands strongly opposed to racism and acts of violence. The word allegedly used Thursday night against Shepard is disgusting and should neither be tolerated nor met with lukewarm responses that seem to brush the gravity of the incident under the rug. What does President Bardo have to say?

3 Comments

3 Responses to “Staff Editorial: Now is not the time for silence”

  1. Yes. on May 8th, 2017 8:32 am

    THANK YOU.

    [Reply]

  2. Past Comments on May 8th, 2017 10:02 am

    Some past things Matt Conklin said President Bardo had to say were reported in the Wichita Eagle on May 9, 2015 where Matt Conklin states he told President Bardo that some staff in Student Affairs were looking over their shoulders, fearful for their jobs because they had seen what happened to Wade Robinson and President Bardo told Matt Conklin, “some should be”. That should tell you what you need to know about people being afraid of retaliation and how that undermines the efforts to address issues related to bias/harassment/discrimination. It came straight from President Bardo according to Matt Conklin. If staff are afraid of retaliation for taking a stand on issues like this, how will positive change ever happen?

    Here is the link to the article in the Wichita Eagle:

    http://www.kansas.com/news/local/education/article20574063.html

    [Reply]

  3. A Little Less Talk and A Lot More Action, If You Please on May 9th, 2017 4:41 pm

    The following link and story content was from the Sunflower in November 2015. Maybe a fact check of the things President Bardo stated then is in order. How many of these were addressed and accomplished?

    http://thesunflower.com/4453/uncategorized/letter-from-president-bardo-on-campus-diversity/

    Letter from President Bardo on campus diversity

    John Bardo

    November 13, 2015

    From Wichita State University President John Bardo

    Dear students, faculty and staff,

    I didn’t want the week to end without letting you know that we’re already absorbing the lessons from Thursday’s dialogue on diversity, and we’ll begin to act next week on the ideas we heard.

    I’ve been thinking about the words from the student sitting in the front who reminded me twice that while I’m planning at the speed of bureaucracy, she and other minority students are fighting every day for their rights, respect and education. I recognized the truth in that. I hope to exceed her expectations and yours.

    Here are some themes I heard on Thursday:

    * increase the diversity of faculty and staff
    * look into increased diversity training for faculty and staff
    * find new ways to recruit, retain and offer resources for minorities, including the possibility of a “buddy system” that would provide
    mentorship to first-generation college students, veterans, international students, minority students and others who would benefit
    * continue WSU’s ongoing efforts to reduce bureaucracy and increase its responsiveness
    * find ways to attract adult learners and make them feel welcome
    * look into the possibility of creating a university Code of Ethics that would state what we tolerate as an institution and have systems in place to enforce that
    * look at the distribution of need-based vs. merit-based scholarships to help support those struggling financially
    * continue to increase safety on campus

    One WSU staffer summarized yesterday’s meeting in this way: “We had a respectful, open dialogue about how we can treat each other better.”

    Let’s keep that respectful, open dialogue going and find ways to treat each other better. If you have ideas for helping, please send them to [email protected].

    Sincerely,

    John Bardo

    President

    [Reply]

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