Professor urges Faculty Senate, admin to take action in response to Kansas law

Faculty Senate met this week to discuss state legislation, the academic handbook revision, and election of new senators.


Nithin Reddy Nagapur

Chase Billingham, at-large senator and associate sociology professor, speaks to the Faculty Senate about a recent piece of legislation in the Kansas legislature.

Chase Billingham, at-large senator, asked both Wichita State administration and the Faculty Senate to take action to protect LGBTQ students from a recently-passed state Senate bill during at the Faculty Senate meeting on May 8.

This state Senate bill, dubbed the Kansas Women’s Bill of Rights, restricts people from legally identifying outside of their sex assigned at birth in the state of Kansas. Conflicting with federal law, the state will no longer recognize gender transition on any official documents.

The bill will go into effect on July 1.

Billingham said that this law “is going to have very real and important implications for this campus and for our students and faculty and staff.”

“It’s worth noting that, among the youngest generations, 5% identify as transgender or non-binary,” Billingham said. “We are talking about a sizable portion of the population of students on our campus.”

He referenced the campus’ lack of gender-inclusive, gender neutral and single use restrooms as a way that gender non-conforming students are inhibited on campus.

“If you are a student in a class in Lindquist, and you need access to a single use bathroom, the closest one available is in Ablah Library,” Billingham said. “Just to use the restroom during my class could mean having to take a trip of 20 minutes or more.”

In response to this, Billingham asked that the Faculty Senate and administration come up with a plan on how this law will affect students on campus.

“I strongly recommend that the administration immediately devise a plan to address the myriad of issues, including building infrastructure that will emerge from this,” he said. 

Outgoing Faculty Senate President Susan Castro said that the administration is planning on sending out a plan or memo soon after conferring with General Counsel, the university’s legal advisors. 

After informal statements concluded, the Senate moved into reopening their debate about the Academic Integrity Handbook revision proposal.

The biggest sticking point was surrounding the role of deans in the academic hearing process. There was confusion in the room on whether deans would strictly populate the hearings in their college or add to a pool across campus.

Billingham said that he found the revision as a whole “extremely confusing” after “following along with it very closely.” He proposed that discussion on the topic be deferred to the fall.

“(We should) spend the summer working on it, come back with a clean proposal that we can actually debate together,” Billingham said.

Billingham’s motion to table passed via a voice vote.

Castro then passed the gavel to new Faculty Senate President Jolynn Dowling from the School of Nursing. Dowling thanked both Castro and past President Jeff Jarman for their continued support of her and the Senate.

The 2022-23 Faculty Senate session has concluded and the body will not reconvene until the fall semester.