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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

WSU administration addresses supporting diversity after affirmative action struck down

A town hall held by student government featured various topics, from campus inclusion and safety to funding student organizations.
Wichita+State+University+President+Richard+Muma+says+what+his+hype+song+is+at+the+Student+Government+Association+Town+Hall+on+Oct.+26.+Mumas+hype+song+was+Faithfully+by+Journey.
Mia Hennen
Wichita State University President Richard Muma says what his “hype song” is at the Student Government Association Town Hall on Oct. 26. Muma’s hype song was “Faithfully” by Journey.

The Wichita State University administration discussed diversity and inclusion initiatives in the aftermath of the United States Supreme Court striking down affirmative action. 

Student Body President Iris Okere and Vice President Sophie Martins spoke with President Rick Muma, Provost Shirley Lefever and Teri Hall, vice president for Student Affairs, about a variety of topics, including diversity among students and staff, campus safety, and funding student organizations at the student town hall hosted by Student Government Association on Thursday, Oct. 26. 

In June, the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admissions, meaning race can no longer be considered in the application process. 

When asked how Wichita State supports diversity and inclusion on campus after this decision, Muma said the recent Supreme Court decision does not directly affect WSU due to a lack of “selective admissions.”

 “We pretty much admit everyone to the universities; we have more of an open admissions model,” Muma said. “So we don’t see our applicant pool becoming less diverse because of that (Supreme Court decision).”

 Muma said that administration focuses on creating a “welcoming environment” by ensuring that those from different backgrounds have a “safe space” to understand their resources. He noted the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Shocker Success Center, which is slated to open in summer of 2024.

Muma said that WSU also continues to work on diversity, equity and inclusion plans and have conversations with state policymakers and employers. He said WSU aims to help ensure all students are prepared post-graduation.

Hall mentioned hosting more events to help students “feel connected” and to know that they “have a place and a purpose on campus.”

 Lefever said that the general education framework recently passed in April includes a diversity requirement.

“That’s one of the reasons why it’s in there — is that so we can be very educated as a community,” Lefever said.

Campus safety

When asked about campus safety and addressing safety concerns during emergencies, Hall highlighted campus communication as well as the WSU CARE Team, which would evaluate a student to find if there is “a threat associated with this person.”

“We also just want to make sure that students know that they can let us know when they don’t feel safe, right, in all kinds of ways,” Hall said.

Muma echoed Hall’s sentiment and mentioned the administration’s partnership with SGA on campus security cameras. Administration and SGA’s aim was to make it easier for students to “find one of those cameras or locations” to notify campus police when needed.

An audience member asked how WSU ensures students feel safe and supported if facing something such as “sexual harassment, a crime occurrence or something similar.”

Muma said that WSU has a required sexual harassment training and that the Title IX Office has been reorganized into the Office of Civil Rights, Title IX & ADA Compliance, complete with a new staff. 

“It has created more of a culture of education and trying to make sure people understand what that office is about … and I think that’s been a really positive move,” Muma said.

Hall highlighted some CARE Team representatives are trained to respond to sexual harassment or assault and can support students.

Supporting student organizations

Administration members were asked about university plans to assist registered student organizations (RSOs) due to them “growing outside of the support” of SGA.

Although student organizations requested SGA funding during the summer, several visited SGA’s Senate to request more funding after receiving large funding cuts. SGA came to a complete budget after three rounds of deliberations.

Student organizations requested over $722,000 in funding, but SGA initially only had $165,000 to give, which comes from student fees money.

Hall said that funding should be increased for student organizations, and as student fee season approaches, the Division of Student Affairs will work to ensure there isn’t “very much of an increase” to better prioritize more funding for student groups.

Hall said she is also working to increase fundraising opportunities for student organizations.

“We have students that really, they’re not asking just for money to be handed to them — they just need access to be able to earn their money, too,” Hall said.

Hall said student affairs also sets some funding aside to help supplement some student groups with additional funds to reach “the rest of their goals.”

“If it’s an event that we think will bring lots of students in, then we in Student Affairs could help find the money to support something like that,” Hall said.

Applied learning experiences

An audience member asked if work is being done to help students find applied learning experiences in fields that Wichita does not have a large industry for. Lefever said this is one of “the top priorities” for this year.

“We are meeting regularly to really try to push the envelope on trying to find those opportunities for students to have those paid applied learning experiences,” Lefever said. “Our deans all also are focusing on really trying to think broadly about where those opportunities might exist.” 

Lefever said that developing strong community and industry relationships also helps those opportunities emerge.

Artificial intelligence

When asked how the university is adapting to the “changing landscape” of education, such as artificial intelligence and ChatGPT, Lefever said the university’s first approach has been to educate those on campus about it and “the approach that we take with it.”

“So seeing it as an educational tool, but also seeing it as how we make sure that we use it appropriately in classes,” Lefever said.

 Other topics discussed at the student town hall include mental health services, sustainability, the purpose of the president’s lunch hosted by Muma, tuition affordability, community engagement, and the administration’s biggest mistakes as undergraduates.

Okere also noted that the third annual Diversity Week will be held from Oct. 30 to Nov. 3.

To watch the full forum, visit SGA’s livestream.

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About the Contributors
Courtney Brown
Courtney Brown, News Editor
Courtney Brown is one of the news editors for The Sunflower. She previously worked as a reporter and assistant news editor. Brown uses she/her pronouns.
Mia Hennen
Mia Hennen, Reporter
Mia Hennen is a reporter for The Sunflower. Most recently, Hennen served as editor-in-chief for the 2023-2024 year. A senior English major, Hennen will graduate in May 2025 and hopes to pursue a career in journalism.

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