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Student senate strips funding from ‘multicultural student government’; protest follows

Ongoing controversy reveals tensions between student government and liberal offshoot

An ongoing spat between the Multicultural Student Government and the Student Senate at the University of Kansas intensified last month, with the MSG’s new president urging members not to wage a protest against the Student Senate after the Senate cut the MSG’s funding.

Formed in response to racial protests, the ‘government’ part of the name is a misnomer, since university bylaws don’t allow for more than one student governance body.

Disagreement over the exact nature of the MSG propelled it toward a leadership crisis in January, when members of the organization claimed that its current president had turned it into a “dictatorship.” That president was ultimately voted out, along with one other officer.

A ‘sibling organization’ within the larger student government

The MSG was created two years ago in an effort to “amplify unheard voices” at the university. At that time, the student senate pledged $90,000 toward the MSG and granted it representation in the Student Senate.

It was was subsequently shut down by university chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, who said the proposal could lead to “divisiveness” and also ran afoul of both state law and university policy.

Nearly a year later, the Student Senate voted to allow the Multicultural Student Government to exist as a “sibling organization” in the senate itself, with an allocation of $45,000 raised from student fees.

Yet earlier this month, the senate voted to strip the Multicultural Student Government of its funding. That decision came after the student senate decided that the multicultural government “did not establish clear rules and governing principles” and “failed to promote representation of marginalized students in university governance effectively.”

The decision to strip the MSG’s funding caused several students to plan a demonstration against the senate.

In a statement on Facebook, MSG president Anthonio Humphrey Jr. addressed the planned “silent protest” against the Student Senate, writing, “I do not believe that right now the current protest is the answer and I must ask that no member of MSG participate in this.”

“To clarify the body that is protesting tonight reflects a part of the multicultural community expressing their concerns, but not MSG,” the statement continued.

“The dismissal of MSG funding without question or administration interference provoked the community to come out and voice their opinions,” Humphrey told The College Fix via Facebook.

It remains unclear who exactly participated in the “silent protest.”

“I don’t know who all participated, I only know that they most likely were members of the populations that the Senate overlooks and does not serve, populations that MSG does,” Humphrey told The Fix.

“Everything turned out perfect,” Humphrey added. “There were no unpleasant experiences and people were able to share there voices in the manner they are entitled to.”

President voted out due to ‘no confidence’

MSG has already been embroiled in controversy this year, as activists attempted to impeach the group’s president.

At the time, MSG President Chiquita Jackson argued that she couldn’t be removed because the group isn’t actually a government and thus has no impeachment mechanism, according to Reason.com.

“We never impeached anyone,” Humphrey told The Fix, because “we didn’t have procedures to do that at the time. We allowed the general public to vote members off [the executive board] if they feel that they had no confidence in their leadership. So we have removed two officers since January.”

Humphrey told The Fix that both Chiquita Jackson and Andrew Davis were removed by vote. It is unclear by what margin the officers were voted out. The multicultural student government’s website lists no vote tallies of any kind, or indeed anything at all other than a mission statement and the organization’s constitution.

The group’s constitution does hold that “the votes of three-fourths (3/4) of active members are required to remove an officer,” suggesting that both Jackson and Davis were voted out by at least that much.

The College Fix reached out to the university’s Student Senate multiple times over the course of several days, via email, phone and Facebook message. Nobody responded. Chiquita Jackson, the former MSG president who was removed by vote earlier this semester, also did not respond to repeated requests for comment from The Fix.

The MSG’s mission statement holds that the organization is meant to promote “a culture of future leaders that upholds positive social change and justice.

“We advocate for underrepresented, underserved, and marginalized identities to maintain the integrity of the student voice,” the statement continues. “We are committed to leading with inclusivity in name and practice with progressive action and empowerment of all students on campus. We shall foster a community of individuals who are committed to creating and maintaining a campus that reflects the needs of students, exemplifies inclusivity and what it means to be a Jayhawk.”

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About the Author
Ben Decatur -- University of Michigan