Kansas Chancellor Vetoes Fee Increase for Parallel Student Government

In March, members of the Kansas Student Senate at the University of Kansas (KU) approved a student fee increase to establish a parallel Multicultural Student Government (MSG), but last week, KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little vetoed their proposed $2-per-semester fee. In a letter to the Student Senate, she said she could not recommend the increase for the 2016-2017 academic year to the Kansas Board of Regents because the separate government does not exist yet.

Gray-Little also expressed her concern that a parallel government would create more divisions among students, rather than improve the climate for diverse groups at KU, which students have said the MSG is intended to address.

“I believe that the independent student government proposed in the document sent to University Senate is not an optimal way to achieve the goals we have for diversity and inclusion at the university and, indeed, may lead to greater divisiveness,” Gray-Little wrote. “I realize that this proposal grew out of concern about the accessibility and openness to student government [for] all of our students.”

Current university code states that only three governing bodies can exist — one each for students, faculty, and staff. To establish a separate MSG would require at least a year of deliberation before the code could be amended.

Students say they will continue to push for the parallel multicultural government. Its creation was among the demands presented to the administration by KU activist group Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk during student protests last year.

“This hurts, because we are the marginalized students who know there is a need for this resource,” KU student and interim MSG secretary Trinity Carpenter told the Lawrence Journal-World. “It’s even harder to accept because [the administration] has admitted there is a need for this institution but is not supporting it.”

The proposed fee was estimated to net $90,000 annually for the new student government. Nearly half of that would be allocated for MSG executive staff member stipends — $6,000 a piece — and the rest would pay for programming, supplies, and advertising.