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Potential racial issues stir student petition

In response to alleged racial issues between African American students and Campus Police, Black Student Union President Leah Hayes has appealed to Student Affairs to start a petition that is asking officers to undergo diversity training.

The petition, which has been approved by the Student Affairs office, took almost a week to approve due to snow days. Director of Student Life Don Willis has asked that Hayes not gather signatures until Willis sees a physical copy of the petition.

In Willis’s 30 years working with students, he said he has never recalled a petition.

“Mostly, we just want to gather information,” Willis said.

Vice President for Student Affairs Esther Peralez commended Hayes for proceeding through the proper channels before gathering signatures from students, but believes that this process does not interfere with student’s first amendment rights.

Black Student Union President Leah Hayes

“I doubt that I would ever deny [a petition],” Peralez said. “I think it’s just going through the process so somebody’s aware that something is going on and not to say that we’re going to stop.”

Hayes met with Chief of Police Jonathan Kelly before attempting to get her petition approved. Hayes told The Griffon News that she was not pleased with his reaction to her concerns.

Kelley could not be reached for comment by press time.

“I gave him a scenario, but he stopped me in the middle of my story and said that that didn’t happen because that didn’t happen on paper,” Hayes said.

According to Hayes, an African American student who works with her was stopped on Downs Drive for a traffic violation. Since this student was driving with out her license, she was instructed to call her roommate, who owned the car, to operate the vehicle for her. Hayes then said that the roommate cursed out the police officer and sped off without reprimand from the officer.

“She has gotten out her car for a routine traffic stop, but the roommate can curse you out and speed off even though she was just speeding now sitting out on the curb,” Hayes said. “That doesn’t seem right. “

A study conducted by the Loaned Executive Management Assistance Program found several areas of concern when the Department of Public Safety was requesting to carry firearms on campus in 2007. One area was of the mindset and attitude of the officers in 2007, which the study found many negative comments on.

The study summarized that officers appeared to be authoritarian and unapproachable to students and that a need for cultural and diversity training existed.

Currently, Campus Police Officers attend diversity training every summer. Due to the Kansas City Chief’s summer training camp, officers attended different diversity training at the police academy.

‘They do go through that diversity training, but I don’t feel they fully understand the students that they are serving,” Hayes said.

Vice President for Financial Planning and Administration Mel Kilnkner said that if students they are being mistreated by campus police, he would take it seriously. But, he hasn’t heard any specifics.

“Every semester I talk to the police officers about how it’s a little bit different on a campus than it is in a community,” Klinkner said. “We have a relationship that we want to build with the faculty and staff and the students. So it’s not just that we want to be looked at as the enforcers, we want to be a part of the community.”

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