KSU’s multicultural challenge

Arthur F. Loub

By A Contributor

I read with considerable interest the article on diversity in the Dec. 24 Mercury, and it seemed to provoke more questions than answers.

Diversity and affirmative act-ion are terms that are confusing to many of us who do not deal with them professionally. With a little research,  I discovered that “affirmative action” was initially used in Executive Order No. 10925, signed in 1961 by President John F, Kennedy to ensure that applicants are employed “.... without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin.”

Diversity, on the other hand, is a more inclusive concept and includes peo-ple of different religions, marital status and a variety of other states of being. Diversity views discrimination as an impediment to organiza-tional growth. Therefore came the notion to “celebrate diver-sity.”

It is only fair to comment that there is a countervailing view,  according to Hans Bader, “that it actually reduces the ability of organizations to attain goals, and that it reinforces differen-ces between individuals instead of fostering commonalities.” Some have indeed articulated a need for programs of assimila-tion rather than diversity.

It is evident that the Black Student Union leadership and the associate provost for diver-sity at Kansas State University were pressing the KSU admin-istration on the lack of black faculty and for a multicultural student center. The Mercury article elaborated that KSU Pre-sident Kirk Schulz acknow-ledged that “he needed to deal more efficiently with campus diversity.”

According to Michael Bird’s research, managers following positive approaches will: A) recognize that diversity will bring a greater skill base;  B) improve the overall climate in diverse projects, improve satis-faction and reduce conflicts, and C) encourage creativity, flex-ibility and innovation.

However, the objectives of the students and the associate provost may be more toward affirmative action to hire more black faculty and enroll more black students. Regarding more black faculty, we have to realize that with the exception of black and ethnic studies and some of the arts programs, the law of supply and demand prevails. There is a dearth of black professors in the hard sciences, engineering and business. Those who are available can command very high salaries, which puts Kansas State in a difficult position.

The Mercury article also focused on the need for funds to achieve a number of initiatives for diversity programs, including a possible multicultural stu-dent center. Toward this ob-jective and a number of others,  President Schulz commented that the KSU Foundation has hired a person to oversee fundraising for all the diversity programming. Toward this end, I would encourage far greater inclusion of the multicultural students and alumni.

The racial breakdown in the Mercury shows that all multi-cultural students (no whites) number 1,946, and that 577 of them are black, which is less than 30 percent. My experience is that there are many millionaires and other wealthy alumni among Asians, Indians, Pakistanis, some South American and all of the Mideast countries. In fundraising, you go where the money is and where the alumni feel they are in a natural constituency such as athletics, engineering, business, the Beach Art Museum, McCain Auditor-ium, etc.

The challenge of diversity and multiculturalism is to locate and involve those alumni who will support the programs of a diversity constituency with their time, effort and financial resources.

Arthur F. Loub, 1517 Williams-burg Drive, is a former president of the KSU Foundation.

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