Why I abstained

I am a student senator, and I chose to abstain on the vote of the resolution in support of Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk’s demands. Voting records will be released early this week and I wanted to explain why I voted the way I did.

I do not serve on Student Rights Committee, so this was the first time I was able to hear RCIH’s demands in detail. I was interested in the logistics of specific demands, what RCIH recommends to prevent inaction from Student Senate in the future and the answers of questions I knew my peers had. I didn’t get any of the answers I was looking for.

I pride myself on becoming fully informed before I make decisions, especially when it comes to legislation. Going into Wednesday’s meeting, I was undecided on my decision in regards to Student Senate supporting the demands of RCIH. I wanted to hear from the group directly.

The discussions at the University of Kansas in the past week are a direct result of poor communication, in all aspects. Student Senate has been accused of not listening to minority students, but I’d venture to say the reality of the problem is that we are not listening to each other. Conversations between students are not happening. Senators were told our questions mischaracterized the history of segregation. Sponsors of the legislation told senators they were being watched and that they would make it known who didn’t support the resolution. We were told the Student Senate does not, and cannot speak for the diverse population of students, and that it was insulting for students of color to have to ask Student Senate for anything. The integrity of student senator’s votes was squandered by encouraging senators to save questions for after the meeting, after a vote had been taken.

Emotions were high on Wednesday for every party involved but there is no reason we should resort to intimidation for the sake of votes. The conversation could not be productive because free discussion was not permitted. Students that spoke were accused of victim blaming, accusatory question framing and being uninformed. Students who chose not to clap were called out, students who had questions were told to wait and students who were considering voting against were harassed. Intimidation and oppression are not solved through intimidation and oppression. Debate was shut down and the integrity of democracy was therefore lost.

I support the efforts of RCIH. I support the purpose of Student Senate and the potential change it can create. I acknowledge my privilege, but regardless of the education I receive, I may never have a full understanding of the coercion people face. I wanted to support this resolution but I wanted to learn, ask questions and have a discussion before I made my decision. The importance of intent versus impact is not forgotten. The proper action cannot be taken without working together and that is what this campus is missing.

I abstained because I did not feel like discussion was welcome, my questions were not answered and I could not vote without a full understanding.

The resolution passed 65-13-2; I’m amazed I was only 1 of 2.

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