Diversity, Inclusion & Student Senate

Tonight was my last Student Senate meeting, as I’m graduating at the end of this semester. As someone involved at KU during my three-and-a-half years here, I have some comments. I’m not sure if its my place to share them and I’d like to recognize my privilege as someone who has been able to enter this space, be respected by administrators and understand much of the process.

First, I am proud that the members of our Student Senate voted 47-1-0 to approve a Director of Diversity and Inclusion to address the voices of the student body who have been silenced (link to the meeting minutes to come). I hope that this is not simply a bandaid to a wound, but a start to a change.

As Former Vice Chair of the Student Rights Committee, I voted against the Social Equity position when the bill went through my committee in early October. For clarification, the Vice Chair and Secretary of the four standing committees have voting rights, the Chairs have rights during a tie situation.

  • I did not vote the bill down for funding reasons, because I do believe that, as one individual at the #SenateForum pointed out, we need to create a safe space for ALL students on campus. Our silence – my silence – is unforgivable, and we as a student body need to be willing to have uncomfortable conversations even if those conversations end with frustration.
  • During discussion on the bill, it was never explained how the proposed Senate Executive Staff position would work with the Vice Provost for Diversity and Equity and other actors within the Multicultural Affairs Committee, Office of Diversity and Equity and the OMA.
  • I felt that a trial-and-error period where the job responsibilities for the proposed position would be given to other executive staff members during this year was necessary – at the least –  to explore the overlap referenced above. Only by fully understanding the position and what the individual within it would do, did I believe that it have been funded at the end of this year. I would hate to begin funding a position without ensuring its continuation.  I do not believe in passing legislation when I see loopholes or flaws that could hurt its intent in the future, even if I wholeheartedly agree in the reasoning behind it.

However, I, and some other members of my committee, made errors following that committee meeting.

  • For me, the conversation ended there. I relied on the other members of Senate to come up with another version that explained the overlap. For clarification, due to Roberts’ Rules of order (which the Student Senate follows, with some exceptions), legislation cannot be duplicated during the same session. This means that – without violating established rules – no one could simply push through the piece of legislation again, without writing significant changes. These significant changes are what happened with the creation of the Director of Diversity and Inclusion tonight.
  • I did not have the necessary uncomfortable conversations with the related student groups. I did not attend a meeting of HALO, BSU, AASU, etc.
  • I relied on my past social justice experience,  relationships with my committee members and understanding of Student Senate (which I realize has clear flaws) to guide me to make good decisions.

I was super wrong.

I have confidence in that decision that I made at the time and am proud of the new bill generated on the floor this evening. I realize that not explaining my vote sooner was an error that I now seek to correct. Last year as the All Scholarship Hall Council Student Senator, I wrote up a monthly report and explained each and every vote I made, which I believe is a necessary part of the political process and one that more senators should take part in. I hope that by explaining my vote, we can continue to have constructive conversations about diversity and race at the University of Kansas.

I’m graduating tomorrow and I don’t know exactly what I can do about this. I can’t use Senate as a vehicle for change in the same way as I have in the past. I know that I can push others to have these conversations and I can speak with those who are in positions of power. I’m sorry that the conversation tonight was one where individuals had to come into the space of Student Senate to be heard, instead of Senate coming into the spaces where others felt safest. That wasn’t the way to get things done. Senators were disrespectful and that’s inexcusable, but I hope that those who were listening will act.

I haven’t always had faith in the system that is Student Senate and the University at large, but I have faith in the students who give their time to this cause. For most, Student Senate is not a resume padder. It is a learning experience where students gain a dedication to public service and how to adequately represent a set of constituents. At least, that’s what I hope it has done for me.

Senators: Speak to your constituents, be proactive and get your shit together. Just because 47 of you voted to approve the Director of Diversity and Inclusion does not mean that this conversation is over.

Students of Color: I’m not going to begin to tell you what to do because I don’t share your identity or lived experiences, but thank you for demanding change.

If you have questions about this process, what happened tonight, or anything else, please ask. Tweet me @natkparker, email the Student Body President at sbp@ku.edu or reach out by any other means. Senate will be working on ways to better disseminate information, but in the meantime, these are the best sources of contact.

Succulents, Economics and the Bachelorette

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Visiting the National World War II Memorial, representing the most interesting state in the nation.

So, I moved to DC for the summer at the beginning of June. That happened. To make things clearer, I’m currently interning at the Washington Foreign Press Center at the U.S. Department of State working on a whole bunch of intriguing projects, but I’m also participating in the Fund for American Studies. Essentially, it’s this program where you live in a college residence hall with a bunch of diverse, smart and wonderfully fun students. Oh yeah, and you take classes, attend lectures, meet with a mentor and learn all about economics and international affairs. I attend classes three nights a week after work, which is an extremely tiring experience. The other two nights, you ask? I consistently have ambitions that I’ll end up doing something super fun with the other interns, but I usually end up getting through a chapter and a half of a cheap murder mystery on my Kindle and then fall asleep around 10 p.m. It’s an exciting life.

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My Whole Foods-bought succulent chillin on the windowsill.

That’s the basic run-down: Work. Class. Sleep. WOW that sounds dull. I swear, it’s been much more fun than I’m making it sound! I’ll prove it to you.

I’ve bought a succulent to decorate my office, eat delicious food every day from Trader Joe’s and even ordered a pizza for myself last night. I went out to delicious Peruvian food with a KU alum the other night and have been thoroughly enjoying the DC nightlife the one night a week I don’t fall asleep earlier than my grandmother. I haven’t yet graduated college, but I’ve been applying for various jobs, because why not? And I’ve been watching a glorious amount of Orange is the New Black, Game of Thrones, the Bachelorette and Veep. I even went on a night tour of the DC monuments and had my first mojito! If anyone remembers my fairly unhappy summer last year in DC, this is a full turnaround. I am loving this experience, though I miss my friends, family and dog like nobody’s business. If you are able to intern anywhere, DC is the place to be.

A Font to Flaunt

In the past, my font blogs have consisted of everything from curly Lavanderia to to bold Chunk Five, so today I decided I wanted to focus on something a bit simpler: “everyday” fonts. Let’s go.

Verlag BoldVerlag – Verlag is simply beautiful. It is a more arched and modern take on basic typeface Trebuchet, but the many varieties of Verlag allow it to be used in almost everything. This would be an excellent type for a museum exhibit or perhaps a textbook that’s actually compelling.

Landmark ShadowLandmark Shadow – One of my friends is studying abroad in Germany right now and consistently posts photos on Instagram of Germanic art and architecture. When choosing fonts, I thus found myself drawn to designs that give the impression of being somewhere elegant and artsy. And, boy, does Landmark Shadow get the job done. Its lovely lines are surprisingly legible and remind me of a vastly different time and place.

Bubbler OneBubbler One – My personal feelings about this bad boy are a bit more mixed. For something as, dare I say, “quirky” as Bubbler One, you must be careful where you implement it. Of course, I think you should be aware about all font choices, but this one in particular can be very overused, and put in inane places to boot.

AbelAbel – With clean lines and sharp edges, Abel is a fantastic typeface for subheadings and basic graphic work, but it also feels a bit mystical. Unlike Bubbler One, which is clearly meant to give the reader a sense of other-worldlyness, Abel hints at it without being too overt. Much more suitable for day-to-day design.

ArcherArcher – This is by far my favorite font right now. Its rounded edges allow for easy comprehension, but it also shines as a heading. When used alone, Archer is the focal point of any graphic. Despite being a fundamental type, use Archer (and all of these fonts) wisely, or they can be overused and distracting, somewhat akin to my worst enemy, Papyrus.

20 While 20

I was recently looking over my 20 Before 20 blog post, a list of things that I wanted to accomplish before I turned 20 last February. Whether it was priority changes or a lack of opportunity, I only accomplished a few of my goals. As the start of a new year is always an excellent time for reflection, I’ve decided to revisit some of the things that I actually did do. So here you go.

1. I travelled to Chicago during Spring Break to work with 826 Chicago, a non-profit that provides tutoring and workshops to low-income children. I blogged about my experience here.

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Ashley, Bailey, Megan, Tilyn and Maddie made my trip amazing!

2. I received straight As.

3. I saw Maroon 5, Ed Sheeran, Josh Groban and One Direction perform live. I also saw George Watsky for the fourth time!

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Watsky in Spring 2013 versus Summer 2012. I’m in the front row in both! Spot me!

4. I travelled to Madrid, Paris and London for two weeks in June!

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I finally got to practice my french!

5. I worked with Thrive DC, a non-profit that provides meals to people suffering from socioeconomic distress, during my summer break on another Alternative Break. This was my third service trip with my college, which you can learn about here.

Look at these chillers.

Look at these chillers.

6. I interned in Washington D.C. during the summer with the Center for American Progress.

7. I heard two of my personal heroes ­– Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Tammy Baldwin – speak while in D.C.

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JB in all of his glory.

8. Sportz!!! I attended two professional sporting events: a Washington Nationals baseball game and a Dallas Maverick’s basketball game! This may not seem like a big deal to the Average Joe, but I’m not a very sporty person, so the magnitude of this event is unparalleled in my previous 19 years of existence.

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I wish I could tell you who the Nats played against or even who won, but I simply cannot.

9. I stood on the front steps of the Supreme Court when DOMA was struck down. Read about it here!

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One of the best days of my life.

10. I joined the Student Senate and wrote an awesome resolution that encourages the university to support same-sex partner benefits for staff and faculty members.

11. I dressed up as a pineapple for Halloween.

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A pineapple, a Jurassic Park tour guide, a ginger snap and a pirate walk into a bar…

12. The website that I was the editor of for an entire year won a huge national award called the Pacemaker! It’s really cool and I’m super proud of everyone who contributed to it.

13. I visited Chicago for the second time in late September with my family, where we explored the city, found some creepy silver men (pictured) and attended my aunt’s wedding.

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Art?

14. I began interning for Paul Davis, a democratic candidate for governor in my state.

15. I met John Green!

And I meerkated. Because obviously.

And I meerkated. Because obviously.

16. I attended the Yule Ball. Well, the scholarship hall community’s version of the Yule Ball, which was awesome.

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“We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”

17. I visited meerkats at both the Kansas City and Washington D.C. zoos. Meerkats around the country have now been blessed with the presence of their queen.

SO MANY KATS

SO MANY KATS

18. I participated in the Project for Awesome for the third consecutive year and talked about 826 Chicago, the non-profit that I visited over Spring Break!

19. I travelled to Fort Worth to celebrate the New Year with my roommate, Chloe. Despite somehow breaking her hot tub, we had a fantastic time exploring the stock yards and line dancing at the world’s largest honky tonk!

My ladies.

My ladies.

20. And finally, I hung out a whole bunch with the love of my life: my dog.

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Soulmates.

What I’m Watching #9: DC Intern Edition

I’ve spent the last eight weeks as an intern at the Center for American Progress in Washington D.C. I’ve blogged about it here and here. CAP has been wonderful and it’s been a thrilling summer. I’ve seen a lot, learned a lot and spent a lot of time alone, which is both enlightening and depressing.

You see, DC is this incredibly odd place where you are simultaneously given an ego boost and a punch in the gut. You were hired, so you clearly aren’t an idiot, but everyone is so well-read, intelligent and nicely dressed that you just want to crawl up in a ball and forget that you ever even had ambition. My emotions are everywhere. I’ve been making a lot of lists and I’ve started this weird habit of making all of my old word documents into PDFs so I can never go back and change anything. I don’t know why.

I’ve also been watching quite a bit of television, which is why I’m writing this post. Below, I’ve made a list of some shows that have helped me through my internship. The following comedies and dramas* have taught me excellent lessons about how to be an intern in DC, while keeping me from going insane in my teensy tiny dorm room.

Comedies

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Parks and Rec – After re-watching all five seasons of this charming masterpiece, I’m much more motivated. Leslie Knope makes me want to work in government, she inspires me to learn about other fabulous woman and she pushes me to reach for more than I thought I could attain. I seriously want to be her.

The Office – This show has helped me learn what professionalism doesn’t involve. Basically, anything that Michael Scott does, I don’t do. Because that’s what makes a good intern – someone who isn’t Michael Scott. That and some Excel skills.

30 Rock – Liz Lemon has been my closest companion this summer. She’s taught me how to enjoy living alone, because if there’s anything she can do, it’s sport glasses, messy hair and some loose-fitting sweatpants while cramming a whole bunch of food down her gullet. She’s also an awesome feminist – like Leslie – and doesn’t settle. Except for James Marsden. And that’s a-okay with me. Also, I’ve also been reading Tina Fey’s book, which is stupendous, and if you haven’t read it then why?

Dramas

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Scandal – Olivia Pope, man. She’s glorious. She’s smart, she’s beautiful, she’s flawed. And she dresses really, really well. Above all else, I watch Scandal because of Olivia’s silky pants and magnificently structured blazers. When I go to work, I actually put effort into my appearance, which, in turn, makes me seem well-put together. Am I really? Who’s to say?

The West Wing – Obviously The West Wing is included here (and it is THE West Wing. You can’t forget the THE). No one should ever work in DC without seeing it. Seriously, I will force the boxed sets into your anxious interny hands if you dare go without it. However, the problem with The West Wing  is that it makes the White House seem like this magical castle of accessible beauty. Like, I could be CJ Cregg if I wanted to. I could debate econ policy with Leo or write an inaugural address with Sam Seaborn. And I would be good at it. Would I really? Yet again, I’m going to go with ‘who’s to say?’

House of Cards – Every time I watch House of Cards, I’m on the edge of my seat. It’s gritty and terrifying. Because it makes me feel I’m a really integral part of the DC whole, when I’m really just an intern. I may try to walk around like Francis Underwood as if I have something super serious to do, but I’m really going to Five Guys to get a bacon cheeseburger.

*Two of these shows have Rob Lowe in common. Oh Rob Lowe.

Canine Sentimentality

The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was reach out for my dog.

Spoiler alert: she wasn’t there. I should have been expecting this, but as waking up goes, I was a tad disoriented. I’m interning in Washington DC this summer and Claire is a bunch of miles away. (I would look up the number of miles, but I’m too lazy. DC to Kansas City, you get it.)

I’m kinda obsessed with her. I think about petting her. I think about talking to her. I’m insane, it’s fine, I know that. When I begin hearing her speak back to me –  that’s when you can start worrying.

Last weekend, I went to KC to visit her – er- my family, and this happened as I was leaving for my flight.

In other social media-related dog content, 17 percent of my instagram photos prominently feature her furry being. This may seem excessive, but I can assure you, it is not as bad as it could be. Once the percentage reaches 20, I demand that someone stop me.

This isn’t to say that our relationship is completely one-sided. I was once pulled over by the police for speeding and, of course, started sobbing. With tears streaming down my face, I managed to cry-yell to the nice officer that my dog was in the animal hospital and I needed to go see her. It worked – no ticket. (Also, not a lie. She was technically at the vet. So I still have a little integrity left.)

Us, on one of our many FaceTime dates.

Us, on one of our many FaceTime dates.

It’s not just my dog I’m obsessed with either. If I’m over at a friend’s house and they have a dog, chances are I won’t be talking to my friend. I’ll be bonding with that creature. My best friend’s dog, Petey, passed away earlier this year and I cried like a baby. And don’t even get me started about dog movies. Okay, I’ve gotten myself started. My Dog Skip was one of the most jarring films I have ever seen. When Skip gets beaten with a board in a cemetery while trying to protect his owner, I just lost it. HE’S SO BRAVE. And then that horrible scene in The Butterfly Effect came along. I’m not going to describe it. It’s bad.

On the other end of the happiness spectrum, one of my favorite canine-focused non-profits, the Beagle Freedom Project, got mentioned in the Wall Street Journal recently. I made a video for them for the 2011 Project for Awesome. Check it!

In conclusion, dogs are amazing. I’ve always said that Claire is a genius and this article backs me up (via Tony). And yes, I realize that I just wrote a blog post about my dog. I don’t have a purpose for this post other than wanting to brag about the best pet ever, so I’ll just end it with an adorable photo of Claire wearing my clothes.

I call this "Claire Secretly Despises Me, Part 88"

I call this “Claire Secretly Despises Me, Part 88″

Bridegroom

Tonight, I got to see the fabulous film Bridegroom. Based on the experiences of Shane Bitney Crone, this documentary brilliantly tells the story of Shane and his boyfriend, Tom. It reveals the adversity they both faced and how they came to love and change one another for the better.

When Tom gets into an accident, Shane is unable to say goodbye to him. I found myself crying for this amazing couple, who were unjustly separated in their last moments together. I have heard this story before.  I met a man last summer who experienced the same thing. Horrifyingly, it isn’t unique. And this is why it’s important.

When I heard Shane state during the panel after the film that he doesn’t consider himself an activist, I was struck. Because to me, there is nothing more active than standing for your rights and the rights of the one you love.

Shane Bitney Crone speaks with Bishop Gene Robinson, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and Maya Rupert of the National Council for Lesbian Rights.

Shane Bitney Crone speaks with Bishop Gene Robinson, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and Maya Rupert of the National Council for Lesbian Rights.

Shane is one of the most honest and candid speakers I’ve ever seen. Through his words and experiences I am more motivated than ever to create change. This film has helped cement something for me personally, though. I need to work on the state level. I need to stay to help those who live in Kansas to grow to love it as much as I do, despite those who work against truth, equality and love.

Bridegroom is not available in theaters until November, but the YouTube video that inspired the film can be seen here. If you think this is something you’ve seen before, or you think that you’re not interested, you’ve got another think coming. This film builds a narrative that works to spark conversations among all areas of belief.

I’m sorry for the uncharacteristic rambling and frequent use of the word “love,” but I’ve just been holding in tears for a few hours and they’ve gotta come out sometime.

Thanks to the Center for American Progress, my wonderful employer and the sponsors of this screening!