Category Archives: Writing

KC Star editor gives a voice to community members

Derek Donovan.

Derek Donovan, a Kansas City native, has worked at the Kansas City Star for over 21 years. In his current role as the Community Engagement Editor, Donovan strives to provide a voice to members of the community on the opinion pages of the newspaper.

“I really like trying to balance a variety of viewpoints,” Donovan said. “I like trying to let people see their own points of view in the paper and on the website.”

As Community Engagement Editor, Donovan coordinates the opinion editorial page and the letters to the editor, solicits guest columns and letters, chooses the syndicated columns that are published in the newspaper, manages social media accounts for the editorial board, serves on the editorial board and writes editorials.

“I’ve talked to thousands of people who cared enough about The Kansas City Star to make their voices heard,” Donovan wrote in an article for the Kansas City Star.

Donovan has called Kansas City home not only for the past two decades, but for nearly his entire life. He grew up all over the Midwest, but calls Kansas City his home.

Donovan has been the Community Engagement Editor for the past four months. Before that, Donovan held a number of different positions at the Kansas City Star, including library researcher, project researcher, public editor, ombudsman and newsroom social media director.

“I actually wanted to be a professional researcher and an academic,” Donovan said. “That was really where I thought my career was headed. There’s a lot of overlap between research and journalism obviously.”

When Donovan served as the Kansas City Star ombudsman, he was able to give a voice to readers by printing their opinions and concerns in the newspaper. As ombudsman, he also learned to hold the organization he worked for accountable for what it publishes.

“I always said in my old role as ombudsman that it was my job to point out when readers were right about when the Star was wrong,” Donovan said. “Nobody ever told me not to do that. If I went to work for Apple or Kraft or something, what I would have to do for a living would be to explain why my employer is always right … Journalism is the opposite of that, and I really like that.”

Donovan uses his past experiences as an ombudsman and a researcher to hold the publication he works for accountable and to shape his moral compass.

“Every day I come to work, and the only directives that we ever really have are to try to publish the truth and to try to be fair,” Donovan said.

Donovan had not always planned on becoming a journalist. He originally planned to become an art and theater professor.

“At the last minute, I decided not to do my Ph.D.,” Donovan said. “Instead, I found a job working in the library here at the Star, in the research library for the newsroom. One thing lead to another, and eventually, I started running the research library. And that’s how I ended up in the current role.”

He studied communications and French at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. He also earned his Master’s of Arts from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas.

Donovan advises journalism students to do an internship during their collegiate years.

“I was just having this conversation with one of my colleagues yesterday that getting an internship is going to help you get clips,” Donovan said. “Having clips is by far the most important thing in getting a job in journalism.”

After spending the past 21 years working in the newsroom at the Kansas City Star, Donovan’s drive to fairly report news as well as to represent community voices in the op-ed section of the newspaper has not faltered.

“This industry has changed so vastly much over the past 20 years,” Donovan said. “I have always been committed to trying to find the best fit of what I can do to be the best part of this newsroom.”


Newly elected OneKU coalition student senators take office

By Ashley Hocking

Senators from the OneKU coalition officially transitioned into their positions on Wednesday, April 27 at a joint Student Senate meeting with the 2015-2016 Senate body.

Former student body president Jessie Pringle and former student body vice president Chancellor Adams ceremoniously handed over their positions to Stephonn Alcorn and Gabby Naylor, the 2016-2017 student body president and student body vice president at the University of Kansas.

Alcorn and Naylor defeated Richie Hernandez and John Castellaw of the CARE KU coalition. OneKU won 90.6 percent of the student body’s vote, while CARE KU won 9.39 percent of the vote.

“I think we have a good amount of backing from the student body for our platforms and our initiatives, so I think that puts us in a very good position for the year,” said Victoria Snitsar, a newly elected student Senator for the School of Journalism.

At the joint Student Senate meeting, Isaac Bahney, Sophia Templin, and Adam Steinhibler were elected as holdover Senators. Holdover senators are elected from the previous Senate body to continue serving as senators for next academic year.

“The purpose of the position is to create that smooth flow from one senate to the next one,” Bahney said. “With this position, I want to serve as a mentor. I want to be one of those experienced voices in this body next year.”

Students Danny Summers, Dalton Wiley, Abdoulie Njai, Connor Birzer, Mitch Reinig, Mady Womack, Allyssa Castilleja, Whit Collins and Amy Schumacher also assumed their positions on the 2016-2017 Student Senate Executive Staff.

“I am confident that this is a team of people that will remain effective and committed to this body and to this University,” Alcorn said.

One of the primary functions of Student Senate is to allocate the required campus fees that students pay to the University each semester. The required campus fee for the 2016-2017 academic school year is $455.50 per student.

“Student Senate currently brings in about 24 million dollars in revenue from student fees, which are spent on student programs at the university,” Snitsar said. “I think people should know where their money is being spent.”


Student Senate also voted unanimously to raise students’ required campus fees for the next school year. The funds will be allocated to the University Daily Kansan (UDK).

The UDK’s portion of the required campus fees was raised from $1.00 to $2.50 for this academic year. For the following two years, the UDK will receive $2 per student. The UDK will no longer request funding from Student Senate after the 2019 Fiscal Year.

Student Senate decided to increase the UDK’s funding for the 2016-2017 year after UDK editors filed a lawsuit on Feb. 5 against top KU officials for approving Student Senate’s $45,000 annual cut to the newspaper’s funding last year.

“I think that Student Senators as a whole didn’t realize that this decision affected a very large group,” Snitsar said. “I want to accurately portray the issues that journalism school students are facing because I think the inaccurate portrayal was one of the reasons the funding for the University Daily Kansan got cut last year.”

Last year, the student organization Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk called for the impeachment of the top three Student Senate officers for allegedly failing to stand in support of black peers during the Black Lives Matter movement. The 2015-2016 Student Senate body ultimately decided to not impeach the top officers.

In light of the events from last year, a Multicultural Student Government was created. Alcorn and Naylor hope to foster a unified and secure relationship with members of the Multicultural Student Government, which was funded by Student Senate in March.

At the Student Senate meeting, Alcorn and Naylor encouraged Student Senators to actively seek out voices of students that are traditionally unheard and marginalized.

“The platforms that we’re going to work on: they on came from students,” Naylor said. “No matter what, we are going to make a change.”

Alcorn and Naylor are determined to demonstrate the viability of Student Senate to the student body as an inclusive and effective student government.

“As student body president, I am committed to making sure every single Jayhawk feels heard and valued,” Alcorn said.

Nude photographer visits KU

By Ashley Hocking

In the mornings when Arno Minkkien is getting ready for work, the first thing he does is get naked.

Arno Minkkien is a 70-year-old Finnish-American photographer that has photographed his nude form in nature for the past 4 decades.

“I never mean to be scandalous,” Minkkien said. “I take nude self-portraits to communicate the fluidity between nudity and nature.”

Minkkien gave a presentation about his collective body of photographic work at the University of Kansas (KU) in Spooner Hall at 10 a.m. on Feb. 26, 2016.

“He understands and communicates the plight of the photographer and the artist,” said Daniel Coburn, assistant professor of photo media at KU.

Minkkien started off his career as a copy writer at an advertising firm on Madison Avenue in New York. When he was assigned to create an advertisement for the Minolta camera, he decided to change his career path.

“I started to believe my own copy writing,” Minkkien said. “I realized I could make what happens inside of my mind, happen inside of a camera.”

Minkkien uses a 9-second shutter release, which allows for him to pose for the images.  He does not look through his camera’s viewfinder before he takes each image.

“There is no photographer in my work,” Minkkien said. “I am the subject. The camera does the work.”

None of Minkkien’s images are manipulated in Photoshop. His photographs are black and white urban images that “capture the contemporary spirit,” according to Minkkien.

Minkkien believes there is an element of timelessness to his body of work because of the continuity of the subject and elements of nature.

“There is no age to a photograph when it is just the landscape and the body,” Minkkien said.

Minkkien self-portraits are exclusively taken in the nude, but he has never viewed this as a restriction upon his creative abilities.

“Out of that narrow tunnel, you’re forced to create,” Minkkien said.

Minkkien was born in Helsinki, Finland and immigrated to the United States when he was 6-years-old. He has traveled to 21 countries, including the Czech Republic, Brazil, Spain, Lithuania and Canada, over the past 40 years to create his body of work.

“I want to be able to travel the world one day, like he did, to expand my horizons and my portfolio,” said sophomore Lauren Muth, a photo media student at KU that attended Minkkien’s presentation.

At the age of 68, Minkkien was awarded the Lucie Award for Achievement in Fine Art in 2013. Two years later, he received the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship. He considers these great feats to have accomplished at an advanced stage in his life.

According to the Guggenheim Foundation’s website, Minkkien’s photographs have been featured in 100 individual shows and nearly 200 group exhibitions in galleries and museums worldwide.

“Even though I am a lot older now than when I started taking self-portraits, there is a continuity to my work,” Minkkien said. “I am the same man and this is the same body, but time has changed me.”

University Daily Kansan editors sue University of Kansas official over funding cuts due to content

By Ashley Hocking

The University Daily Kansan’s editors are suing top KU officials for allegedly cutting the newspaper’s funding by $45,000 annually in an attempt to censor its content.

Current editor Vicky Diaz-Camacho, former editor Katie Kutsko and the publication itself are listed as plaintiffs on the lawsuit that was filed on February 5, 2016, according to the Kansan.

The lawsuit claims that Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and Vice Provost for Student Affairs, Tammara Durham, approved a KU Student Senate decision to reduce funding by $45,000 per year.

Jane Tuttle, Associate Vice Provost for Student Affairs, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Genelle Belmas, a professor of the First Amendment and Society class at KU, said that the cutting funding based on content is a violation of the First Amendment. Belmas is a board member for the Kansan.

“Obviously, the Kansan thinks it has a reasonably good case or it would not waste the time and energy going to court,” Belmas said.

Belmas speculates that the Kansan will use the Supreme Court case Rosenberger v. Rectors of the University of Virginia to make their argument. In this court case, the Supreme Court ruled that the University of Virginia could not decline to fund a religious student magazine because they objected to its content.

The reduced funding led to a number of changes for the Kansan, including the elimination of more than a dozen positions from the Kansan’s staff, said Diaz-Camacho in an article by the Lawrence Journal World.

Junior Mackenzie Eckman is a former staff member of the Kansan who was not rehired to her paid position after the Kansan’s funding was cut. Eckman worked at the Kansan from January 2014 to May 2015 as a Marketing Specialist.

“I think the budget cut had something to do with me not getting rehired my junior year,” Eckman said. “The budget cut made it so that the Kansan couldn’t have as much staff.”

The lawsuit argues that the cut to funding was made as a result of an editorial published in May 2014 that was critical of Student Senate.

“It’s an editorial piece that they are saying caused the cut in funding, but what is a newspaper without a place to express opinions in an opinion section?” Eckman said.

The Kansan editors are asking the court to declare the funding decision a violation of the First Amendment and they are also seeking nominal damages and payment of attorneys’ fees. The court date has not yet been set.

Field trips can be life-changing experiences for some students

By Ashley Hocking

While many students fondly look back upon piling onto yellow school buses for class field trips to the local theater, museum, or zoo, others recall these class field trips as life changing experiences.

Caty Field, a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Kansas, is one of these students. Field attended Topeka Collegiate School in Topeka, Kansas, where she was able to go on field trips to Hiefer Ranch in Arkansas and SeaCamp in Florida.

During the field trip to Arkansas in seventh grade, Field experienced firsthand some of the challenges of global poverty and hunger as well as learned how to be part of the solution.

“We lived like we were in a third world country,” Field said. “It was really eye opening.”

During the class trip to SeaCamp in Florida in eighth grade, Field learned about underwater exploration and did a number of water activities, such as diving, sailing and windsurfing.

“We did a sea camp where we learned about marine life,” Field said. “That was really cool. I got to experience things I wouldn’t normally be exposed to in a school setting.”

Megan Anderson, a classmate of Field’s from Topeka Collegiate School, believes the class trips to Arkansas and Florida taught the students valuable life lessons. Anderson is a sophomore at the University of Alabama and a close friend of Field’s.

“I definitely think we learned a lot about global poverty and how lucky we were to be where we were,” Anderson said. “On the second trip, we learned all kinds of stuff about the ocean, sustainability and stuff we didn’t really know about being from Kansas.”

Maddy Gallegos, a friend of Field’s from high school, often heard about the class trips Field took while she was in middle school. Gallegos is a sophomore at the University of Kansas.

“I didn’t even go to middle school with her, but I could tell you that she went there because she talks about it so much,” Gallegos said. “They’re just really cool experiences I wish I had. You don’t get to do things like that very often.”

When Field boarded a yellow school bus to embark on journeys to Arkansas and Florida, she didn’t anticipate how much the class trips would change her life.

“The bonds that we made through these trips still affect me today,” Field said. “I’m still really good friends with a lot of the people who went to school with me. I learned stuff at an earlier age that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t go on these trips.”

Is the sexual harassment course another thing to complete on your to-do list?

IOA creates online course in light of increasing number of sexual assaults on campus

By Ashley Hocking

It is 11 p.m. on a Thursday night. Sophomore Taylor Brasted has had a very long week of extracurriculars, tests and group projects. Brasted looks over her meticulously handwritten to-do list for the night. At the bottom of the list, she sees there is only one uncrossed task: “complete IOA sexual harassment course.”

The Office of Institutional Opportunity and Access (IOA) implemented a mandatory sexual harassment course through Blackboard this semester because of the increasing number of sexual assaults on The University of Kansas’ campus recently.

The sexual harassment training consists of six videos and a quiz: 10 questions for undergraduate students and 16 for graduate students. Students who do not complete the course will not be able to enroll for the fall 2016 semester.

Caelan Golledge, a KU sophomore who completed the sexual harassment training, believes students will view the course as another homework assignment to complete.

“Honestly, most people are just going to click through the course just to get done with it because it’s a requirement before you can enroll,” Golledge said. “People just consider it a hassle.”

Josh Jones, the interim director of IOA, has a different take. Jones considers the course a helpful tool for figuring out the blurred lines of sexual harassment and assault.

“The course helps show some of the kinds of nuisances that people may not themselves think of as sexual harassment or assault that are against our policy,” Jones said. “They need to be aware of our policy because it’s serious and it’s interfering with students’ education. That can’t be accepted.”

Faculty and staff will also be required to complete a separate, mandatory training course regarding sexual harassment and assault.

There’s a lot of specialized sections in the faculty training because faculty and staff have a position of power,” Jones said. “A lot of people don’t know what to do, what to say or how to handle it. We help walk them through what they can do.”

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Jones believes that the sexual harassment course provides greater context of what sexual assault and sexual harassment are.

“We’re hoping that this will help provide students with a level of familiarity with the process and what to expect, so that students will feel more comfortable reporting to IOA,” Jones said. “We’d like to get to a point where IOA is preventing sexual assault from happening.”

The goals of implementing the sexual harassment training are to acquaint students with the topic of sexual harassment, teach the importance of bystander education and motivate students to get more involved in changing the rape culture on campus, according to Jones.

“Policies alone will not change a culture; thus, [it] is vital students take an active role in being engaged bystanders and report incidents,” said Jane Tuttle, the associate vice provost for student affairs. “It takes all of us working together to make KU as safe and welcoming as possible.”

IOA makes an effort to reach out, train and give presentations to a variety of student populations including: sororities and fraternities, athletic teams, residence halls and student organizations.

“The reality is that faculty, staff and administrators are not always where students are,” Jones said. “We have to really work with students. We have to be working together: not just the Jayhawk community, but even our Lawrence community.”

Jones said IOA is taking another step towards creating an “overarching and comprehensive prevention plan” each year. This year’s online mandatory course supplemented last year’s sexual harassment training PowerPoint provided to students.

Brasted said the sexual harassment training course is formatted like a chore. When Brasted gets ready to complete the last item on her to-do list, this is her mindset.

Brasted returns to her bedroom, and opens Blackboard on her Mac laptop. She skips over the videos and opens the quiz. After completing 10 multiple choice questions, Brasted gets a perfect score on her first try.

“The examples were pretty far-fetched, so it was pretty easy to be like, ‘I know that’s wrong,’” Brasted said.

The item is crossed off Brasted’s to-do list, and soon forgotten. The format of the sexual harassment training is not the most effective way to address sexual assault and harassment on campus, according to Brasted.

Kansas to allow concealed carry on college campuses

By Ashley Hocking

Kansas legislature passed a policy that will allow citizens to carry concealed firearms on college campuses. The bill was signed by Governor Sam Brownback in March 2015 and will be enacted as law in July 2017.

Kansas is the sixth state to allow concealed carry, according to the Kansas City Star.

According to the legislation, safety protocols and provisions implemented will be funded directed from the University, rather than the state of Kansas.

The legislation will allow individuals over the age of 21 to conceal and carry firearms without a permit, training or a background check.

“I believe that proper training, background checks and licenses are imperative to gun safety,” said Jacob Ellenberger, a member of The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program at KU. “An untrained shooter may end up causing harm even if he or she meant to help. I support guns, but do not support everyone running around with guns.”

According to the New York Times, 42 school shootings have occurred this year alone. Many students wonder how their safety will be ensured on campus after the policy is implemented.

“I will not feel safe with guns on campus,” said McKenzie Ortiz, the student senator of freshman/sophomore liberal arts & sciences. “I think student safety should be the top priority. In order to ensure safety, we need policy to be changed.”

Freshman Scott Gilmore, a fellow member of the ROTC program, believes the number of gun-related accidents will escalate after the policy is implemented.

“The situation of having a gun on campus will be so exotic that hands will drift to the weapons like moths to a flame,” Gilmore said.

As a person of color, Ortiz believes allowing guns on campus will particularly affect people of color in a detrimental way.

“Black people are more likely to be victim of violent crimes, specifically crimes with guns,” Ortiz said. “Minority students often communicate that they feel unsafe on campus, allowing guns will only worsen the situation.”

Gilmore believes being a member of his organization will make him a target to potential shooters on campus.

“As a member of a ROTC, I stick out,” Gilmore said. “If I am in uniform, then a shooter looking for his first random victim will be immediately drawn to me because I stick out like a sore thumb from my peers.”

Ellenberger, on the other hand, will feel safer on campus once the ability to conceal and carry is implemented.

“I know that the likelihood of me being harmed by a firearm is just as high now as it will be when students can concealed carry on campus,” Ellenberger said. “The irrational people who would shoot me probably would have guns anyways.”

While Gilmore fears his involvement with the ROTC program might make him stand out to a shooter, he agrees with the constitutional right to bear arms.

“I believe those of sound mental state and proper training should be allowed to have firearms,” Gilmore said. “I personally do not own a gun, but respect the rights of others to have them because people should have the ability to defend themselves.”

Student Senate created an online survey to gauge students’ opinions and reactions to the policy, Ortiz said. The survey will be available by the end of October.

“Student Senate is also having talks about how things on campus will look after the policy is implemented,” Ortiz said. “These talks include students from every political affiliation and opinion on guns.”
Student Senate hopes to have surveys collected by December, so student senators can propose solutions for campus safety during the Spring.