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Emporia State University graduate cheers student leaders, laments school ‘debacle’

EMPORIA — House Minority Leader Vic Miller regaled members of the Emporia State University student government Thursday with tales of his early 1970s escapades on campus — while lamenting the school’s purging of staff and tenured programs last year.

He pointed to himself and his Republican counterpart, House Speaker Dan Hawkins, as examples of able ESU alumni.

“Think about it,” Miller said. “The two Kansas House leaders are both graduates of this university.”

He added: “That’s why I’m here. I wanted to tell you that you can and probably will be someone, okay? Regardless of what you do.

Miller was a guest speaker at the student senate assembly. He appeared with a framed poster of his successful campaign for student government president—since 1972 or 1973, he guessed.

He told students about the streaking phenomenon on campus, which reportedly earned school recognition from Sports Illustrated. And she once financed a spring break trip to Padre Island, Texas, by making and selling T-shirts that read, “What the hell is an Ichabod?” – referencing the mascot of arch-rival Washburn University.

Miller, now 71, said his “meteoric rise” in politics began on ESU’s Senate Operations Committee. Subsequently, he became involved in an association of student governments of all Kansas state universities. The group became a powerful lobbying force at the Statehouse, he said, before it disbanded.

If students had such a lobbying presence today, Miller told them, they wouldn’t have seen “the debacle” last fall.

ESU garnered national attention for firing nearly three dozen faculty members, including tenured ones, and for axing English, journalism, history, debate, and other programs. The university defended the extraordinary action as an attempt to better align the university’s resources with the needs of the Kansas workforce.

“I want to cry when I see what happened to my beloved university and what’s going on,” Miller said. “And partly that’s because there’s not a strong enough voice in Topeka right now saying it’s wrong.”

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