March 24, 2023

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Pratt chamber won’t answer questions about social justice survey

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A “community survey” from the Pratt Chamber of Commerce raises a lot more questions than those in the survey.

An email obtained by the Sentinel from Pratt Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kimberly DeClue included a link to a survey created as part of what the Colorado State University’s Prevention Research Center says was a collaboration with the Kansas Leadership Center.

However, KLC President and CEO Ed O’Malley said in a phone interview after the initial publication of this story that his organization is not in formal collaboration with CSU, and has no plans to use the study.

The questions on the online form are laid out in a format that does not allow for flexibility or nuance in answers, but rather asks takers to assess “never” to “always” on a numerical scale from 1 to 6, as well as other sections which request strongly disagree to strongly agree with statements such as “We have a process in place to make sure people with lived experience of racism and White people work together to influence systems change.”

It also includes sections such as “justice” with statements such as “Community members are committed to making amends for past injustices” and “The community works openly to address past racial issues and injustice.”

The entire survey is peppered with “social justice” and “critical theory” phrases and seems to presumes the existence of racism without supporting evidence of actual incidents.

Pratt Chamber of Commerce won’t answer questions

The Sentinel wrote to DeClue at the Pratt Chamber of Commerce with a list of questions about the survey.

The Sentinel asked:

  • How did the chamber send out this study, and was it simply to members or to the entire community?
  • Given that unless the survey is a random sample of the entire community, the results would be invalid, how were survey participants selected?
  • If participants were hand-picked, how does that gibe with the study’s purported push for diversity?
  • Were the questions designed for people living in small towns in the Central Plains? The questions indicate that the survey developers have no concept of small-town demographics.
  • What is the purpose of asking questions about reparations?  
  • Who would decide what constitutes “past injustices” and what constitutes “amends?”  
  • That particular question is illustrative of several others within the study, and presumes the existence of past injustices and that amends are due. Do you believe this to be the case in Pratt, and is such a presumption of “injustice” helpful?
  • Copies of all correspondence between Colorado State University, the Chamber, and any other involved organization should be made public so residents understand the purpose and intended outcomes – will copies of that correspondence be made available to all chamber or community members?
  • The survey document seems to imply that certain issues or problems exist in the community.  What might those be, from the Chamber’s perspective?
  • Will the community also be shown all documents related to any grants received by Colorado State in order to understand the goals of those providing the funding?
  • Do you have a working definition of “Social Justice” and what does that look like in Pratt, Kansas?
  • What is the purpose of having members take this study?
  • Once results are received, what does the Pratt Area Chamber of Commerce propose to do with them?

DeClue didn’t respond, but the Sentinel received a reply from Jeanette Siemens, who is a Pratt city commissioner and a “facilitator” for the KLC.

“Thanks for your interest in the Community Capacity Index Survey,” she wrote in an email. “We all are quite comfortable with and looking forward to the responses from our citizens and everyone working together for the future utilizing that information for planning and growth.”

Siemens didn’t say why she was dodging questions on behalf of the Pratt Chamber of Commerce.

The Sentinel reached out again, both to Siemens and DeClue, noting Siemens’ reply was non-responsive to our questions, and asking again for direct answers.

As of publication time, Siemens and DeClue had not replied.

Collaboration with Colorado State University

According to the Colorado State University Prevention Research Center website, the survey is a collaboration “with the Kansas Leadership Center (and a panel of 32 other experts on community-driven change) on the development of a civic capacity index. This index will be used in needs assessments, as an outcome measure for various community-based interventions, and in basic research such as on community resilience. The project is funded by a one-year Colorado State University Extension Mini-Grant ($3000), the above CYFAR grant, and other resources.”

A CYFAR is a USDA Children, Youth, and Families at Risk grant, provided to universities such as Colorado State. The amount of the grant, what constitutes “other resources” and who is on the “panel of 32 other experts” is unclear.  

The Sentinel will be following up with Colorado State University and the Pratt City Commission, as well as the Pratt Area Chamber Commerce, and the next story in this series will explore their involvement and a list of other Kansas communities or chambers of commerce being surveyed.  We will also ask why CSU cites collaboration with the Kansas Leadership Center, which is disputed by O’Malley.

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