Washington State University has no plans to remove formal recognition from that school's College Republicans club, despite a request from a handful of Democrats in the state legislature.
The club's former president, James Allsup, participated in a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in August. In response, Democratic representatives argued WSU had "amplified" hateful beliefs by officially recognizing the College Republicans. Rep. Gerry Pollet, one of the lawmakers who signed the letter, said the university was financially supporting the College Republicans with public dollars by giving them access to meeting space, printing, and other resources. The Democrats asked the school to remove official recognition of and resources for the club.
In a recent response to those lawmakers, WSU President Kirk Schulz says it's true registered student groups like the College Republicans get access to school resources. But Allsup (who has since resigned) was not representing the club while in Charlottesville. "No state funds, student funds, or university resources were used to facilitate that student’s appearance [in Charlottesville]," Schulz writes. He expresses no interest in removing formal recognition for the group.
Read the full letter from the representatives here and the full response from Schulz after the jump.
Thank you for sharing your concerns about Washington State University’s campus culture and climate. As you mentioned in your letter, WSU is committed to providing an inclusive campus climate, and I appreciate the acknowledgement of our efforts in this area. Our commitment, however, has gone far beyond words and I would like to take a moment to highlight some specific actions we have already taken.
The university spends over $5 million annually on student services, programs, and activities to create an inclusive campus culture and support our diverse students. As I have mentioned in numerous statements to our community over the past year, we have made progress but we must do more. Administrative accountability and transparent communication are two hallmarks of our commitment in this area. Increasing the number of diverse faculty, staff, and students is one of the eleven metrics we are using to measure our success in the “Drive to 25” initiative. Yesterday, we opened the new Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center, prominently and deliberately located at the main entrance of our campus, to signal our values related to achieving inclusive excellence and ensuring a welcoming environment for all. We are commissioning external reviews of our diverse student services programs to ensure we are providing contemporary and culturally relevant services they need to be successful. We have begun a national search for an Associate Vice President of Community, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence. We are seeking best practices from nationally known experts who will help us lay the framework for long-term institutional change. These action-oriented strategies were outlined in WSU’s Campus Culture and Climate initiative, which I announced in early May.
Most recently, several members of WSU’s executive team and I have been meeting with student leaders who identified specific gaps related to campus culture and climate. We have made significant progress on shared goals and identified specific timelines which will be announced shortly.
Like many of you who are dedicated to education, diversity, and inclusion, I am personally committed to working on these issues. Our future as a university, indeed the future of the State of Washington, rests on our continued ability to provide access and opportunity as we help develop future leaders for our local communities, our state, our nation, and the world in every academic discipline we offer.
One of those areas where we help students develop into those leaders is through registered student organizations. It is in registered student organizations where our students learn about setting organizational priorities, managing budgets, hosting events, engaging alumni, as well as navigating conflict, internally and externally.
There are over 400 registered student organizations on our Pullman campus representing a very broad spectrum of interests and affiliations. Benefits include free one-time use of major event space, regular use of meeting rooms, access to locker spaces, graphic design and event planning services, a club bank account, website services, 20 percent off university catering services, and 100 free black and white copies per year. All of these benefits – including use of facilities – are funded through student fees. Most RSOs fundraise on their own and may charge dues to their members.
We endorse the independence of student organizations and their student leaders. As emerging young adults who are learning about leadership, decision making, and accountability, we do not tell students who to elect as officers, what events they must offer, or determine the content of their programs. Student organizations regularly bring speakers with divergent viewpoints to campus, develop panels from conflicting perspectives to engage our campus community in difficult dialogues, and hold rallies which bring attention to local and national causes or issues. We support those efforts and work with students, even when we are challenged by, confronted through, or fundamentally disagree with the content of these messages.
All registered student organizations must adhere to university policies to remain in good standing. We have specific policies and procedures which contain rights and responsibilities for registered student organizations, including when those rights could be exercised and under which circumstances recognition would be revoked.
That being said, several facts need to be clarified. The WSU College Republicans, both its student leadership and the organization as a whole, have officially stated its then President did not represent the registered student organization in his appearance in Charlottesville. The student has officially stepped down from his leadership role in the WSU College Republicans. No state funds, student funds, or university resources were used to facilitate that student’s appearance.
We will continue to work with all of our registered student organizations and their student leaders as they navigate their individual and collective pathways to adulthood and maturity.
I look forward to continued conversation with you about these and other important topics affecting the WSU community.
Kirk H. Schulz