After the president of the WSU College Republicans rallied at a rally of white nationalists, some state lawmakers are asking the university to remove official recognition for group. James Allsup, the former head of the WSU political club, was outed online after attending the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville in August. Before that, he posted anti-trans, anti-woman, and antisemitic messages online and thanked Richard Spencer.
In a letter to WSU President Kirk Shulz, 12 Democratic state representatives thank Shulz for stating publicly that "individuals with those beliefs are not welcome in our community."
"However, hateful beliefs were not only allowed a full voice on campus, creating a hostile climate for many students and staff, they were amplified by having a WSU and state sanctioned platform," the lawmakers write. "These views continue to be provided that platform via official sanction of the WSU College Republicans as a 'Registered Student Organization.' How can students or state employees at WSU trust that hate beliefs 'are not welcome in our community,' when WSU continues to provide an official sanction for the platform from which hate was spread?"
The representatives ask WSU to withdraw official recognition and resources for the College Republicans. It's not clear whether the group gets funding for the university or how much. A website for student groups on campus instructs organizations on how to apply for funding from student government. In a Facebook message, the WSU College Republicans told The Stranger, "No comment. Have a great day."
In an email, Allsup said that during his time as president, “all fundraising was done outside the university system. We were able to successfully raise thousands of dollars to put on our highly successful events.” (The email came from the same address Allsup included in an earlier Facebook post requesting “tips” about someone he claimed his him during a protest in Washington, D.C. Allsup also responded to this story on Twitter.
Asked about the state representatives’ letter, Allsup said his supporters “realize that the media and the state establishment are on the same side here, trying to make something out of nothing.”
A spokesperson for the university did not immediately return requests for comment about the school's support for the club.
Seattle Democratic Representative Gerry Pollet says representatives from WSU told his office they have no record of the College Republicans receiving cash directly from the school. But recognized student groups get a “really signifiant subsidy” in the form of free meeting space, printing, a faculty adviser, and “access to the student body in a way that no one else can,” Pollet said.
“It’s not the amount,” Pollet said in an interview. “It’s the fact that the school—and therefore the state of Washington—is stamping ‘approved’ on this organization that really makes it a matter of institutional racism that has to be addressed.”
Soon after the rally, Allsup resigned from the WSU College Republicans. In a statement, the group defended Allsup, who "considers himself a paleoconservative," and said it was "appalled by the events that took place in Charlottesville."
In the letter, the lawmakers also ask WSU to create "clear standards" to make sure student groups "do not contribute to a hostile climate for any other group sf students or employees at WSU."
"What message is sent if one of our two public research universities continues to provide official sanction for this club?" said Seattle Rep. Gerry Pollet in a statement. "WSU is a major state employer and is giving rein to a club that creates a hostile work environment for staff and a hostile learning environment for students."
The legislative district that covers the WSU campus is represented by Republicans. No Republicans signed the letter and neither did the only two Democratic House members from Eastern Washington, Spokane's Marcus Riccelli and Timm Ormsby.
This post has been updated with additional comments. It has also been corrected to reflect that James Allsup did not deliver a speech at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.