WSU President responds to criticism from students

During an annual press conference the WSU president addressed free speech concerns


RACHEL SUN | The Daily Evergreen

President Kirk Schultz held a press conference this morning to discuss student conduct and free speech on campus.


WSU President Kirk Schulz held a press conference Monday, in which he addressed questions about free speech, racism, the student conduct board and criticism of himself on campus.

Over the weekend, WSU students and community members held a march against white supremacy and personally called on Schulz to take action against hate speech and discrimination. The march came after the WSU College Republicans president attended an alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned violent.

During the march and over social media, WSU students and some faculty have called for concrete steps, such as expulsion or pointed condemnation from the university, in response.

A common theme throughout Schulz’s answers was the limitation of his role as president. In reference to students urging him to take a stronger stance against racism and hate speech on campus, he alluded to university attorneys who had determined rhetoric such as that of former College Republicans President James Allsup did not qualify as hate speech.

“As much as everyone would like me to do that, that’s not a position I can be in,” he said. “There are very formalized definitions of hate speech that are not Kirk’s definition.”

Schulz also answered questions on last year’s student conduct investigation and recent changes to the process. He said he was not directly involved with the investigations and deferred to Student Affairs, faculty and staff, and the rest of campus and approval from varying levels of leadership in the process of revising student conduct policies.

“While I understand as president, there are sometimes fingers pointing at me personally,” he said, “at the same time, I would say that this is a university issue.”

Schulz said he and the university would not tolerate a student conduct process that was biased or prejudiced toward students of color.

He also mentioned the university’s work on a long-term effort to change WSU’s climate. He pointed to the hiring of three leaders of color — Vice President of Finance Stacy Pearson, Vice President of Student Affairs Mary Jo Gonzalez and WSU Everett Chancellor Paul Pitre — in executive positions, and the ongoing search for the associate vice president and chief diversity officer.

“It takes time to change our culture,” he said. “We are making super significant active progress.”