WSU Faculty Senate hosts guest speakers; addresses athletics department debt

Guest speakers presented on the Employee Assistance Program and WSU health and wellness benefits. 

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BRANDON WILLMAN

Faculty Senate meetings are streamed to the public

BRANDON WILLMAN, Evergreen reporter

In the first faculty senate meeting of 2023, questions and concerns arose from Luke Premo, College of Arts and Sciences Senate member and WSU anthropology professor, about budget and academic funding cuts to the senate board in the wake of WSU athletics not paying back their debt

“I was wondering how much smaller this cut would be if the athletic department paid back that $70–80 million for covering their external debt,” Premo said.

In a written, anonymous constituent concern from 2021, it was said that the debt WSU has used profits from other units to cover the annual deficit spending by the Athletics Department accumulated over the previous 8–10 years.

The debt is fueled by renovations and the expansion of the athletic department and at the expense of other departments, the concern said.

It is concerning to see how much of a cut we are getting with the lower student enrollment at WSU causing lower tuition profit while the athletics department still has that outstanding debt, he said.

Von Walden, Civil and Environmental Engineering Senate member, said WSU President Kirk Schulz had promised that the payment plan would be, at minimum, a couple of million dollars a year and raised the concern that the plan is yet to surface properly. 

“He promised that he would report back to us on what the debt situation looked like, and he also promised to show a payment plan to deal with the athletic debt,” Walden said.

WSU faculty senate hosted guest speakers that presented on the Employee Assistance Program and WSU health and wellness benefits. 

Darrow Brown, program director for Washington EAP, went in-depth into what EAP is and how they help the faculty of the university. 

“If you have a concern, if you need some help, if you need assistance, we are a place to help. We may not be the place you land, but we are where to start,” Brown said. 

Brown listed some common issues that are taken to EAP services. That list included life and work changes, stress management, legal concerns, relationship improvement and more. 

EAP provides services including intake, assessment and short-term counseling, organizational consultation, awareness and education, work and life resources and 24/7 phone support, he said. 

Ann Monroe, WSU director of employee benefits, briefly spoke on specific benefit plans through EAP that are available to Senate members and shared a one-page resource available to faculty. 

Information Items 

Informational updates included an update on previous concerns about university financial support for gaming clubs and expansion of esports at WSU from the Senate. 

“We talked about a number of issues. We followed up on the gaming issue. President [Kirk] Schulz said that he and Pat Chun are not aware of any effort in the direction of funding gaming,” Faculty Senate Chair Christine Horne said. Horne said that President Schulz assured that funding for gaming was not a direction that the university was headed towards. 

“Our efforts focused on donors for major capital projects. So there’s no longer a reason to worry about that issue,” she said. 

Action Items 

The senate looked at five action items during the meeting. The first four of which we all unanimously approved with no discussion. 

The first item removed criminal justice 514 as a satisfactory/fail class. It also changed interior design 520 from the historical perspective of interior space to human-centered building design and operation. The second item revised undergraduate and professional requirements for bioengineering. 

The third item changed the graduate plan for Ph.D. in clinical psychology. 

The fourth action item added a new civil engineering class called water quality. 

The final action item, which was Undergraduate and Professional Major Change Bulletin No. 7, removed voting on exhibit 260b, as it was mistakenly added to both action items and information items. Action five was approved in a vote 59-3.