Lack of transparency on student safety situations is concerning

It has been days since the death with no word from WSU.



The unfortunate sixth floor where the student died

LUKE INGHAM, Evergreen columnist

Less than three months removed from one of the most devastating stories to ever make its way across the Palouse, tragedy has struck again.

Over the past weekend, a student-resident of Perham Hall sadly passed away from what is still an unidentified cause.

Friends flooded to the most recent Instagram post to leave their condolences and grieve with one another; students rapidly texted their group chats with friends to find out what had happened.

For three days following, not a single statement from WSU was published.

An official statement was finally sent out by WSU Chancellor Elizabeth Chilton around 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 25th.

In this statement Chancellor Chilton urged the community to “avoid speculation about this incident so that the investigation may proceed unimpeded.” But the damage had already been done.

Rumors started to swirl around campus: Was it cocaine? Was this a hazing incident? What happened? These are the questions everyone including staff are asking.

Very few details about the incident were provided in Chancellor Chilton’s statement.

Logically, the university is approaching such a delicate and horrific situation with extreme caution. Hence why it is conceivable as to why WSU would not have compiled an official statement in the immediate aftermath of the event. The privacy of the family and the roommate or anyone else directly affected by this event should be of the utmost importance.

However, surely the university does not want rumors going around campus that could potentially reflect poorly on them. Especially with the recent history of the Greek System at WSU, especially coming off one of the most traumatic events in the history of the school.

Recently, new details came to light about the man believed to be responsible for the quadruple-homicide that took place in Moscow, Idaho on November 13th of last year. Bryan Kohberger, was not only a student at WSU, but he was also a teacher’s assistant in the criminology department.

In a report posted across official WSU Pullman socials on Nov. 16, 2022 WSU Police Chief Gary Jenkins stated that he expressed confidence Wednesday in the ongoing quadruple homicide investigation in nearby Moscow, Idaho and added that while few details have been disclosed, he’s been assured there’s no imminent threat to the WSU community.

According to a statement by WSU, it is stated that Kohberger completed his first semster towards his PhD after the murders.

Personally, walking around the same campus as a suspected murderer does not instill in me a feeling of safety.

Two and a half months later and we are facing another tragedy and the silence is deafening. This certainly seems like something that WSU’s administration would have wanted to get ahead of, rather than let the creative minds of college students spread reputation-harming stories.

Hazing is already a serious issue here at WSU. As many may recall, just last year CBS’s 60 Minutes was on campus to report on the death of Sam Martinez. Martinez tragically died of alcohol poisoning in 2019 at a hazing event here in Pullman.

Starting last semester, “Sam’s Law” went into effect in the state of Washington mandating a multitude of new rules and restrictions regarding hazing. for example the schools are now required to put their students through a mandatory hazing training even if this is as lackluster as just a simple quiz showing you understand the consequences.

“Each Washington IHE must provide hazing awareness and prevention education either in person or electronically to students and employees,” risk management firm Vector Solutions wrote. “Including student employees, who have direct ongoing contact with students.”

The Greek community is already on high alert and another slip-up could be incredibly costly for the university’s reputation. There is no definitive answer if Greek life is involved, so I certainly do not want to cast any unnecessary accusations their way. Any information relating to the incident at Perham is purely speculation at this point.

That drives home the question, why wouldn’t the President’s office want to get ahead of this? At least a simple statement saying the situation is being investigated and they will comment further at a later time should have been issued days ago. Instead, not a peep, as rumors and stories burgeoned through the  WSU Student body.

Perhaps this silence seems more significant to me given the events that took place during fall semester, but I’m sure many people share the same concern as me.

Growing up, I visited Pullman regularly with my family and have been loosely associated with the community my whole life. Never have I seen a run of events like this take place out here.

These devastating events are not commonplace in the WSU community and it feels as if we need stronger reaffirmation about the safety of students on campus.

Think about the effect that these stories have on the parents of students; when they send their kids away to little ole’ Pullman to go to school, they expect their kids to be safe.

I am sure there are a lot of things going on behind the scenes that I can not even begin to comprehend. However, I do know that the greater community is affected by these events and they deserve clear and prompt information about these events taking place on our campus.

At the end of the day, there needs to be more transparency when it comes to situations regarding the health, well-being and safety of students on the WSU campus. Throughout the past few months, as WSU has found its way wading through some of the most trying times in its history, the lack of communication has been astounding and that needs to change.