Legislators ask WSU to suspend College Republicans

The legislators said the groups activities created an unwelcome environment for many on campus


LUKE HOLLISTER | Daily Evergreen File

James Allsup, members of the College Republicans and counter protesters converge on the steps of the CUB during the protest after the presidential election on November 9, 2016.

JENNIFER LADWIG, Former Evergreen mint editor

Members of the Washington State Legislature sent a letter to WSU President Kirk Schulz asking the university to revoke the WSU College Republicans’ status as an official Registered Student Organization, thus removing the club from both university and state funding.

The legislators wrote in the letter that they believe a climate of fear and distrust has been created by recent events, such as the involvement of former club president James Allsup’s participation in the “Unite the Right” rally and controversial demonstrations on campus.

By allowing the College Republicans to maintain their status as an RSO and receive funding and special access to the student body and resources, the legislators said the university sanctioned their activities.

The letter was signed by 12 Washington lawmakers, but did not include signatures from District 9 Representatives Mary Dye or Joe Schmick, or Senator Mark Schoesler.

The letter states that “students are free to voice their views with the same access to campus as anyone,” but that WSU should not fund an organization that creates a hostile environment on campus.

Rep. Gerry Pollet, D-Seattle, who led the drafting of the letter, said that there is documentation by media outlets that shows the group’s activities went beyond free speech.

“[The WSU College Republicans] had intended to target and provoke a response that would make it fearful for some to attend WSU,” Pollet said.

The letter states that it is necessary for WSU to create an environment that is open to everyone.

“Student and state employees must be able to study and work in an environment that welcomes,” the letter read, “not one where they are exposed to hate speech and potential threats based on the color of the their skin, religion, gender, sexual preference or gender identity.”

Pollet said all students are free to go out on the lawn at WSU and speak, as long as it does not interfere with school activities, but that members of the College Republicans are attempting to provoke and target some students.

Members of the College Republicans have said they were exercising their freedom of speech when participating in rallies and other controversial demonstrations, such as the Trump wall, and action from the university would violate their rights.

“That is [a] very different question than whether or not the state and school provide special access to the student body and resources to a student organization which is deliberately seeking to undermine the state policy of making every student and staff member welcome on campus,” Pollet said.

The letter calls for the university to take action beyond the diversity and training programs Schulz mentioned in a letter to students. Pollet said the legislators are asking for WSU to suspend the College Republican’s status as a Registered Student Organization, based on the documentation of the group’s activities in the past.

He said WSU should only reinstate the WSU College Republicans once they prove they can meet the criteria the university sets out.

Pollet also said WSU should develop a clear definition of hate speech and work with RSOs to create a less hostile environment on campus.

University communication personnel could not be reached for comment, and Pollet said he has not heard back from the university in response to the letter. In an article by The Spokesman-Review, WSU vice president of marketing and communications Phil Weiler said that as of Tuesday, Schulz was at the Vancouver campus and had not seen the letter.

WSU College Republican President Amir Rezamand, who replaced James Allsup after his recent resignation, declined to comment on the letter.

Pollet said students have voiced concerns about groups involved in creating a hostile environment receiving official support.

“This is what I’ve heard from students,” he said. “If you were targeted by a group that you found had official state support and school support, doesn’t that fit the very definition of institutional racism?”

Pollet said he expects to hear from the university about the letter, and to have a conversation with students and staff about creating clear criteria for handling hostile actions among RSOs.

“I expect that the university will pay attention to a letter signed by 12 legislators,” he said, “which is reflective of concerns that have been raised on campus and have remained unaddressed.”

Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, another legislator who signed the letter, said the university needs to be more aware of what is happening and that WSU officials should be doing more to address the hostile environment on campus.

“As the ugly and hateful behavior pops up,” he said, “the university needs to respond forcefully and quickly.”


Additional reporting by Rebecca White


[pdf-embedder url=”https://dailyevergreen.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Letter-to-President-Shulz-September-2017.pdf”]