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Samoa Trip expenses cost thousands

Money came from WSU foundation discretionary fund, not tuition

FORREST HOLT, Evergreen reporter

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Courtesy of WSU Public Records Office

WSU President Kirk Schulz during a trip to Samoa in August.

WSU President Kirk Schulz’s trip to the Samoan Islands in late August ran a tab of over $6,500, according to Schulz’s travel expense records. First-class plane tickets were the greatest expense.

Schulz and a small group of Pullman community leaders traveled to the Samoan Islands in late August in response to claims that the university administration was out of touch with the Samoan student population.

Schulz went on the trip with Vice President of Student Affairs Mary Jo Gonzales, Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins and former WSU quarterback Jack Thompson, but only Schulz’s records were obtained.

Schulz spent thousands on first-class flights, hotel rooms, food and drinks. He spent $6,570.97 total on the trip for hotel, travel, food and drink, according to the records.

The WSU Foundation funnels money into the president’s discretionary spending budget, which funds travel-related expenses, said Phil Weiler, vice president of Marketing and Communications. Tuition and tax revenue does not help cover trips like this.

Schulz’s flights were the greatest expense, totaling $3,246.16 over the course of the six-day trip, according to the records. He flew economy class from Spokane to Seattle, but first class between Seattle and Honolulu for $2,926.16 round trip. He flew round trip to Pago Pago, American Samoa, and Samoa for $320.

Weiler said first class is sometimes necessary because it provides ample workspace for the president on long flights. The total flight time between Spokane and Pago Pago was about 12 hours, according to Schulz’s flight itinerary.

“[First class] allows you to do business while traveling,” Weiler said. “It is a much better use of a senior leader’s time.”

Schulz spent $866.25 for five nights, a late checkout fee and Wi-Fi costing $123.50 at the Tradewinds Hotel in Pago Pago, and he spent two of those nights at the Sheraton Samoa Beach Resort in Mulifanua, Samoa, for $1,028.44, according to the records. All hotel fees totaled $2,018.19.

He spent $1,306.62 on five restaurant outings, which included multiple meals, alcoholic drinks and tips at three of those locations.

Traveling and having face-to-face conversations with alumni and interest groups is part of a university president’s job, Weiler told the Evergreen in September.

On social media, some accused Schulz of making a vacation sound like a work trip and not taking steps to connect with Samoan students already in Pullman.

Schulz, Gonzales, Jenkins and Thompson traveled around the islands, touring facilities and speaking with government officials to find ways WSU could better serve Samoan students. The group met with government officials to explore how WSU could work with existing educational institutions to help Samoan students earn degrees matching up with the islands’ economic needs for nursing, agriculture and hospitality, Weiler said.

 

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