WSU behind on discrimination policy rewrite

Admin to announce work groups for Executive Policy 15

JESSICA ZHOU, Evergreen reporter

Revisions to the university’s policy on discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, also known as Executive Policy 15, which administration and student activists agreed to rewrite by the beginning of this semester, have yet to be completed.

Phil Weiler, WSU Vice President of Marketing and Communication, said the administration had emailed back and forth with student organizers and did not receive a response to a draft of the policy rewrite they sent in October.

Chijioke Emeka, one of the activists who organized a sit-in in the French Administration building last fall, said in a Facebook message no progress had been made toward preparing a draft. In December, she said the administration had stalled progress on the sit-in demands.

“They haven’t done anything at all,” she wrote in an email. “Once again, they fed students promises and failed to produce tangible evidence of progress.”

In their meetings with the administration, she said, they outlined an extensive timeline for when each demand should be met, including benchmarks and check-ins to hold the administration accountable.

She said so far, none have been met, and they were consistently given excuses such as, “I will email you by the end of the week,” and “I apologize for the slowness, we will get back to you.” This made her and the other student leaders of color confused as to why they met in the first place.

Weiler said next week university administration will announce a work group that will rewrite the university’s policy.

The university had planned to announce several working groups that would address the policy rewrite alongside other campus climate initiatives, Weiler said, but postponed until next week in light of redshirt sophomore quarterback Tyler Hilinski’s death Tuesday.

One such initiative is the hiring of more faculty and staff of color, one of the 11 metrics used to track the progress of WSU’s “Drive to 25” initiative. All of the groups will have representatives from students, faculty and staff from across the campuses, Weiler said.

“At the moment it’s written reasonably with regard to the First Amendment,” said Elizabeth Hindman, an associate professor of media ethics and First Amendment law. She added that it was good practice to revisit and reevaluate existing policies.

She said hate speech is protected by the Constitution, but harassment is not. If a speaker were to make discriminatory statements to a group of people without any comments toward any specific person, it likely would not legally be considered harassment.

She explained courts try to evaluate cases from the perspective of a “generic, reasonable” individual in an attempt to judge situations objectively.

Weiler pointed to the difficult nature of distinguishing harassment from protected free speech as there is no legal definition of hate speech. “If you’re advocating violence, that’s harassment,” he said. “It is frankly difficult to draw the line between protected and not protected speech.”

He added that the rewrite will ideally provide a clearer outline of the university’s community expectations while fitting within the framework of the Constitution.

“There have been issues that have been in forefront on our campus for quite a long time,” Weiler said.