Open letter calls for officials to rid WSU of bigotry

FORREST HOLT | Evergreen ASWSU reporter

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Select WSU faculty, staff and graduate students contributed to an open letter calling on campus leaders to rid the university of bigotry and systemic inequality.

In late November, David Leonard adapted language from an open letter circulating through universities around the country to specific issues at WSU.

Leonard is a professor of comparative ethnic studies, race in pop culture and social justice, among other subjects, in the department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies (CCGRS).

The letter now has more than 25 signatures from professors, associate deans, department chairs, program directors and others.

“We have an obligation and a responsibility to create a campus climate that is empowering, rewarding and welcoming for all students,” Leonard said.

The letter cited the erection of the Trump wall and acts of harassment since the election but he said it is not about politics.

“The issues that we are seeing post-election are the same issues that have been happening on campus for years,” Leonard said.

He said thinking about the letter in terms of one political event ignores broader institutional and cultural issues.

A.G. Rud, Faculty Senate chair and distinguished professor in the College of Education, said policing discriminatory behavior is very difficult but it is not a lost cause.

“What we can do is to try to educate people,” Rud said, “and say that it is important for people to realize that differences really add to our university.”

Rud also signed the open letter. He said certain demonstrations on campus may have been exclusionary or offensive but a university is a place for different opinions and there is no political motivation in supporting marginalized students.

“We’re relatively (politically) powerless,” Rud said, “except (we can) try to influence people through how we teach and how we write and what we stand for.”

He said the Faculty Senate affirmed President Kirk Schulz’s Nov. 14 letter to faculty, staff and students.

“WSU embraces diversity, inclusion and opportunity for all,” the letter read. “We do not – and will not – tolerate expressions of hate, prejudice or injustice.”

Groups of WSU affiliates have also drafted letters in support of making WSU a sanctuary campus and in support of marginalized students in Pullman Public Schools.

Leonard said promoting tolerance and inclusion are often thought of as reactionary, but faculty and staff can take responsibility to continually build a welcoming environment.

It is now more imperative than ever, he said, that institutions take action.

“Students on this campus for years have been talking about campus climate issues,” Leonard said. “It’s time … we take proactive steps that invest in equity.”