WSU Regents Discuss Meeting with Students on Issues of Climate and Safety

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University Board of Regents President Kenneth Alhadeff and WSU President V. Lane Rawlins both emphasized today their commitment to the safety and well being of every university student, faculty and staff member on every WSU campus. The discussion at the Board of Regents meeting came as a result of a recent incident on Pullman’s College Hill that left an African American student injured after an altercation.

The regents are committed to the safety of all students, faculty, staff and citizens,” Alhadeff said. “This is a place of academic learning, of community of caring. This is a place that won’t turn head and heart from this problem.”

“WSU will resolve the issue and provide a place where racial diversity, tolerance and understanding can flourish,” the regent said.

President Rawlins told WSU regents and others at the afternoon meeting that “We must find ways to solve problems without violence. Those who have racism in their hearts have no place here.”

He said the university cannot settle for passion only when dealing with such serious issues. “What is needed is a review process that will provide safety and education, and pull us together. It’s time to look into each other’s eyes,” Rawlins said.

“I work for the Board of Regents. I work with the faculty and staff. But the reason I am here is for the students,” the president said. “You have my commitment to this institution. I won’t rest until we solve the issue.”

The regents’ Student Affairs Committee met with students earlier in the day to discuss concerns about safety and racism.

Although a student affairs investigation has now determined that the fight was not racially motivated, the incident has become a focal point for members of WSU’s multicultural community, who are hoping to bring awareness of racism to the attention of university officials.

President Rawlins has called for the immediate establishment of a council on student climate and safety. The group will include a majority of multicultural students plus faculty and staff.

Rawlins told students that racism and intolerance are unacceptable at WSU. “It is this administration’s commitment that all students should feel safe and welcome on the WSU campus and in the surrounding community. Acts of violence or racism will not be tolerated under any circumstances.”

At the committee meeting, Regent William Marler, chair of the regents’ Student Affairs Committee, asked the students to bring up issues they felt needed to be addressed by the council that is being established.

Among their suggestions:
— Better communication between the university’s administration and students.
— Enhanced police presence on College Hill.
— Recruit more faculty of color who are activists.
— Implement recommendations from past committees on racial issues.
— Establish a student honor code that encourages responsible behavior and sets conduct standards.

President Rawlins said he expects the newly formed council to develop strategies and goals that can be effectively implemented by its members in a timely manner.

During the regents’ meeting, board members also approved several items, including construction documents and authority to bid and award a construction contract for the McCroskey Hall renovation. The facility currently houses the university’s International Studies Program. The $5 million project is expected to begin this winter with completion in summer 2001.