WSU announces new initiative to improve campus culture and climate

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University today announced a new comprehensive institutional initiative to create a more welcoming campus culture and climate.

The announcement follows the pledge WSU President Kirk Schulz made a few weeks ago to release a plan by June 1 for renewing and expediting the University’s actions to address system and campus climate and culture issues.

The new initiative includes four major actions:

•    The appointment of an external review team to assess the University’s system-wide diversity efforts and provide recommendations for improving the campus culture and climate

•    The formation of several system-wide committees to address campus culture and climate issues

•    The reorganization of several offices that focus on diversity education and student services

•    The creation of a new associate vice president position to coordinate system and campus culture and climate activities

“We have made some progress the past several years in expanding our programs to promote inclusiveness,” Schulz said. “But we must go further, and we must truly incorporate and reflect the insights and concerns of the entire university community as we proceed.”

Daniel Bernardo, provost and executive vice president, and Mary Jo Gonzales, vice president for student affairs, will lead the initiative. The co-chairs identified several issues that need to be addressed after they reviewed the recent concerns expressed and the formal requests made by students, faculty, and staff related to campus culture and climate. Some of those concerns included:

•    The unavailability of annual progress reports from WSU departments and committees responsible for enhancing faculty and staff diversity

•    Poor internal communication about progress regarding the recruitment, persistence, and graduation of diverse student populations

•    The need for more frequent and comprehensive cultural competency training for students, faculty, staff, and administration

•    The need for additional training and education about WSU Executive Policy 15, specifically sections about free speech, discrimination and harassment, and the section describing available reporting mechanisms when incidents occur

•    The lack of consistent institutional support for student diversity-related events, activities, and programs, including the need to invite contemporary and relevant speakers to all of our campuses

•    The need to examine the courses that qualify for the university’s general education diversity requirements for students

The departments to be realigned and report to the new associate vice president are Diversity Education, Multicultural Student Services, the Access Center, the Gender Identity, Expression, and Sexual Orientation Resource Center (GIESORC), and the Women’s Resource Center. A national search for the new position, which will report to Gonzales, is expected to begin in mid-June. The university hopes to have the new hire in place in January 2018.

“We are committed to creating a culture and climate at WSU that embraces the ideals of higher learning,” Schulz said. “We will persevere until we get it right.”

The university has begun to identify senior administrators, students, faculty, and staff who will lead the system-wide committees. To ensure the participation of the entire WSU community in the process, much of the committee work will take place after students return in August at the beginning of the fall semester.

Updates about the campus climate initiative will be posted at a new university website. The community is invited to provide insights and suggestions online.

Media Contacts:
Robert Strenge, WSU News, 509-335-3583,
Mary Jo Gonzales, Vice President for Student Affairs, 509-335-4861,