Hundreds Of WSU Faculty Members Call For New Leadership At The Institution

Hundreds of faculty members at Washington State University including prestigious Regents Professors are calling for leadership change at the institution.

The group of 207 concerned faculty issued a detailed press release on Wednesday morning supporting their argument for a new president, administration, and board of regents.  Regents Professor of Molecular Biosciences Dr. Michael Griswold in the College of Veterinary Medicine has been at WSU for 48 years.  Dr. Griswold is a spokesman for the group and outlines their concerns which you can listen to with the file below.

The faculty group points to declining enrollment and national rankings.  WSU Pullman campus enrollment is down 16% since President Kirk Schulz was hired in 2016.  Systemwide enrollment is down 12% during that time reaching its lowest level in 14 years.  The concerned faculty also note that U.S. News & World Reports national ranking of WSU has dropped 38 spots under Schulz.  The release contends that the “Drive to 25” campaign that was initiated by Schulz when he was hired “was not achieved.”  The campaign to make WSU a top 25 national public research university by 2030 was “sunsetted” two years ago.

Poor leadership over athletics is also referenced in the faculty group’s concerns.  The release says lack of proactive leadership has inflicted deep financial harm to the institution and that the administration shouldn’t have been “shocked” when the Pac-12 Conference fell apart.  The group also believes that it was inexplicable that WSU Pullman Chancellor Elizabeth Chilton was charged with overseeing athletics.  Cougar Athletics reported to Chilton in 2022 and 2023 when Schulz moved to a systemwide president role and created the Pullman Chancellor’s post.  Schulz has returned to overseeing athletics.  The group argues that Chilton had “scant experience in NCAA athletics” which left WSU administrators with knowledge of athletics “noticeably absent.”

WSU’s weakening finances are also used as an argument for leadership change.  The concerned faculty say that when you factor in inflation the record giving reported by the administration is misleading.  Their calculations show the purchasing power of donations to WSU equate to just a 2% increase since Schulz arrived.  Strained resources have led to several years of across-the-board budget cuts and the group notes that deans have been told to prepare for another 5% spending cut for the next fiscal year.

On the spending side the group criticizes the cost of moving the president’s office to downtown Pullman and Schulz’s move to a home in the Tri-Cities.  They also question the creation of the WSU Pullman Chancellor post calling the rationale unclear.  Chilton was the institution’s top academic administrator working as provost when she was appointed the inaugural WSU Pullman Chancellor three years ago.  She has been working the dual role of chancellor and provost ever since.  The concerned faculty group says the multiple responsibilities have left WSU academics without effective leadership.  The administration announced in November that Chilton will relinquish her provost duties and that a separate new provost will be hired.  The group notes that potential financial impact as the last provost-only salary was nearly half a million dollars.

The board of regents are included in the faculty group’s call for leadership change at WSU.  The regents are appointed by the governor to oversee the institution.  The release states that the administration controls information to the regents discouraging negative but constructive feedback.  The group believes the regents operate in a cloistered environment opting for the status quo and fails to meaningfully engage the university community.

The release also reveals survey results from faculty and staff that were taken in 2022 and 2023.  One survey conducted by the National Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education found that only 25% of faculty were satisfied or very satisfied with WSU leadership.

The concerned faculty group ends their press statement by calling for new inspired leadership and administrative structure to bolster the excellence of WSU.

The release says that 207 concerned faculty support the sentiments in the statement.  The only faculty members identified in the release are Dr. Griswold, Dr. Kerry Hipps and Dr. Jon Oatley who are provided as contacts for the press.  Dr. Griswold says the group includes several regents professors.  There are a limited number of prestigious regents professors at WSU as the honor is reserved to recognize the highest level of professional achievement.

Pullman Radio News reached out to WSU spokesman Phil Weiler about the call for a leadership change.  Weiler says the issues were first raised by a small group of faculty a year ago and that the administration was already working to solve the problems which he believes plague higher education nationwide.  You can listen to Weiler’s response below.

Dr. Griswold disagrees with Weiler contending that the administration isn’t working to fix the problems and that other universities are thriving.  You can hear Dr. Griswold below.

 

Weiler points out that the group of concerned faculty is a small faction that only accounts for 10% of the WSU faculty systemwide.

You can read the full release from the concerned WSU faculty group below.  You can reference additional concerns from the group here https://facsen.wsu.edu/2024/02/15/some-problems-and-potential-solutions/