Issues on the Forefront: Washburn’s Response

Emily Unruh

“Dear Ichabods,” are the beginnings of a faculty letter to students, published in the Washburn Review in 2016.

“We, the undersigned, join with our fellow faculty and staff members to commit ourselves to ensuring Washburn continues to become a more inclusive living and learning environment. We will not abide acts of bigotry, violence or intimidation on our campus,” continues the letter.

For professors and students, it is important for that letter, which acted as representation of support from Washburn University, to continue to be amplified, and the backing of Washburn must be heard. Some issues at the forefront in the past months has been the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) repeal, as well as two women’s empowerment, and sexual assault awareness movements, Time’s Up and #MeToo.

The varying response of the University about these issues has brought a multitude of opinions

In 2017, the ‘Active Bystander’ program, which is aimed at combating sexual violence through preventative measures, was introduced. The #MeToo founder, Tanara Burke will be speaking at Washburn University on Wednesday, April 25 at the Andrew J. and Georgia Neese Gray Theatre from 7-8:30pm.

English Professor Liz Derrington said, “I hope to see more discussion on campus, formal and informal, about sexual assault and harassment. And I look forward to seeing the writing students have done on the subject in ‘Ichabods Speak Out: Poems in the Age of MeToo.’” (A project, headed by Dennis Etzel Jr., an English Professor at Washburn University includes poetry about sexual assault.)

Derrington is grateful that she gets the opportunity to “help students find and shape their voices,” so that they are able to better speak up about issues that affect them.

Since the DACA repeal in 2017, Washburn has put forward clinics through the Law School to help DACA recipients renew their visas, as well as various seminars and movies hosted by the Campus Activities Board. The University also made efforts to help students with information on DACA and assistance with the program added to the Diversity and Inclusion website.

However, to some students, Washburn needs to do more in responding. Brandon Moreno, sophomore biology major, said that although “when there are big issues, they [Washburn] sends out emails to student who might be affected,” he believes that Washburn should probably do more.

“People don’t really ever read the emails they send out,” said Moreno, “so it doesn’t reach large groups.”

Sophomore history major, and political science minor, Vani Balram said, “I don’t necessarily feel like it is the university’s job to give an opinion on things that don’t matter to the university specifically.”

Balram gave the example of a statement about an instance of racism that happened on the WSU campus. “That was good, because it was a college matter, and Washburn was stating they had zero tolerance for instances such as those. I don’t think it’s really Washburn’s obligation to comment on #MeToo or Time’s Up because it’s not a problem that has been exclusive to college, even if it affects college students to some degree.”

Colleges have always had varying degrees of response to political, and social issues. Washburn’s responses are those that add to the conversation, and the University reacts to the things they deem necessary. Whether it is the University’s responsibility to acknowledge things outside of the campus is a changing opinion. However, the support of the faculty and leadership should never be doubted.