Washburn University President Jerry Farley opened the first Fridays with Farley of the semester talking about issues that affect the Washburn community at noon Sept. 8 in the Union Underground.
Farley began his forum by discussing the importance of the upcoming Topeka mayoral election. He explained that this is the first local election in Topeka to take place in the month of November, as the Kansas legislature in 2015 voted to move them from spring to winter.
“These elections are vitally important to students here at Washburn,” Farley said.
Farley said further that the mayor serves on the Washburn Board of Regents, and additionally appoints three members.
The university worked with many campus and community entities to plan a forum where the candidates will be discussing issues specifically related to Washburn and its community. This forum will take place at 4 p.m. Sept. 26 in the Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center.
Farley gave a few remarks about accomplishments of both candidates: Michelle De La Isla, a current Topeka councilperson for the 5th District, and Spencer Duncan, a local businessperson. Farley did not endorse any one candidate.
“As you can imagine, I’m not going to reveal who I’m going to vote for,” Farley said.
As the discussion continued, Farley outlined a few new plans and initiatives that Washburn has lined up in the next few months. Among these initiatives was the university’s mission to make Washburn a more military and veteran friendly campus. One way it is doing this is by working to become a Purple Heart University. In doing so, it would set apart Washburn as a place where wounded veterans and their family will be honored and assisted in their pursuit of education while at Washburn.
As has been the case for the past few years, the university stressed the importance of graduating in four years. Farley urged students to take 15 credit hours per semester in order to achieve this. He said that by graduating in as short a time as possible, students have a better opportunity to jumpstart their careers and make money.
Farley then opened the floor for questions from the audience.
Katie Wade, senior history major, asked Farley if the university was doing anything to address the recent remarks by Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, about a review of guidelines for campus sexual assault cases put in place during President Obama’s time in office.
Marc Fried, University Counsel, said that it is too early to comment upon on the issue, as DeVos’s plans have not yet been taken through all the legislative channels necessary to become a policy. Fried did offer that the university’s current sexual assault policy is one that was established through input of various diverse parties, and that if they need to review it in the future the university will receive input from all sides.
Wade was satisfied with the university’s initial response to the issue.
“I think that [the responses from the administration] were sufficient for right now,” Wade said. “But I hope that if these policies do change that the administration will be willing to work with students.”
Another recent news topic that the university addressed was President Trump’s latest statements on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy. Trump announced his plans to phase out DACA, also established under the Obama administration, over the next six months. This program allowed hundreds of thousands of minors who entered the U.S. illegally to receive deferred action from deportation and also become eligible for a work permit.
Eric Grospitch, vice president of Student Life, said that students who may be affected by this policy change are encouraged to meet at one of the various DACA specific law clinics offered by the Washburn University School of Law over the next few Fridays. The university also launched a resource page on its website for undocumented students on Friday.
Other issues and topics discussed included the new Blitt art gallery that is expected to open Nov. 3, the exploration of the changes to the Topeka Metro Bike program on Washburn’s campus and surveys that are being sent out to students as the university begins its accreditation renewal process.
The next Friday with Farley is scheduled for noon on Oct. 13 in the Union Underground in the Memorial Union.