WSU faculty call for president to step down amid school’s financial crisis

Feb 26, 2024, 9:47 AM | Updated: 9:48 am

wsu president...

Students walk on the campus of Washington State University (WSU). (Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images)

(Photo: David Ryder/Getty Images)

Professors at Washington State University (WSU) are calling for the school’s president to step down amid the school’s declining reputation and rising debt.

More than 200 faculty have publicly blamed WSU President Kirk Schulz and other administrators for the school falling 38 rankings on the U.S. News & World Report since 2016 — the year Schulz took over as the university’s president. WSU has dropped 38 points in U.S. News & World Report’s rankings over the last eight years.

More on WSU: Lawmakers hear dire circumstances of WSU being ‘Couged’ by ex-Pac-12 schools

“By most critical measures, WSU’s stature has declined precariously under the current leadership,” the faculty wrote in an open letter. “Immediate change in the form of fresh visionary leadership that invests in and empowers academic and research excellence is essential.”

Schulz launched an initiative early in his tenure titled “Drive to 25” — an effort to get WSU ranked among the top 25 public research institutions in the country by 2030. The plan was retired in 2022.

“We recognize and celebrate the incredible work done throughout the WSU system as a part of ‘Drive to 25,'” Christine Hoyt, Vice President for Strategy, Planning, and Analysis for WSU, said in a prepared statement in 2022, the year “Drive to 25” was retired. “There are many ways we worked toward that vision and a lot we were able to accomplish,” said “Our new vision builds on the work that has been done and is something we can all continue to be a part of.”

Since 2016, enrollment numbers have decreased by 16%, hitting an enrollment low the school hasn’t seen in 14 years.

Despite the declining data and morale, WSU spokesperson Phil Weiler said the school’s leadership agrees with the need for change, but not a change in leadership.

“We all have the same goals in mind we’re interested in making sure that WSU is a strong vibrant institution that serves the people of the state of Washington,” Weiler told KIRO Newsradio.

The letter from the faculty also claimed that the administration’s handling of the athletics department has caused “deep financial and reputational harm,” suggesting the administration could have “mitigated the looming Pac-12 disaster.”

WSU is already facing a $100 million deficit with its athletics programs. More than a decade ago, WSU’s athletic conference — the Pac-12, formerly the Pac-10 — inked a 12-year $3 billion broadcast deal with Fox and ESPN. But the conference lagged behind other conferences, like the SEC and the Big 10, in football competitiveness and, in turn, media rights revenue.

The Pac-12 ranked fifth financially among the major conferences, and universities with larger aspirations hopped ship. USC and UCLA were the first teams to exit the Pac-12, announcing their exits in 2022. The University of Washington and the University of Oregon quickly followed. By Sept. 2023, just two teams remained in the Pac-12, Oregon State and WSU.

More on WSU, Oregon State: WSU, OSU working to keep Pac-12 open, align with Mountain West

WSU’s spending continued based on the revenue projected by the Pac-12, according to Jon Haarlow, WSU’s assistant vice president for business and financial services. Some of the debt is attributed to capital projects toward the athletics departments to keep it competitive with other Pac-12 schools.

Additionally to being president, Schulz sits on the Pac-12 Board of Directors, is a member of the Executive Committee and is the Pac-12 representative for the College Football Playoff Board of Managers.

Last year, WSU launched a task force that recommended WSU concentrate on student retention, support services and campus life.

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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WSU faculty call for president to step down amid school’s financial crisis