Kansas Board of Regents hold special meeting, discussion on future of WSU president

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW)- The Kansas Board of Regents will meet virtually for a special meeting on Wednesday, June 10, reportedly to discuss the future of Wichita State University president Jay Golden.

At the beginning of the meeting, the board passed a motion to move into an executive session to discuss “personnel matters.” After the two hour session, the board came back to the public meeting and passed another motion to extend the executive session another hour.

The concerns come after reports of donors threatening to cut ties with the university after WSU canceled Ivanka Trump’s commencement speech.

One of those donors includes Koch Industries, which provides a multi-million dollar relationship to WSU.

Koch Industries released the following statement to KSN:

Koch is continuing its commitments to WSU, and we will continue evaluating new funding opportunities as they arise. We believe in academic freedom and respect the university’s independence in making employment decisions. We do not make our support conditional on employment decisions, which are the sole purview of university officials. 

At the same time, we object to speaker disinvitations. Universities offer students opportunities to encounter new ideas and think for themselves. Limiting access to unpopular speakers, viewpoints, and scholarship doesn’t protect students, it cuts off the chance to engage, debate, and criticize.

Following the cancellation, Ivanka Trump tweeted her recorded speech for WSU Tech, including that campuses should be “bastions of free speech.”

Wichita leaders are sharing their opinions about President Golden and the surrounding concerns regarding donors possibly pulling their support.

Brandon Johnson, Wichita City Council member said in a post on Facebook that he is supportive of President Golden, who has only held his position since December.

“Dr. Golden actually gets it,” said Johnson. “[He] has shown through action that he actually cares. He offered the support of the University to help during our global pandemic, he has engaged with development surrounding the university, and challenged the university to do even more engagement in this city. His words and his actions have been on point and I truly look forward to continuing to work with him.”

Golden said in a statement earlier this week that he received concerns from students, faculty and staff about Trump’s role in graduation in light of the national civil unrest after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

In a joint statement between Dr. Sheree Utash, WSU Tech president and Golden, the two said the replacement speaker has been chosen.

“The WSU Tech commencement plans have been refocused more centrally on students – student voices in particular. Rebecca Zinabu, WSU Tech practical nursing graduate, will now be the only commencement speaker during the ceremony.”

Dozens of students gathered in support of Golden outside of Koch Arena on Wednesday.

Some students say they want to show President Golden that they are standing with him.

“I feel like he’s not getting a fair shake when it comes to what’s been happening and I just want him to know that students are advocating for him as much as he is advocating for us,” said Brandon Eckerman, WSU alumni and member of the Students Selections Committee.

A petition has been created in support of President Golden. It has more than 6,000 signatures.

The Kansas Board of Regents will meet at 3:00 p.m. and KSN’s Krystle Sherrell will have more updates on this story on KSN News at 5:00 and 6:00 p.m.

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