Responding to fears that Washington State University is dangerous for minorities after an assault on a faculty member, President Elson S. Floyd has named A.G. Rud to lead a commission on campus safety.
Floyd created the commission in April after the March 30 assault of David Warner, an instructor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender and Race Studies. Rud, a distinguished professor in the College of Education, will lead the Commission on Campus Climate beginning next week.
Though Pullman police said the assault on Warner, a Native American, was not racially motivated, members of the community expressed fear for their own safety. Rud, speaking from Massachusetts where he was on vacation, said Thursday that he took an interest in those concerns following the incident.
The committee will address issues of race and marginalization, as well as concerns about underage drinking among students.
“I’d like to help to create a conversation and an atmosphere and an environment in which people can talk openly about these concerns and problems that they perceive,” Rud said.
Rud has a background in philosophy as it pertains to race and culture. Though he said he has not personally experienced or witnessed discrimination on the WSU campus, that doesn’t make minorities’ perceptions untrue.
“I can’t say as a white, middle-aged male that … it’s not that way,” Rud said. “They perceive it that way. If you perceive you’re being discriminated against, it is.”
WSU’s response to the Warner assault has American Studies graduate student Jorge Moraga hopeful but skeptical about the future for minorities on campus. In April, Moraga pitched a proposal to the university to create a discrimination-free campus. Proposals included requiring students to take comparative ethnic studies courses like the ones Warner taught.
What it comes down to, he said, is the university needs “less bark, more bite.”
“I don’t see a task force as being the only solution here,” he said. “I hope it’s not projected as such.”
Warner has been home with his family in Pullman since Monday, according to the “Rally for David Warner” Facebook page. Family members say he is making an impressive recovery but still suffered major brain damage and will take a long time to heal.
According to the Whitman County Prosecutor’s Office, charges have not been filed against the five suspects in the case. Pullman police Cmdr. Chris Tennant said it’s not unusual for two or three months to pass before charges are filed in cases such as this.
Joshua W. Nantz, John “Matt” Cabanos-Soriano and Robert D. Bean all face charges of first- and fourth-degree assault. Madeline A. Fouts faces a felony charge of assisting in a crime.
Warner’s friend, Lawrence McDonald, faces charges of fourth-degree attempted assault and disorderly conduct for allegedly shouting at Fouts. According to police reports, that prompted a fight between McDonald, Nantz, Cabanos-Soriano and Bean. Warner was hurt trying to stop the fight, police said.