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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

100 years ago in Olympia: ‘Treaty’ between Washington State College and UW signed, preserving WSU’s future

The presidents of Washington State College and the University of Washington signed an agreement that helped preserve WSU’s future, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on Feb. 1, 1917. (Spokesman-Review archives)

They were calling it “the treaty of Olympia” – with Washington State College as the clear victor.

This “treaty” resolved the ongoing dispute between the University of Washington and Washington State College (now Washington State University) over the future of the state’s higher education system.

A headline in the Spokane Daily Chronicle summed up the results: “Agreement signed at 3:30 this morning gives Pullman school everything asked – fight with University is forever settled.”

The fact that the two college presidents signed this “treaty” at 3:30 a.m. gives a hint about the drama surrounding this issue. The crisis was precipitated by an earlier report by the state’s educational survey commission, which, in essence, proposed to make the University of Washington pre-eminent and which “threatened the future of the Pullman college.”

After days of tough negotiations, the “treaty” – actually a bill to be presented to the state legislature – called for each institution to have its own exclusive areas of instruction.

The University of Washington would have law, forestry, commerce, journalism, library economy, architecture, marine and aeronautic engineering and fisheries. Washington State College would have agriculture and all of its branches, veterinary medicine, and economic science in relation to agriculture and rural life. Both institutions would share liberal arts, pure science, pharmacy, mining, most forms of engineering, home economics and education.

This agreement, essentially, would allow Washington State College to continue all of the work it was currently doing.

Also from the education beat: Organized labor in Spokane announced its major goal for the future: to unionize Spokane’s 555 public school teachers.

A “woman organizer” would be brought in to Spokane within the next 60 days. This was part of new national labor movement initiative to “organize women in all branches of employment during the next few months.”