Freshman year: Construction, championships and controversy
October brought racism and other forms of discrimination to the forefront of campus as a student’s car was vandalized with a slur. Student groups continued to lobby for a sexual assault prevention coordinator, but were successful in establishing one for the LGTBQIA community. As a result of these tensions, Connect 4 was created to address discrimination on campus.
The school hosted several famous and highly controversial speakers throughout the year. Then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales spoke at the 560 Music Building, and his $30,000 speaking fee sparked protests led by the College Democrats and other groups. Other notable speakers included Newark Mayor Cory Booker, author Alan Lightman, political pundit Paul Begala, Loveline’s Dr. Drew, actor Peter Sarsgaard and comedian Margaret Cho.
Inflatable couches debuted as Lupe Fiasco headlined fall W.I.L.D., and George Clinton came to the festival in the spring. Other notable performers were Stars, who played at the first WUstock, and Cascada, who gave a brief performance that disappointed many. A student got tasered by WUPD while resisting arrest at the Gargoyle, overshadowing Girl Talk’s concert there.
WUPD had its hands full this school year as multiple robberies occurred over winter break in the Myers and Hurd houses. Many students became more conscious of their surroundings after a freshman was mugged at gunpoint on the South 40.
Several influential professors changed roles at Washington University. Professor Richard Smith stopped teaching Introduction to Human Evolution to become the dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. Popular accounting professor Tzachi Zach left the University to teach at Ohio State University.
November saw upheaval in the engineering school as Dean Mary Sansalone came under fire from faculty and students. Sansalone resigned in February 2008.
Politics played a large role at the University as it was selected to host the 2008 vice presidential debate in November. Chelsea Clinton led a question-and-answer session at Kayak’s Coffee while many students were dismayed to find that the University would not allow presidential candidate and then- U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), to speak on campus in the run-up to Super Tuesday. This incident sparked the creation of the Student Civic Initiative, which aimed to increase campus involvement with politics. Students turned out in record numbers to vote on Super Tuesday.
An internet war also came to the University as hundreds of students battled over the Danforth Campus in a massive game of GoCrossCampus. Other websites such as Facebook were in the spotlight for gathering personal information of users and selling it to companies.
Several construction projects were completed or neared completion this year. The 560 Music Center debuted in a sea of controversy as a cappella groups protested their off-campus relocation. The Danforth University Center would be ready in fall 2008. Several departments from the law school and Arts & Sciences would begin moving into Seigle Hall over the summer.
Construction continued to break ground as the University planned to tear down Umrath Hall over the summer, in order to make room for a replacement for the Wohl Center.
In the world of sports, the men’s basketball team captured the school’s first national championship title for a men’s team, and the women’s volleyball team captured its Division-III-record ninth national championship. The athletics program was ranked first in Division III and seventh in all divisions. For the first time in school history, the University led all schools in the Director’s Cup as the women’s track and field team took third place at nationals, the highest in program history. The women’s cross country team, who took third, and the men’s soccer team, who took sixth, also matched their best finishes at their respective national tournaments. The men’s tennis team defeated UAA archrival Emory University for the first time in program history.
Sustainability rose to the forefront of the campus debate as groups like Green Action led the charge for greener facilities. Bear’s Den introduced metal silverware, and the sustainable garden created by the Burning Kumquat took root. Green Action’s Sustainabilitree joined the ranks of various artwork done on campus, including the bubble wrapping of Bowles Plaza and the bed outside of Olin Library.
Mother Nature continued to fluctuate throughout the year as the University was blanketed in more than six inches of snow in March. Classes were not cancelled because of the snowstorm. A 5.2-magnitude earthquake rocked St. Louis in the middle of April, surprising many members of the community. Squirrels were reported to have attacked several students this year.
Dance Marathon broke records as other successful student-led events such as Relay for Life, Diwali, Lunar New Year Festival, Thurtene Carnival and Carnaval continued to unite the community.
The Student Union executive board was elected mostly unopposed and encountered the 2008-2009 budget controversy upon taking office. Several student groups mobilized their supporters to make their voices heard as the budget was passed by Treasury only to be rejected by the Senate. The deadlock was broken, and the budget passed with only three minutes to spare in an emergency joint session of the body.