Year in review

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Over the summer, Chancellor Andrew D. Martin released a statement to the Washington University community in response to the Supreme Court ruling to end affirmative action at higher education institutions. Martin wrote that, while administrators will abide by the law, WashU’s commitment to diversity will remain the same. 

Expanded dining options opened on campus with five new local restaurants bringing their food to students for the academic year. WashU partnered with Beast Craft BBQ and LaJoy’s Coffee Cafe in Schnuck Pavilion, Collins Farms in Anheuser-Busch Hall, Corner 17 in Olin Library, and The Fattened Caf. in McKelvey Hall. 

Prior to the start of the academic year, the academic integrity section of the “Syllabus Resources and Template Language” document was updated to account for growing use of generative artificial intelligence in student work. The new policy allows for professors to determine how little and how much they want to enforce the newly-established rule.

After Missouri state law banned gender-affirming care for all minors, the University made the decision to cease gender-affirming care for all minors at the Washington University Transgender Center. The decision sparked discourse among the WashU community, especially faculty.

The University also announced that they will adopt a “no loan” policy for all undergraduates starting in the fall of 2024. The policy promises to eliminate federal loans from financial aid packages, allowing students to graduate without debt. The announcement was the newest large amendment to University financial policy, following need-blind admissions in 2021 and the implementation of the WashU Pledge in 2019.

During the first few months of the semester, a range of crimes affected students both on and off-campus, including an incident where four non-WashU affiliated individuals trespassed at Shepley Dorm on the South 40. Additionally, in late September, nearly a dozen cars were broken into near the Delmar Loop, and a student was the victim of a robbery on Pershing Avenue. 

After a change to how the U.S. News & World Report calculates their Best National University Rankings list, WashU fell from No. 14 to No. 24, sparking debate between students about how important rankings are to the college admissions process.

After the events of Oct. 7, Chancellor Andrew Martin released a statement calling the situation devastating and heart-wrenching. He emphasized that WashU’s campus is diverse and expressed his support for all students with personal connections to the crisis, he also directed people to mental health resources on campus. Additionally, WashU’s International Travel Oversight Committee announced that they are limiting travel to Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank amid safety concerns for students, though no WashU students were studying abroad in Israel when the conflict began. 

The crisis sparked a series of responses from the larger campus community, including a vigil where more than 800 students gathered to mourn the lives lost in Israel. Throughout the semester, students held a number of solidarity events and protests, some in support of Israel and others in support of Palestine. Student Union (SU) also released a statement on the topic, encouraging impacted students to seek mental health resources on campus if needed. Overnight, the post gained over a hundred comments with many criticizing the organization for not taking a stronger stance, leading SU to remove one of the slides that discussed violence in Israel and Gaza and issue an apology online. 

On Oct. 13, two rallies were scheduled on Mudd Field in response to the latest Israel-Hamas war: one to show support for Israel, and another to protest the Israeli government’s blockade of food, water, and electricity in Gaza. Hours before the scheduled times, the rally supporting Palestinian citizens was canceled due to organizers’ concerns for the safety of the protestors, leaving only the pro-Israel rally to gather on Mudd Field as planned. 

Dr. Seth Crosby, a professor of Genomics, claimed to have lost his job over a post on X calling the latest Israel-Hamas war a “much needed cleansing.” Crosby’s post was in response to a post by E. Michael Jones, a traditionalist Catholic writer and founder of Culture Wars, which is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League.  

A WashU student was subject to aggravated assault by a non-WashU affiliated man named Anthony McGee, who punched the student without provocation and was issued charges by the St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Washington University students walked out from their classes to show support for Palestinians on Oct. 25. They also gathered to protest the University’s lack of response to the Coalition of WUSTL Students for Palestine’s published letter of demands, which included cutting ties with Boeing.    

New York Times columnist David Brooks visited campus to deliver a sold-out lecture about his new book, “How to Know a Person,” where he talked about how to strengthen interpersonal relationships and connections. Additionally, Hernan Diaz, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of bestselling novels “Trust” and “In the Distance,” visited campus to read the work of MFA students and talk about how to craft a story, followed by questions from the audience.

Washington University received an average free speech ranking, ranking 135th out of 248 in College Pulse’s 2024 Free Speech rankings.

Students expressed frustration with religious accommodations for exams, with some reporting that they had to skip out on religious observances for schoolwork due to professors refusing to reschedule exams held during events including Ramadan and Yom Kippur. 

Environmental advocacy group Green Action WashU announced its filing of a legal complaint against WashU as part of its Fossil Fuel Divestment Rally. The legal complaint was part of the group’s ongoing efforts to end WashU’s investment of unknown amounts of endowment money into fossil fuel sources.

Washington University has reverted its flu vaccine policy to the pre-pandemic standard. The flu vaccine, along with the COVID-19 booster, is now “highly recommended” instead of required, meaning that students no longer need the vaccines to enroll in classes. Select employees of WashU, such as those in the WashU School of Medicine, are still mandated to get the vaccine.

In the weeks following the start of the Israel-Hamas war, students reported increased instances of harassment, doxxing, and blatant Islamophobia and antisemitism on campus. Several students told Student Life they feel isolated and fear vilification from those who disagree with their beliefs. 

Dr. Sanjay Supta spoke in Graham Chapel as the first speaker of the WashU School of Medicine’s newly reinstated Assembly Speaker series, hosted in collaboration with Here & Next. He spoke about a range of topics including pandemic response and preparedness, mental health, misinformation, our diets, and how he blends his roles as a journalist and doctor. 

Chabad and Hillel hosted an event to raise awareness for the hostages taken during the Oct. 7 attacks. The event used empty chairs as symbolism to represent the hostages who are still missing. Pictures and information about individual hostages were posted on each of the chairs.

Popular band Saint Motel headlined the fall semester’s WILD, which was rebranded as Night At The Pageant (NAP) by the Social Programming Board and was held off-campus for the first time since the event’s origin in 1973. The event was held on Nov. 9 and students generally considered it to be a success, though some expressed disappointment about technology issues causing delays. 

On Nov. 19, just over a dozen students participated in a “die-in” in support of Palestinians and to urge the University to cut ties with Boeing. The students laid down in the Danforth University Center (DUC) courtyard, spreading Palestinian flags over their bodies, holding signs, and chanting.  

WashU students saw an improvement in ADHD medication accessibility over a year after the FDA declared an ADHD medication shortage in Oct. 2022. However, many students still struggle to get access to the medication.

Student Life sat down with Grace Chapin James, Executive Director of Undergraduate Admissions, to unpack how the Supreme Court’s decision to overrule affirmative action in Students for Fair Admission, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College will impact future classes at Washington University. James emphasized that WashU is committed to maintaining diversity in other ways such as through different scholar programs and by adding an additional question to the common application about students’ cultural identities and backgrounds.   

Bret Gustafson, professor of Sociocultural Anthropology, received backlash after expressing his support of a protest outside of the home of the president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in an X post.

On Nov. 29, Chancellor Martin published an online statement calling for respectful dialogue and condemning hateful rhetoric amid violence in Israel and Palestine.

On Jan. 22, the University canceled classes and events on campus due to icy conditions in the St. Louis area.  Some students expressed frustration that the closure was only communicated to students the morning it happened, but also gratitude towards dining workers for coming to campus and continuing to serve students.  

Twelve freshman and sophomore students enrolled at WashU as mid-year transfer students for the spring semester. This marked the first time in recent history that students were accepted by admissions in between semesters. Several of the mid-year transfer students are Jewish and said they came to the University after feeling unsafe on their previous campuses due to antisemitism. 

Over winter break, the Association of Black Students (ABS) posted a list of grievances based on the administration’s response to events in recent years that have impacted students of color in a series of Instagram posts titled “Enough is Enough.” 

WashU School of Medicine (WUSM) released the results from an internal as well as external report done by consulting firm Catalyst about the “climate and culture” of the institution. Through 4,000 survey responses as well as focus groups, listening sessions, and submitted messages, the investigation found that men at WUSM feel more included, safe, and welcome compared to women.

As artificial intelligence continues to expand worldwide, WashU released its own version of ChatGPT, which promised to help improve the privacy of using the machine-learning software. It is free to use by all University students, faculty, and staff.

Throughout the second semester, students protested the continued employment of WashU professor and Nobel Prize winner Philip Dybvig despite multiple former students alleging that he engaged in inappropriate conduct including sexual harassment. Students held two protests in Simon Hall, where Dybvig teaches, to call on the University to fire him.

MeToo WashU published two posts speaking out against the use of sexual violence on both sides of the Israel-Hamas war and opposing Israeli state practices while “reaffirm[ing] support for the right ot a free, unoccupied Palestine.” The posts led to discourse online, with some students supporting the organization and others calling the post antisemetic and criticizing it for a lack of support towards Israeli assault survivors. 

The University released another tuition increase, raising the cost of attendance by 4.5% from the year before, making 2024 the highest increase in the past decade. University officials said that the extra money is going to be used for University initiatives and programming. 

The University’s Board of Trustees approved a Naming Board in December as a result of an initiative implemented by the Chancellor’s Office to ensure that buildings, programs, and awards are named after people who align with the University’s current values. The Naming Board most recently changed the name of Wayman Crow to Dardick and Nemrov, since Wayman Crow was revealed to have been a slave owner.

Dining workers were negatively impacted by changes to their scheduling process after new provider Sodexo instated unexpected changes to worker’s scheduling processes without fully explaining them. Workers said that they believed that there was a communication breakdown going on  between workers, managers, and Sodexo. 

Sam Fox students studying abroad in Florence experienced a range of housing issues, including mold, bedbugs, strangers entering their communal apartment, and a partial ceiling collapse. Students voiced complaints about how the University handled the issues, and going forward, WashU’s housing coordinators have stated that they will be finding new accommodations for students abroad. 

SU Senate voted for a resolution calling for Professor Phillip Dybvig to be investigated for the sexual harassment allegations against him, placed on immediate leave, and fired if allegations of misconduct against him are found to be true.  

The University received a threat via a phone call on Feb. 26, leading to evacuations of Olin Library, Bauer Hall, and Simon Hall. After an investigation that lasted 2 ½ hours, WUPD determined that there was no threat. Numerous classes, nonetheless, were canceled.

In late February, WashU’s Emergency Support Team (EST) traveled to Baltimore, Maryland to compete against representatives from over 100 universities at the Stryker Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Skills Classic. EST placed first in the Classic competition and earned three awards, including the Striving for Excellence Award, Heart Safe Campus Award, and EMS Campus Award.   

Chancellor Martin sat down for an interview with Student Life on March 5. Martin spoke about recent student activism on campus, the state of the endowment, WashU’s recent and future property purchases, and where he buys his glasses. 

Amarnath Ghosh, a beloved dancer and MFA student, passed away after being shot in St. Louis’ Central West End neighborhood. He is remembered for his gratitude towards others and his work, as well as his “electrifying” dancing, which he taught to both students at WashU and over Zoom to students in India, where he was from.

On March 7, Chancellor Martin released his annual State of the University Address in a recorded video. He spoke about WashU’s progress in its “In St. Louis, for St. Louis” and “Here and Next” initiatives. He also addressed what he believes are the biggest challenges facing the WashU community, including freedom of speech and the overturning of affirmative action. 

Spring semester SU Elections saw 30.1% of the student body vote, one of the highest turnouts in recent memory. In this election, Hussein Amuri, Andy Mun, and Meris Damjanovic were elected President, Executive Vice President, and Vice President of Finance of SU, respectively.

Fontbonne University announced that it would close after experiencing enrollment and financial issues. WashU purchased their land and buildings and is leasing them back to Fontbonne for the remainder of the year. Fontbonne students took a solemn but appreciative mood in response to the news, “dreading the ‘lasts.’”

SU Senate passed a resolution calling for the University to divest from Boeing by an anonymous vote of 15 to 5, with one Senator abstaining. Over 200 students attended the meeting, with 44 students and two faculty members speaking either in favor or against passing it. 

A petition to recall sophomore Sonal Churiwal as the Student Union (SU) Speaker of the Senate due to allegations of improper conduct was uploaded anonymously onto Washington University’s Group Organizer (WUGO) website. A few days later, the SU Election Commissioner emailed students and stated that the petition had received the required number of signatures to be put to a vote in a special election. Churiwal won the special election on April 10 and retained her seat in SU.

Kappa Sigma and Alpha Phi have been temporarily suspended at Washington University pending the results of a student conduct investigation following an incident involving students throwing eggs and potentially saying racial slurs at the Bear’s Den (BD) dining hall on March 21.

On April 8, students, faculty, and staff gathered on campus locations like Mudd Field to view the Great American Eclipse. Some community members ventured to locations across Southern Illinois and Southeastern Missouri to view the eclipse in totality. This total solar eclipse was the first visible from the St. Louis area since 2017, and the next will not occur over the U.S. for another 20 years. 

At a Bear Day admitted students event on April 13, a pro-Palestine protest urging the University to divest from Boeing disrupted an event at Graham Chapel, forcing admissions to move the event elsewhere on campus. Of the 40 protestors present, 12 received court summons for trespassing and disturbing the peace, as well as other violations, and three WashU students were temporarily suspended. 

WashU administration announced that the final day of the annual ThurtenE carnival, Sunday April 21st, will be canceled following multiple fights that broke out on the second day of the carnival. The administration cited crowd safety concerns as the reason for the shutdown.       

The Class of 2024 will wrap up their WashU career with some words of wisdom from beloved actress Jennifer Coolidge, best known for her roles in “Legally Blonde,” “American Pie,” and “White Lotus” at the commencement ceremony on May 13.

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