Year in review: 2016-17

| Senior News Editor

Washington University saw a lot this year, from a presidential debate to NCAA Championship wins. Can’t remember everything that happened? Don’t worry—Student Life’s got you covered with a recap of our major stories from the 2016-17 academic year.

Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 2.21.35 AMGraphic by Josh Zucker


Washington University welcomed its largest and most diverse freshmen class in the school’s 163-year history, with over 10 percent of freshman identifying as African-American and over 13 percent eligible for Pell Grants. The University also unveiled a new course entitled “What is Justice?” as an alternative to Writing 1.
The School of Engineering & Applied Science announced the addition of five new faculty members, three of whom are women, bringing the total number of faculty to 90.
The Beta chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon recolonized after four years of dismissal for
undisclosed reasons.


Emelyn dela Pena, former assistant dean at Harvard University, was announced as the new dean of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.
The College of Arts & Sciences unveiled a major and minor within the newly revived sociology department. In addition, administrators requested revisions be made to a proposal for a Latinx studies program.
Construction crews discovered a rock shelf during the excavation phase of the Olin Library renovation—setting back the project’s completion until spring 2018.
Students protested in Bear’s Den to call attention to the University’s silence on nationwide incidents of police brutality. The protest, designed as a space for black students only, allowed individuals to share frustrations caused by racial profiling and recent high-profile, police-involved shootings.


Prior to the Oct. 9 presidential debate between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and now-President Donald Trump, mixed feelings abounded, as some students felt the debate was inconvenient and expensive, while others hoped it would allow the University to have increased exposure and encourage political discourse. Both students and St. Louis community members took advantage of media coverage to participate in demonstrations across campus, voicing concern about various political issues. Late enforcement of the ID-only policy allowed those who were not Washington University students or credentialed individuals to enter campus without a security check, heightening concerns about campus safety during the debate.
An Oct. 23 incident involving two students posing in facial masks on Snapchat with a comment reading, “we’re in the zulu (sic) tribe” led to backlash from members of the Washington University community. Vice Chancellor for Students Lori White sent out a school-wide email detailing the University’s plan to work directly with all involved students.
The University announced plans to add a new building to the East End expansion project. James M. McKelvey, Sr. Hall will house the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, and construction is set to finish by 2020.


Over 40 years after the Black Studies program was founded, the African and African-American Studies program gained department status.
The Office of Residential Life removed three of its off-campus, low-cost housing options—University Terrace at 6490 Enright Avenue, 6640 Washington Avenue and 6644 Washington Avenue—due to lack of demand and maintenance issues.
Trump’s victory produced mixed reactions, as many students, faculty and staff openly shared their devastation, while those in support of Trump were less vocal about their excitement for the incoming administration. Following the election, Chancellor Mark Wrighton, in a campus-wide email, emphasized the importance of creating an inclusive community and celebrating diversity. To encourage continuous civic and voter engagement, the Gephardt Institute and the Office of Student Affairs partnered to launch the “November 9th and Beyond” initiative.


In a Dec. 5 statement, Wrighton openly supported the preservation and expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—a departure from the University’s commitment to remain politically neutral.
The women’s soccer team captured the NCAA Division III National Championship, defeating Messiah College and winning the program’s first title.
The men’s soccer team was indefinitely suspended following allegations of “inappropriate behavior” by the team’s members toward members of the women’s soccer team.


Former Dean of Students Justin Carroll was indicted on federal child pornography charges following his retirement announcement in December. He later pleaded not guilty, and the trial is currently underway. The University acknowledged its compliance with investigators and noted that its independent investigation had not shown Carroll’s actions to have affected any University members or activities.
Wrighton released another statement in which he called for the withdrawal of President Trump’s executive order, which proposed banning immigration from seven predominantly Muslim nations. Some students felt the statement was inadequate and further action required.
According to the New York Times, Washington University has more students from the top 1 percent than from the bottom 60 percent with a more lopsided ratio than any other college in the U.S. This coverage follows years of coverage from the news publication on the University’s lack of socioeconomic diversity compared to other colleges and universities with similar endowments. The report also came after Provost Holden Thorp announced a $1,700 increase in tuition for the upcoming academic year.


The indefinite suspension of the men’s soccer team was lifted and the University found no violation of the University’s sexual harassment policy despite evidence of “inappropriate and offensive behavior.”
High turnover occurred in Student Union, beginning with junior Sankalp Kapur’s resignation as as vice president of administration. Three Junior Class Council members and SU Speaker of the Senate Ben Hauser followed suit. Additionally, an internal investigation was launched by Campus Life after SU President Kenneth Sng reported allegations of anti-Semitic and sexually inappropriate comments made by four members of SU. Following the investigation’s completion, the Constitutional Council decided against moving forward with the recall process.


Washington University received a record number of applicants for the class of 2021, with over 30,000 students applying. An increase in the number of African-American and Latinx applicants reflects the University’s push to increase diversity, according to Ronne Turner, vice provost of admissions and financial aid.
The women’s indoor track and field team took home a NCAA Division III Championship title March 11. The team’s performance in the 4×400 relay closed the 5.25-point gap needed to beat their opponent, Ithaca College.
A Feb. 7 press release revealed that former CEO of Peabody Coal Greg Boyce resigned from the board of trustees on Nov. 30, 2016, which coincided with the end of Steven Leer’s tenure on the board. The University’s ties to the fossil fuel industry have long been a topic of contention for many campus activists.
Both current and former students spoke out against the Everly on the Loop housing development, condemning its construction, leasing practices and advertising.


Citing a decline in patronage at Etta’s Cafe, Sam Fox administrators announced the eatery’s indefinite closing at the academic year’s end. With limited dining options near the art and architecture school, there was widespread concern about dining options for Sam Fox students. Subsequent discussions with student leaders led to Sam Fox Dean Carmon Colangelo informing student leaders that the eatery would likely remain open through fall 2017.
In a 173-109 vote, Bon Appetit workers voted in favor of union representation by Union Food and Commercial Workers Local 655. Bon Appetit workers have attempted to unionize several times in the past, with their most recent effort last spring not passing. University administrators “respect their decision” to unionize and will continue to partner with Bon Appetit in the future.
In response to controversial op-eds written by physics professor Jonathan Katz, the College of Arts & Sciences released an open letter reaffirming its commitment to policies of diversity and inclusion, especially in diversifying the physics department, which has no female tenured or tenure-track physicists.

Looking ahead

Jason Derulo will grace Brookings Pavilion during WILD April 28. The East End expansion will begin just after commencement May 20, and two major construction projects are slated for completion in Spring 2018: Olin Library and the Overpass—also known as the Driving Discovery project. The University recently announced updates to campus parking for the upcoming academic year, including a lottery system and an increase in pricing of parking permits. Additionally, SU announced its upcoming Trending Topics speakers which include civil rights activist Angela Davis and actress and advocate Constance Wu.

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