Martin’s promises from the past year, examined

Elizabeth Phelan | Staff Reporter

As Andrew Martin is formally inaugurated as the 15th Chancellor of Washington University this week, Student Life is examining the statements he has made about his goals and promises for his administration. Foremost among these goals is boosting socioeconomic diversity and solidifying the role of free speech on campus.

Socioeconomic diversity and need-blind admissions

The University has faced substantial criticism for its lack of socioeconomic diversity. In 2017, the New York Times ranked Washington University as the least socioeconomically diverse college in the nation. Martin has made several remarks on how he plans to address this issue.

One of Martin’s boldest promises is the addition of $1 billion to the University’s endowment for financial aid.

“For the next decade, front and center for us is going to be support for financial aid….” Martin said in an interview with The Source. “I think we’re going to need to raise at least an additional billion dollars in endowment. And we can do that.”

More specifically, efforts to boost the University’s socioeconomic diversity include increasing the number of low-income students in incoming classes. Administrators pledged to increase the enrollment of Pell eligible students to 13% of enrolled students by 2020. Martin has a self-described “commitment to diversity” but remains unclear on specifics or how diversity quotas would change under his administration.

Campus and community presence

Martin has alluded to efforts to increase equity in St. Louis by “serving the public good” in the greater St. Louis community, but has declined to list specifics.

“I think the University has a special commitment to the city of St. Louis and to the St. Louis metropolitan area, but also a responsibility to the country and the world,” Martin said in an interview with Student Life last year. “Over the course of the last 50 years, what I would call the gross campus amount of public service has been increasing year over year, and I think that under my leadership we’ll see that continue well into the future.”

Martin claimed that another priority would be remaining consistently accessible to students.

“I’m going to be very present on campus,” Martin said. “I’ll be in the dining halls, I’m going to be at student events. I certainly will have some larger-style interactions, town-hall-type things, and I will make myself available for students in some sort of office hours, although I’m not sure exactly how we will organize those.”

Student advocacy and free speech

Martin faces high expectations for the reform of Washington University’s Title IX process. Candance Hayes, president of Title Mine, a campus advocacy group focused on Title IX reform, wrote in a statement to Student Life that Title Mine is hopeful about the changes that Martin’s administration will bring.

“We’ve been in communication with Chancellor Martin prior to his arrival on campus and have his support for continued reform of our TIX policy,” Hayes wrote. “We are optimistic about the impact he will have on campus.”

Additionally, Martin announced in a statement in June that he would increase the wages of University employees to $15 an hour by July 2021; however, this promise includes neither graduate nor undergraduate students.

Martin has also consistently voiced his support for free speech in campus environments. In his 2018 commencement speech at the University of Michigan, Martin claimed that colleges have been “sacrificing free speech at the altar of safety,” even asking law professor Lee Epstein to co-teach a class on free speech on college campuses today.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori White wrote in a statement to Student Life that free speech and a commitment to fostering an inclusive campus environment are not mutually exclusive goals.

“[Martin] believes, as do I, that a strong academic community is one in which all ideas are allowed to flow and be explored, debated, confronted, refuted and revised as part of the scholarly enterprise,” White wrote. “We will continue to strive to be a diverse and inclusive community, acknowledging that some speech can be experienced by some members of our community as hurtful and we will always support opportunities for counter speech as one important way to ensure that for all issues there are a range of perspectives presented.”

Martin has remained silent on the University’s fossil fuel investments, from which students have continually pressured the administration to divest.

“Members of Fossil Free WashU have met with Chancellor Martin twice last semester,” Maeve Hindenburg, Executive Member of Fossil Free WashU, wrote in a statement to Student Life. “Neither time did he take a stance on divestment from fossil fuel corporations.”

Hindenburg found Martin’s reluctance to commit to divestment troubling.

“Our hopes for Chancellor Martin are that he realizes that the environmental consequences of the fossil fuel industry are detrimental, and that he agrees with Fossil Free WashU’s goal to divest from the top 200 dirtiest fossil fuel corporations,” Hindenburg wrote. “His silence is just as bad or even worse than him admitting that he will not fight for Wash. U.’s divestment from fossil fuels.”

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