Community expectations

Dear students, faculty, and staff,

At WashU, our strong sense of community is a defining characteristic.  We are widely known for our collaborative and supportive culture, one in which we all want to see each other succeed and thrive.  This is what sets us apart from our peers and makes us special.

In the past several weeks, there have been two significant incidents on the Danforth Campus that have run counter to who we are.  The most recent took place last weekend when a group of individuals disrupted an event for newly admitted students and their families in Graham Chapel; and the other happened on March 21, when a group of students entered the Bear’s Den dining hall and engaged in highly inappropriate behavior.  Both of these incidents were unacceptable and have caused harm to members of our community and to the university itself.  I’m writing to you today because we all should expect better of the WashU community. 

Starting with what happened this weekend, the demonstration in Graham Chapel involved both students and non-WashU-affiliated individuals, and it was a blatant violation of our Demonstrations and Disruption Policy.  Our commitment to free expression remains unwavering, but as the policy states, activity that disrupts university functions is not permitted and is subject to disciplinary action, including “fines, probation, suspension, expulsion, termination of employment, and/or arrest for violations of the law.”  Everyone who remained in the chapel and refused to leave after several requests was issued a summons charging them with disturbing the peace and trespass.  We will pursue remedies against those who received summons.  The non-WashU individuals were issued a letter informing them that they may not come onto campus and will be subject to arrest if they return.  And for those who are students, we also have initiated the university student conduct process. 

I want to commend our Student Affairs and Admissions teams and WUPD for their fast and professional response. As Vice Chancellor Gonzalez and Provost Wendland wrote in their message to students Saturday evening, we were able to quickly move and continue the event and ensure that our newly admitted students and their families were still able to see the best of WashU, in spite of the poor representation of our community they witnessed in the morning. 

As of yesterday, the investigation into the incident in the Bear’s Den is now complete.  It was important to wait until all the facts were known before commenting substantively.  Students – both Greek and non-Greek – participated in an event organized by a fraternity chapter that involved activities that were distasteful and disruptive to our Sodexo dining services colleagues at the Bear’s Den, including, for example, throwing eggs. Although our Sodexo colleagues indicated that eggs were not thrown at them, the actions of those involved showed great disrespect and disregard for their well-being. I want to assure our entire community that we have taken this matter seriously and continue to take necessary steps to address any misconduct, including referring students involved in disruptive behavior to the university student conduct process. Additionally, one of the involved organizations has been suspended; the other has been placed on probation through December 1, 2024.  In accordance with our Student Conduct Code, the organizations have two weeks to appeal these decisions.  As we have already shared directly with our Sodexo partners, we also would like to express to our dining services colleagues our sincere regret that you had to endure the disruption this small group of students created that evening.  You work hard every day to provide an essential service on our campus and we’re grateful for all you do.  We will not tolerate this inappropriate and disruptive conduct in your workplace. 

Disturbingly, there also was an allegation of the use of a racial slur during this incident.  After reviewing all available evidence and speaking with witnesses, we cannot conclusively determine that this happened, and if it did, who said it or whether it might have been directed at any individual.  Regardless, this allegation alone understandably caused considerable distress to many in our community.  To leave no room for doubt, let me make this very clear: At WashU, we stand against anti-Blackness, racism, harassment, bigotry, and any form of discrimination against any group or individual.  The use of racial slurs directed at any individual or group to harass, intimidate, incite, or inflame is completely contrary to the standards of behavior we expect in our community. 

As we head into the final weeks of the academic year, let’s all remember that being a part of the WashU community is both a privilege and a responsibility.  We all must hold ourselves to the highest personal and professional standards and treat each member of our community with respect and civility.  We are firmly committed to free expression and allow ample opportunity for voices to be heard on our campus, but we expect every member of our community to recognize their responsibilities to the community and to respect our policies.  No one in our community, and certainly no one outside of it, has the right to disrupt the ability of others to learn, work, and fully participate in campus life. Those who choose to do so and not follow our community’s policies will be subject to swift action – we will enforce our policies to their fullest extent. 

Let me end by affirming our commitment to creating a campus culture where all feel welcome, supported, and included.  The strength of our community is our greatest asset.  It is my sincere hope that we will move forward together through mutual respect, constructive dialogue, and care for one another.


Andrew D. Martin