After students strongly rallied behind him, the Kansas Board of Regents decided against firing Wichita State University (WSU) president Jay Golden for canceling Ivanka Trump as commencement speaker at an affiliate institution, an action that annoyed some donors.
After a four-plus hour meeting, the board issued a statement — that didn’t mention Golden — saying it is committed to promoting freedom of speech, diversity and inclusion.
Some students claimed victory and others thanked the board for listening to them. Students, upset at the Trump administration’s handling of the George Floyd protests, were the main drivers of Golden’s decision to cancel the president daughter as commencement speaker.
The board had called a special meeting on Wednesday to discuss Golden’s future after some donors, specifically Koch Industries and Pizza Hut, reportedly expressed annoyance at Golden’s decision on the commencement speech. Koch Industries has been a huge donor to Wichita State and its CEO Charles Koch is a longtime supporter of the Republican Party.
Koch Industries issued a statement saying it will continue its commitment to Wichita State but made clear its displeasure at Golden’s decision on the commencement speaker, reported KWCH.
“We believe in academic freedom and respect the university’s independence in making employment decisions,” read the statement. “At the same time, we object to speaker disinvitations. Universities offer students opportunities to encounter new ideas and think for themselves. Limiting access to unpopular speakers, viewpoints, and scholarship doesn’t protect students, it cuts off the chance to engage, debate, and criticize.”
Golden, too, issued a statement following the board meeting.
“I stand with the Kansas Board of Regents, its support for freedom of speech and for diversity and inclusion,” he said.