By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

Chalking it up to controversy: CWU employee fired prior to Diversity Awards, land acknowledgment condemned

@psl_easternwa on Instagram
Mobilizers with signs outside of the SURC – Junpier Deigel, Landis Hanson, Jessica Berkey, and Jaden Thacker

As many in the CWU community were gearing up to celebrate the school’s 10th annual Diversity Awards on March 7, others in the community were mobilizing against the seemingly unproblematic ceremony. This mobilization allegedly cost one CWU staff member their job.

Prior to the awards themself, CWU students and community members alike gathered in front of the SURC to “Chalk and Talk”, sharing their disapproval of the ceremony. 

Landis Hanson, the aforementioned terminated CWU staff member, was the organizer of “Chalk and Talk:”  an event where mobilizers shared their stance through the use of chalk and discourse among folks passing by.

Hanson explained that their disapproval of the ceremony stemmed from the fact that the stand-alone Multi-Cultural Center building, a building the diverse CWU student population has been fighting for for over a decade, was set in motion to be built but was then abruptly pulled as there were financial constraints.

Instead of publicizing the diverse community on campus, mobilizers believed that CWU should invest in its diverse community by continuing efforts towards the stand-alone Multi-Cultural Center.

“Our position is that Central uses our diverse student body in order to recruit, in order to publicize, but then doesn’t actually give [diverse] students much, if anything,” Hanson added. “A Multi-Cultural Center would be something concrete to give students, and it’s been something that students have been demanding for more than 10 years.”

Before this “Chalk and Talk” event, Hanson received the news that they were being fired from their job as a financial aid counselor within the Financial Aid department at CWU on March 4. 

While Hanson wasn’t told that they were fired on the count of organizing a counter-event to the Diversity Awards but was instead fired “without stated cause,” Hanson strongly believes that their mobilization effort was the cause of their termination.

The day after Hanson’s firing, they were made aware of an email chain that circulated on March 3 between Margaret Ortega, vice president for the Division of Student Engagement and Success, their boss, and Mal Stewman, the head of the Diversity and Equity Center.

In the email that Stewman sent to Ortega, he relayed information he received from a student. The student’s words read as follows: “Good evening, I just got informed from a student that Landis let them know for the protest on Thursday, Landis’ group plans on rallying outside and then doing a sit-in with signs at the awards ceremony. I figured I should let the both of you [Stewman and Ortega] know about this and see how we can proceed.”

The next day, Hanson was fired after a meeting with Ortega, making Hanson suspect that their mobilization efforts were the cause of their firing.

In the letter of termination Hanson received from Ortega, she wrote, “Dear Landis: This letter serves to provide you written notice of my decision to terminate your appointment as Financial Aid Counselor at Central Washington University effective today, day, March 4, 2024, in accordance with CWUP 6-40-030 – Notice of Separation (without stated cause).”

When reached for comment, Ortega said: “They [Hanson] were a former employee and I cannot comment on personnel matters.” 

When asked for a statement, Stewman said: “As an employee of the University our goal is to be prepared and my email, if you see, is very simple. [It] is a heads up to what’s happening; students are planning to protest. I don’t know anything about the status of why Landis [Hanson] was fired.”

While the sit-in and rally did not occur, Hanson and the other protestors instead shared their message through conversations with students and community members entering the SURC and through artistic expression with the use of chalk. 

According to the lead organizer for the Diversity Awards, Sarah Scott, “The goal of the [Diversity Awards] is to bring…people in the community and Central Washington University community together to celebrate those who do the work every day to make a difference to make sure all people are welcome.”

The event’s guest speaker Rosa Clemente, a Black-Puerto Rican journalist and political activist, left the guests of this award ceremony with an air of awkwardness as she called out the land acknowledgment President Wolphart gave at the beginning of the ceremony. 

“I do these all the time, these land acknowledgments mean nothing,” Clemente said. “Give indigenous people back their land,” Clemente said. President Wolphart was at a loss for words when he returned to the podium.


Student Awards

–   Angela Eustaquio

–   Maura Santamaria Munoz

Community Award

–   Timothy Beng

–   Andrea Herrea- Dulcet

–   Nelson Pichardo Almanzar

–   Griff Tester

Staff Awards

–   Carolina Barr

–   Wendy Holden

–   Chad Schone

–   Katrina Whitney

–   Kristen Jentges

–   Kerri Larson

–   Caroyln Porter

–   Lisa Vickers

Winner of the Bobby Cummings Lifetime Achievement Award

–   Teresa Divine

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