Unionized WSU students stage sit-in at Chancellor’s office, strike still possible

Students with handmade signs hold a rally around a table inside a building on the WSU campus. Many students are raising their fist in the air.
WSU students staged a sit-in at Chancellor Elizabeth Chilton's office on Monday, December 4, 2023. The table is meant to symbolize the students bringing the bargaining table to Chilton and the WSU administration, said Ish Green, a WSU Phd candidate. (Credit: Priyanka Bushana / ASE)



Unionized Washington State University students staged a sit-in at WSU Chancellor Elizabeth Chilton’s office on the Monday of WSU’s finals week in early December. 

The Academic Student Employees (ASEs) union has been negotiating a contract with the university for over a year. 

“We did the sit-in to make it extremely clear that on our end, we are serious and no longer accepting this level of delays and stall tactics that [the administration] has been employing for months now,” said Ish Green, a fourth year PhD candidate in the WSU Department of Sociology.

The university is taking up to three times as long as the ASEs to get proposals back during negotiations, said Green. 

In prior statements, WSU Vice President for Marketing and Communications, Phil Weiler, has said negotiating lengthy contracts takes time. 

Sticking points between the unionized students and WSU administration include agreeing on healthcare benefits, wages and fees, discrimination protection, and childcare, said Green. 

Students stand along the railing above double staircases in a well lit building on the Pullman WSU campus.

Members of the Academic Student Employees (ASE) union met with WSU Chancellor Chilton after staging a sit-in at her office on Monday, December 4, 2023, said Green. (Credit: Priyanka Bushana / ASE)

The unionized students did get a chance to speak with Chancellor Chilton. “We’re giving [the administration] a deadline of December 15 to give us a fair contract,” said Green. 

The ASEs have been working to raise awareness about the disparity in pay between student employees and administrative salaries, said Green. 

“Currently at WSU, the ratio of the salary of the top administrator, which is President Schulz, to the lowest paid ASE is 50 to one,” said Green. “We’re seeing major increases to admin salaries while we struggle in poverty.”

WSU President Kirk Schulz currently brings in $796,000 per year according to the latest Washington State fiscal information and gets an annual retention bonus of $200,000 through 2026. Chancellor Elizabeth Chilton makes $556,300 per year.

WSU Head Football Coach Jacob Dickert pulls in nearly $3 million per year and Head Basketball Coach Kyle Smith nets an annual salary of more than $1.5 million. 

While employed by the university, teaching assistants (TAs) help run labs, teach classes, assist with research projects and grade papers. Tuition is often fully covered by the university, with a stipend given to TAs each month. 

A data table shared by a communications representative for ASEs shows the average ASE minimum pay after fees are taken out is between $1,600 and $1,800 per month, depending where the WSU student is working in Washington. WSU has campuses in Pullman, Spokane, Tri-Cities, Everett, and Vancouver. 

A student worker strike is still possible, said Green.