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Division of Student Affairs

Summary of activities related to WSU’s student conduct process

What happened?

Community organizations and individuals raised public concerns during the fall of 2016 about discrimination and racial bias against students in decisions made by WSU’s Student Conduct Board. Some of those decisions involved student-athletes as well as students of color.

In addition, on December 1, 2016, Division III of the Washington Court of Appeals ruled that WSU and other public institutions of higher education in the state must use a full adjudication process in conduct cases in which students face possible expulsion or are accused of sexual assault.

How is the University responding?

On Oct. 28, 2016, the University announced it would hire an independent third party, the law firm of Lyons O’Dowd, to examine the specific issue of alleged racial and ethnic bias in the student conduct process. Firm principal Marc Lyons, an expert in education law, began his work the week of Oct. 31.

On Dec. 9, 2016, President Schulz announced the formation of a task force of WSU faculty, staff, students, and alumni. The group completed a comprehensive review of the University’s conduct process in January, 2018, submitting 32 recommendations for revising the conduct rules.

The University implemented emergency rules for student conduct hearings following the Dec. 1, 2016 ruling by the state Court of Appeals. Those rules will remain in effect until the University finalizes adoption of new, permanent conduct rules. New rules are expected to be in place by the beginning of the fall 2018 semester.

Results of Lyons O’Dowd review

The independent review of the student conduct process by the law firm Lyons O’Dowd found no evidence of ethnic or racial discrimination or bias on the part of those involved in hearing conduct cases. The report, published in March, 2017, makes several recommendations to improve the fairness, as well as the perception of fairness, of the student conduct process.

What’s next?

At the end of May, 2017, the Student Conduct Process Task Force announced it had identified fundamental principles and compiled preliminary recommendations for revising the University’s rules governing student conduct and community standards. The group continued refining its work during the summer and fall of 2017. In January, 2018, the task force completed a report summarizing its work that included 32 recommendations for revising the conduct rules. Public information sessions to discuss the task force’s recommendations will be held at each WSU campus and online in February, 2018.

The WSU Board of Regents must approve implementation of revisions to the conduct rules for them to be effective. The revised rules are expected to be in place by the beginning of the fall, 2018 semester.

What is the president’s stance?

Since the arrival of WSU President Kirk Schulz on campus in June 2016, a number of individuals and organizations at the University have suggested that WSU’s conduct process could be improved and represent the University’s values better. Committed to organizational change when the need is identified, President Schulz has welcomed the opportunity to take a closer look at the student conduct process.