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Office of the President STUDENT CONDUCT PROCESS

Independent review finds no evidence of racial bias in conduct cases

Report makes recommendations to improve fairness of conduct process

An independent review of the University’s student conduct process has found no evidence of ethnic or racial discrimination or bias on the part of those involved in hearing conduct cases.

The findings from the review, conducted by the law firm Lyons O’Dowd, were publicly released today. Read the complete report.

The review indicates that some of those interviewed during the law firm’s investigation perceived that football players and members of the Greek system were treated unfairly by the Student Conduct board. The report concludes, however, “there remains no evidence of racial or ethnic bias in the student conduct process.”

WSU President Kirk Schulz commissioned the review following allegations of racial discrimination last fall in connection with the conduct board’s rulings in several cases involving members of the Cougar football team.

Treating students fairly a priority

“One of our priorities as a university is to treat our students fairly. These findings challenge us to do better. We welcome that opportunity,” said Mary Jo Gonzales, vice president for student affairs. “Our current and future Cougs deserve a community standards process that reflects our University’s core values and best practices nationally.”

Lyons O’Dowd recommendations

The Lyons O’Dowd report makes several recommendations to improve the fairness, as well as the perception of fairness, of WSU’s student conduct process. Among the suggestions to the university:

  • Make an independent attorney available during all adjudicative hearings and deliberations
  • Provide additional training focused on conflicts of interest, bias/impartiality and multicultural issues to conduct board members
  • Ensure conduct board members do not serve on multiple cases involving the same student
  • Send copies of misconduct notices to an advisor identified by the student (e.g., athletic coach, Greek advisor, etc.)
  • Increase the conduct board membership in order to mitigate the influence of a single individual
  • Develop written guidelines that identify the types of misconduct that are likely to result in a suspension or expulsion decision
  • Require that all sanctioning decisions for suspension or expulsion be unanimous after a finding of responsibility has been reached
  • Provide an advisor to advise the student on both the procedural and substantive aspects of the proceedings whenever a student faces potential suspension or expulsion
  • Provide an advisor to advise the student on both the procedural and substantive aspects of the proceedings whenever a student faces potential suspension or expulsion

Task force continuing comprehensive review of conduct process

The University’s Student Conduct Process Task Force, announced by President Schulz in December, is reviewing the Lyons O’Dowd report and will consider its findings as part of the task force’s comprehensive review of the conduct process. The 15-member task force will hold public forums at a future date to share its recommendations and invite input from the university community.

Gonzales, who began her WSU duties February 6, is serving as one of five ex officio members of the conduct task force.

Temporary emergency rules in place for conduct matters

The university implemented temporary emergency rules governing student conduct matters after Division III of the Washington Court of Appeals ruled December 1 that WSU and other public institutions of higher education in the state must use a full adjudication process in cases when a student faces possible expulsion or is accused of sexual assault.

Read the Lyons O’Dowd report

Task force continuing comprehensive review

The University’s Student Conduct Process Task Force is reviewing the Lyons O’Dowd report and will consider its findings as part of the task force’s comprehensive review of the conduct process.

The 15-member task force, chaired by Craig Hemmens, professor and chair, Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, will hold public forums at a future date to share its recommendations and invite discussion with the university community.

Provide your input

The Student Conduct Process Task Force encourages the university community to submit ideas about how the conduct process can be improved.