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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 found no evidence of ethnic or racial discrimination or bias on the part of those involved in hearing student conduct cases.

The findings from the review, conducted by the law firm Lyons O’Dowd, were publicly released March 1, 2016. Read the complete report.

The review indicated 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.”

President Kirk Schulz commissioned the review following allegations of racial discrimination during the fall of 2016 in connection with the conduct board’s rulings in several cases involving WSU student athletes.

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:

  • 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