Community organizations and individuals raised public concerns during the fall about discrimination and racial bias against students in decisions made by WSU’s Student Conduct Boards. Some of those decisions involved student-athletes as well as students of color.
In addition, on December 1, 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 expulsion or are accused of sexual assault.
How is the University responding?
On Oct. 28, 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. His report is expected to be completed in early to mid-January.
On Dec. 9, President Schulz announced the formation of a 15-member task force of WSU faculty, staff, students, alumni, and donors that will undertake a comprehensive review of the University’s conduct process.
In response to the state Court of Appeals ruling, the University implemented some emergency rules for student conduct hearings occurring prior to the adoption of the task force recommendations.
The work of the Student Conduct Task Force is expected to take three to four months to complete. The group will document its findings in a report and make recommendations to President Schulz, who will submit any proposed changes to the Board of Regents for consideration and possible adoption.
The task force will recommend ways to improve the fairness and educational value of the current conduct standards. Members will examine conduct processes used by other universities, review current research in the field, and consider other information that could assist their efforts.
The broad review of the task force will be complemented by the narrower review conducted by Lyons O’Dowd. That report will be considered by the task force as part of its deliberations.
The University hopes to have any needed revisions to the student conduct process in place for the beginning of the 2017 fall semester.
How can you help?
The University community—students, staff, faculty, alumni, and other supporters—is invited to provide input about the current student conduct process. What works? What doesn’t work? If you could make one change to the existing conduct procedures, what would it be?
You can provide feedback to the Student Conduct Process Task Force and the law firm Lyons O’Dowd using this online form. Input may be submitted anonymously.
What is the president’s stance?
Since the arrival of WSU President Kirk Schulz on campus in June, 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. He has mentioned several times in recent months that the University would undertake a comprehensive review of the student conduct process at the end of the calendar year, following the hiring of a permanent Vice President for Student Affairs. That timeline has been expedited due to the recent events.