Task force recommends student conduct reforms

Survey participants said process was confusing, task force recommends multiple reforms


Student Conduct Co-Chair Nancy Youlden discusses suggested changes to the student conduct policies.

ANGELICA RELENTE, Evergreen reporter

According to the Student Conduct Process Task Force Report presented at an informational session Wednesday, 75 percent of those who participated in the performance survey took issue with the current board and process.

Student Conduct Co-Chair Nancy Youlden said task force members solicited feedback from students, faculty, alumni and the general public by conducting an online survey, with over 300 responses total.

Just 9 percent felt the process was fair, leaving 16 percent who felt neutral. One of the comments about the process was from a former conduct board member, who said it was “very confusing, multi-layered and lacking clarity,” according to the report.

She said due to the size of the task force and the number of responses, members had different opinions about what recommendations to choose, and they decided delay a plan and reassemble later. Once the recommendations were finalized, the task force sent the proposed recommendations to WSU President Kirk Schulz on Jan. 22.

Schulz appointed a 15-member Student Conduct Process Task Force to conduct a comprehensive review of the process in fall 2016. The task force was initially scheduled to announce recommendations last semester, but requested more time.

Some of the recommendations and review stem from several cases in recent years, including a 2014 case where a 40-year-old graduate student was charged with violating WSU’s code of conduct for sexual contact with a minor.

The student sued and the Washington Court of Appeals ruled against WSU, saying the university barred him from questioning witnesses and issuing subpoenas during his initial hearing.

The 32 proposed recommendations were divided into six different categories: student notifications, conduct and appeals board structure and member training, conduct process, review of policies, educational outreach to campus community, and assessment and evaluation strategies.

Garret Kalt, vice president of ASWSU and task force member, said one of the main recommendations he advocated for was to provide affirmative and supportive language to students who go through the conduct process.

“Throughout the entire process, what we came to a consensus is that this is really meant to be educational,” Kalt said. “We want to make sure that students can learn throughout this process and that they really feel like they are supported throughout the entire way.”

Kalt said all board members and administrative law judges go through specific trainings, but the task force wants to ensure they are frequently renewed. Trainings include cultural competency and implicit bias, as well as sexual assault and gender-based violence prevention.

“Trainings [are] to educate people who are helping oversee this process,” Kalt said. “To make sure that they’re being the most fair that they can be.”

Jim Mohr, task force co-chair and WSU Spokane’s vice chancellor for Student Affairs, said names of the board members will be shared at least 10 days in advance of a hearing, and any party can request a board member to be withdrawn if a conflict of interest exists.

Another recommendation, Mohr added, is to have the Office of Student Conduct create a public annual report that will include a numerical breakdown of how many cases are handled. Creating educational videos and a flow chart about the conduct process will help the students understand, he said.

In section 32 of the report, the task force recommended continual oversight and accountability of the board.  An advisory board appointed by the president would create demographic reports concerning who is being referred to them, and conduct surveys of students who have been through the process, Mohr said.

“Thirty two really just ensures that the conversation doesn’t stop here,” Kalt said. “We want to continue to improve this process, and hopefully with this advisory board we will be able to really look at the process and how it changes year to year.”

WSU administrators are reviewing the recommendations for feasibility and legality, Youlden said. Once Schulz approves them, the recommendations will be converted to Washington Administrative Code. There will be an opportunity for the public to comment.

If the Board of Regents approves the WACs in June, according to the Student Conduct Process Task Force Report, they will go into effect next school year.

Vice President of Student Affairs Mary Jo Gonzales, who is on the task force, declined to comment during the session.

The task force is touring all the WSU campuses over the next three days, Youlden said.


An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the Board of Regents would consider student conduct recommendations in March. The Regents will consider the changes in June, following a public hearing.