Student Conduct rewrite carries into next school year

Size of task led to issues, delays with developing recommendations last semester



ASWSU Vice President Garrett Kalt talks about some of the suggested changes to the student conduct policies during the student conduct meeting held on Feb. 14.

REBECCA WHITE, Evergreen assistant news editor

After more than a year of operating on emergency rules and month-long delays in the revision process, WSU officials expect the rewrite of the Student Conduct Code to carry into next semester, with potential implemented in January 2019.

Student leaders on the Student Conduct rewrite task force said the delays came in part from the difficulties the task force faced in 2017 when organizing the group around a large issue. Confusion about their role as a committee and communication issues also contributed.

Garrett Kalt, a member of the task force and ASWSU vice president, said many of the issues were resolved in October after he and a few other members wrote a letter detailing nine concerns with the process.

Since that letter, which was followed by the resignation of the task force chair, the appointment of two new chairs, an intervention from WSU President Kirk Schulz and a delayed timeline, Kalt said he feels like the restructuring of the committee allowed him to represent students better than before.

He said he is still concerned that during the administrative review process, which began after the 32 recommendations they developed went before the public in February, some recommendations the task force wrote or gathered may be reinterpreted or excluded from the final version.

“We’re going to spend all this time to make a recommendation,” Kalt said, “but at the end of the day, it may not matter.”

WSU Spokesman Phil Weiler said Schulz involved himself to keep the task force moving forward. He added that this rewrite process isn’t unusual when looking at how committees at universities accomplish work.

“People might feel personally that it did not meet their expectations,” Weiler said, “but as I understand it, the process is a sound process and common process for trying to deal with difficult issues for a large organization in a big university.”

Kalt said when the group adjourned in 2017, they still hadn’t discussed a few issues in-depth that were priorities for student members of the group, such as group conduct.

Group conduct was a particular concern to task force members because of its connection to a task force review that an independent law firm conducted, which found that Student Conduct may be biased against the Greek system and football players. In their reccomendations, members pointed to the property value that is at risk when entire groups, such as Greek chapters, are punished for the actions of a few members.

According to the letter they signed, the task force was given a “final” draft of recommendations at a Sept. 5 meeting with no explanation of changes made over the summer, when the task force was not formally meeting because members were not in Pullman.

Leaders also announced to the public that the draft would be presented at forums throughout the state. After this was announced, Kalt, Interfraternity Council President Tyler O’Brien, WSU Foundation Board of Directors member Don Pelo, WSU Alumni Association President Mike King and WSU Alumni Association Vice President Jane Yung wrote in their letter that they objected to the recommendations being characterized as coming from the task force.

“We were supposed to submit this draft and that was kind of the point where I was like, I’m not comfortable saying I represented students in this process,” Kalt said, “because, blatantly, I didn’t.”

Mary Jo Gonzales, vice president of Student Affairs, said she welcomed the requests outlined in the letter and serious cultural changes were made in the division to allow for more time and consideration of the issues task force members brought up.

“That feedback was absolutely essential for us to say, ‘you’re right, let’s take the time you need, let’s get it right the first time,’ ” Gonzales said.

Although he is satisfied with the changes made last semester, Kalt said the root of his and O’Brien’s concerns are issues he saw in the task force last spring and summer and that they may reoccur in some form during the administrative review process.

O’Brien said he felt like he was able to contribute and submitted several ideas that were accepted as recommendations. He added that he isn’t as concerned with whether the recommendations are used, just that the justification behind the decisions the administration makes are transparent.

“Some of those may be very valid reasons; perhaps there are recommendations we gave which actually aren’t permissible in a legal sense,” O’Brien said. “but if that’s not the case, than we really need to know what that reason is.”

Weiler said the issues the administration takes into consideration when choosing what recommendations to include in the final version are best practices, how they may interact with state or federal laws and how practical they are across all the campuses. Ultimately, he said Schulz will rely on the expertise of his administration, as well as, the Attorney General’s office and will decide what to send to the Board of Regents.

Student Conduct has been operating under emergency rules since January of last year, according to WSU Board of Regents documents.

After the Washington Court of Appeals issued its decision in the Arishi vs. WSU case, stating universities and state colleges must afford students a full adjudicative process under the Washington Administrative Procedures Act, WSU Student Conduct has been operating under emergency rules. Because of this, many Student Conduct cases at WSU have been heard by an administrative judge instead of a conduct board.

The ruling stemmed from a 2014 case where 40-year-old graduate student Abdullatif Arishi was charged with violating WSU’s Code of Conduct after charges were filed against him for alleged sexual contact with a person under the age of consent.

The court ruled that WSU violated his rights when the university barred him from questioning witnesses or issuing subpoenas during his initial hearing.

Weiler said the Student Conduct recommendations are in administrative review and will go before the WSU Board of Regents on May 4 and will be acted on June 8. He said the public can provide feedback during a forum, which was originally scheduled for the end of spring but has been moved to the fall semester.

He said public feedback gathered from the forum will be sent to the Board of Regents, and the university hopes to have its final rules in January 2019. He said at the beginning of next spring semester, however, it may still be operating under emergency rules until the new rules can be implemented.

“This is important not only to students now, but to students in the future,” Weiler said. “It’s not something we want to rush or can rush.”

Kalt said he hoped the administration will take the task force’s, and especially the student members’, perspectives into account when making their decision on what recommendations to include in the next step of the process.

“This is for the students,” Kalt said, “so the student perspective on this is absolutely vital.”


[pdf-embedder url=””] [pdf-embedder url=”” title=”Student Task Force Letter”] [pdf-embedder url=”” title=”Signed letter to task force about timeline adjustment”] [pdf-embedder url=”” title=”Emergency rules”]