Regents approve amendments to student conduct policy

CODY COTTIER, Evergreen news editor

The Board of Regents on Friday adopted revisions to the student conduct code, enacted earlier this semester as emergency rules after a court order in December to increase due process for students facing especially severe charges.

The rules provide full adjudication, which was previously lacking at WSU and other state universities, for students who may receive a suspension of more than 10 days, be expelled or have their degree revoked, or for a student organization that may lose university recognition. They also provide full adjudication for students accused of sexual assault.

Full adjudication, a requirement of the Washington Court of Appeals’ ruling in Arishi v. WSU, allows for full counsel representation, subpoenas and cross-examination, among other procedures.

The formal adoption of these revisions is in accordance with WSU’s rulemaking policy, which requires that emergency rules be made permanent. However, an internal task force assigned in December to review student conduct procedures intends to have new rules in place by January.

President Kirk Schulz appointed the task force after several months of contention and criticism over the conduct board’s treatment of former football player Robert Barber.

“Let there be no doubt,” Schulz wrote via email in December, “at the conclusion of our efforts we will implement conduct standards that provide a fair and equitable process for all students while protecting the safety and rights of the entire WSU community.”

The task force recently announced its recommended changes, including increased training for conduct board members in cultural competency and implicit bias, conflict of interest, and sexual assault and gender-based violence.

The recommendations also included proactive education for students on their rights, advisers to help them navigate the student conduct process and more transparency regarding the sanctions they may face for different violations.

Public forums in the fall will allow the WSU community to give feedback on the student conduct code revisions, and the Board of Regents will then approve these changes.

The revisions the regents approved also include several amendments to the sexual misconduct section of the student conduct code, primarily concerned with the definition of consent.

Title IX Coordinator Kimberly Anderson said these are part of a continual effort to tweak the wording of rules to aid in understanding and interpretation.

“We’re just constantly trying to make it more clear,” she said.

The changes include language clarifying that “throughout the sexual contact, all parties actively express words or conduct that a reasonable person would conclude demonstrates clear permission.”

Another revision strikes the following language: “Coercive behavior differs from seductive behavior based on the type of pressure someone uses to obtain consent from another.”

The final significant amendment to the sexual misconduct policy states “a reasonable person would or should know that the other” person lacks the mental capacity to consent to sexual activity at the time.

Anderson said before the regents meeting, they removed the word affirmative from the sentence, “Consent to any sexual activity must be clear, knowing, affirmative and voluntary,” feeling it added unnecessary confusion. Desiree Jacobsen, executive assistant to the Board of Regents, said the regents approved all other changes as written.

Anderson said a student committee is working on more substantive changes to sexual misconduct policy, and these will also be available for public comment, though she does not yet know when.

Correction: This article has been revised to reflect that a change to the sexual misconduct section of the student conduct code states “throughout the sexual contact, all parties actively express words or conduct that a reasonable person would conclude demonstrates clear permission,” not “throughout the sexual contact, all parties actively express words and conduct that a reasonable person would conclude demonstrates clear permission.”