Court orders student conduct board to re-evaluate their proceedings

The Washington State Court of Appeals ruled against some of the Student Conduct Board proceedings in the expulsion of a WSU graduate student.

In the case of Abdullatif Arishi v. WSU, Arishi challenged his expulsion from WSU’s doctoral program, claiming the university failed to afford him a full adjudication, and court proceedings included lawyers to speak on a client’s behalf and question witnesses. Arishi was originally expelled after he was arrested in the spring of 2014 for allegedly having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl.

Though the Washington State Court of Appeals already required courts to have adjudications, it allowed for universities to use their own office of administrative hearings to conduct adjudications in compliance with Title IX requirements.

However, in this case, the court of appeals reversed the decision and awarded Arishi reasonable attorney fees and a challenge for a full adjudication. He might be able to have his case tried again.

The WSU Student Conduct Board plans to take these rulings into account as they continue their comprehensive review of conduct proceedings this year.

Spokesperson Robert Strenge said it is an on-going effort and does not expect changes to the proceedings by the end of this year.

Steve Graham, WSU football player Robert Barber’s lawyer, said he was able to win Barber’s case because of a narrow issue of the school destroying written questions. However, Graham said other students have a more difficult time with the complicated school policies and presenting a defense.

“The Barber case was high-profile, and the school got a black eye,” he said. “But this Arishi decision will be the real game changer across the state, and will prove to be 10 times the headache for the Office of Student Conduct than Barber could ever be.”

Graham said though this possible change in the student conduct process would be received positively among students in similar cases, those who are victims of sexual assault cases might have trouble handling cross-examination.

He said the Office for Civil Rights has suggested to schools to protect victims of sexual assault or domestic violence from this sort of questioning by attorneys. The school tried to point this out to the court of appeals in the Arishi case, but said it did not apply due to the victim being a non-student.

“This decision really lays groundwork between attorneys, school officers and the victim advocate,” Graham said. “Everyone has mixed views.”