Student conduct review could overturn cases involving procedural errors

CODY COTTIER, NICK THOMAS, and DAN DOUCET

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Two football players who were previously suspended by WSU’s student conduct board have been reinstated since a judge granted Robert Barber a stay on Wednesday, and the ruling could result in the overturning of other student conduct cases as well.

The university will review cases in which the student conduct board failed to keep record of the questions asked during hearings by students charged with violating conduct standards. Whitman County Superior Court Judge David Frazier allowed Barber to return to class and the football team based on evidence that the board destroyed questions Barber presented.

“WSU is reviewing certain recent student conduct cases in an effort to determine whether any involve the procedural error noted by the Whitman County Superior Court,” WSU spokesperson Robert Strenge wrote in an email.

Cases found to include these procedural errors may be vacated until a conduct board made up of members who did not participate in the original ruling, Strenge wrote. WSU President Kirk Schulz reportedly told the Faculty Senate on Thursday that Frazier’s ruling could affect seven to eight suspension or expulsion decisions.

The Seattle Times reported on Thursday that WSU football player Logan Tago’s suspension had been lifted while the board reviews his case, allowing him to return to class as well.

Unlike Barber, Tago has been charged with a felony for an alleged robbery. He will be able to attend class and practice with the team, but the felony charge prevents him from competing in games due to a WSU Athletics policy. Barber, however, returned to practice on Wednesday and will play in Saturday’s game against the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Alex Rodriguez, a WSU student who received a broken jaw during the fight over the summer for which Barber was suspended, said he is glad Barber will be able to return to class. Barber has just one credit left to complete his degree.

“I think it’s good for him to be able to finish school,” Rodriguez said.

However, he said he was disappointed that Barber would still be able to play on the team. Rodriguez said it seems like he’s getting away with it just because the conduct board messed up on a technicality.

Both Barber’s and Tago’s cases are part of a larger controversy surrounding the student conduct process. The board has received extensive criticism and allegations that it has failed to give students due process. Schulz issued a statement on Thursday saying the university will soon announce an in-depth examination of the entire student conduct process.

“The entire WSU leadership is of a single mind,” Schulz wrote. “We will do whatever it takes to make certain that all of our students are treated fairly in their dealings with the University.”

Barber’s supporters, including Washington Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) and former WSU football star Jack Thompson, have rallied around his cause and pushed for student conduct reform, citing racial bias as a major issue.

Marc Lyons, an independent attorney, began a review of the conduct process on Oct. 28 specifically to determine whether the board showed racial or ethnic bias in its handling of conduct cases. The review is expected to take 60 days.