WSU intends to make sweeping changes to its student conduct process. It has commissioned a 15-member task force to make recommendations

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A week after the state Court of Appeals ruled that Washington State University and 26 other public institutions have to afford students more robust adjudication processes in cases involving expulsion or long-term suspension, WSU has unveiled a 15-member task force to review its student conduct process.

In a letter released Friday morning, WSU president Kirk Schulz announced that the school is undertaking a “comprehensive review” of its student conduct process, and this task force has been charged with spearheading the review over the next three to four months.

“The group will document its findings in a report and make recommendations for changes to the conduct process,” Schulz wrote in his letter, adding that WSU’s Board of Regents will consider any proposed changes to WSU’s current conduct process, with the hope of having an updated process in place for the beginning of the fall 2017 semester.

Until then, Schulz said in his letter that the university with implement some “emergency rules” for student conduct hearings.

The exact nature of these emergency rules has yet to be determined, WSU spokesperson Rob Strenge said in an email to The Seattle Times Friday.

Strenge emphasized, however, that by early 2017, WSU needs to make changes to meet the requirements of last week’s Court of Appeals finding.

“We are now basically required to conduct a full judiciary process in all cases which could result in suspension, expulsion and probably loss of recognition,” Strenge wrote. “That may well require participation by administrative law judges, representation by legal counsel, discovery, powers of subpoena, etc.

“The task force will address these issues in the long term, but we need to have certain measures in place in a shorter time frame that the task force is expected to take to address the broader issues.”

The task force will be chaired by Craig Hemmens, the chair of WSU’s Department of Criminal Justice. Hemmens was out of the office and could not be reached for an interview Friday.

The list of 14 other task force members includes Associated Students of Washington State University President Taylor Christensen, two student senators, Mike King, the President-elect of WSU’s Alumni Association, Grant Norton — the dean of the WSU Honors College, administrators from WSU’s branch campuses, and prominent alums Don Pelo – a member of the WSU Foundation Executive Committee – and Jane Yung, who also happens to be UW’s Assistant Attorney General.

Yung’s inclusion is particularly noteworthy because the Court of Appeals findings last week listed UW as one of the universities that would have conducted a full adjudicatory hearing in the case that sparked these recommended student conduct changes.

Strenge said Friday that task force members were selected by the WSU administration, and approved by the president.

“They are meant to represent a range of key stakeholder groups, including students. External members represent the leadership of the WSU Alumni Association and the Foundation,” Strenge said. “The individuals selected will bring diverse perspectives and experiences to the work of the task force.”

In addition to the 15 task force members, five senior WSU administrators are also listed as “ex-officio” members: Kim Anderson, the Executive Director of WSU’s Office of Equal Opportunity; Danielle Hess, WSU’s Senior Assistant Attorney General; Melynda Huskey, WSU’s Interim Vice-President of Student Affairs; WSU Chief of Police Bill Gardner and Anne McCoy, the Senior Women’s Administrator within the WSU Athletic Department.

Ex-officio members serve the task force in an advisory and support role, Strenge said.

“They are included as a resource and to provide the benefit of their individual prior experience and expertise and because many of them will be responsible for implementing the recommendations of the task force,” Strenge said.

Schulz said in his letter that the task force’s work will complement the narrower review currently taking place under the law firm, Lyons O’Dowd, which is examining the specific issue of alleged racial and ethnic bias in the student conduct process. Lyons O’Dowd’s report will be available in January.

WSU’s student conduct process has come under close scrutiny this fall after the student conduct board expelled, and then suspended, WSU football player Robert Barber for his alleged role in an assault at an off campus party over the summer. Barber has yet to be charged with any crime, and the Whitman County Prosecutor’s office said this week that the case is still under review.