The expulsion case of Washington State football player Robert Barber has led critics to call out WSU’s student conduct process as being unfair, but this isn’t the first time the process has come under scrutiny.
The expulsion case of Washington State football player Robert Barber this fall has led critics to call out WSU’s student conduct process as being unfair, but this isn’t the first time the process has come under scrutiny.
In 2013, Seattle-based attorney Arnie Hedeen, who’s also a member of WSU’s Foundation Trustees, represented a fraternity that WSU’s conduct board sanctioned with a loss of recognition. Alpha Tau Omega Gamma Phi Chapter appealed to then-WSU President Elson Floyd alleging, among other things, that the conduct board denied them due process during their hearing. Floyd ultimately reduced the sanction to probation.
Pullman-based attorney Steve Martonick appealed to the Whitman County Court of Appeals in April 2015 to fight his client’s expulsion from WSU. His client, a former WSU graduate student, was expelled by the WSU conduct board in May 2014 after the board found him responsible on the charge of having sexual contact with an underage woman who was not a WSU student. He denied the allegations and requested a full adjudicative hearing similar to what Barber has asked for. He was denied and expelled.
Martonick’s client was charged with third degree rape and molestation of a child, but both charges were dropped after the prosecutor’s investigation revealed the victim had misrepresented her age to other adult males, Martonick said.
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In his appellate brief, Martonick contended WSU should have granted his client a full adjudicative proceeding, and pointed out that your average WSU student who gets a parking ticket usually has more due process rights than his client was afforded in front of the conduct board.
Last week, the state superior court overturned the WSU conduct board’s expulsion of another student on grounds that the board had not followed prescribed procedures in the cross-examination portion of the student’s hearing.
The student was accused of sexually assaulting a female WSU student. He disputed the allegation, saying the act was consensual and that WSU’s conduct board did not allow him to fairly defend himself.
The student’s lawyer, Spokane-based defense attorney Stephen Graham, said the prosecutor initially charged his client with second degree rape but later dropped all charges after reviewing text messages the alleged victim had sent and the charge was dismissed with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled.
The superior court judge ordered Graham’s client be granted a new hearing at WSU with a different set of conduct board members, Graham said.
WSU would not comment for this story.
Graham, who specializes in university expulsion defense, has represented more than 50 students from schools including Gonzaga, EWU, UW, WSU, CWU and some community colleges. “WSU’s conduct board really struggles to meet the minimal constitutional requirements, which really isn’t a lot for a university,” Graham said. “WSU has weak procedural protections and poorly trained staff, in my opinion.
“At WSU, there’s more of a culture of lack of due process than at the other schools. At WSU, it’s like there’s really just a perception that you have no rights and a real strong bias. It’s like the Inquisition. It’s really kind of terrible.”