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3 outspoken advocates for Robert Barber will address WSU Board of Regents on Friday, demand senior's reinstatement

TOMORROW’S MEETING of the Washington State University Board of Regents is shaping up to be the most-watched since Bill Moos asked for the green light to construct the Cougar Football Complex. The public comment portion of the meeting will have at least three outspoken critics of the WSU Conduct Board on the agenda.

Representatives of the state’s Samoan community are expected to speak first, advocating for due process in the disciplinary case of WSU senior and defensive lineman Robert Barber, who is from America Samoa.

Jill Osur and Tracy Cracraft, leaders of the WSU football team’s parent association – CougFam – will formally request that the Board of Regents immediately disband what they call a “broken” Conduct Board system that is unfair to all students; lift the suspensions of students who have been disciplined for non-extreme offenses this year; and reinstate those students so they can continue their coursework.

State Sen. Mike Baumgartner of Spokane will then address what he believes is the lack of due process in the Conduct Board’s policies and procedures, and the unfair treatment of Barber, who speaks English as a second language and was not allowed to have an attorney speak on his behalf at his Conduct Board hearing. On Monday, Baumgartner called for the Board of Regents and Gov. Jay Inslee to reintstate Barber immediately in light of the weak leadership of WSU President Kirk Schulz.

Osur and Cracraft also will present the Board of Regents with the "Justice for Robert Barber" petition they began circulating last week and now has 2,500 signatures.

“As a mom of two WSU students -- and athletes (one football, one baseball) -- this situation is disturbing because the Conduct Board is demonizing a student in their language and actions. This is not about a football player. A football player has put a spotlight on a Conduct Board that is broken, that is not observing equal treatment,” Osur said today.

“There is clearly bias in their process. What we have now is an opportunity to ensure no further institutional and educational damage takes place. Let’s get back to the wonderful school and community we all know Washington State is,” she added.

In a letter that will be presented to the Board of Regents, CougFam writes, in part, that:

Washington State University should be in the business of graduating students, not running a parallel criminal justice system with its SCB. It is widely known and publicized that the SCB has had problems for years, and that many students have been treated unfairly. Past President Elson Floyd was in the process of addressing this prior to his passing.

“The state of Washington recognized there was a systemic problem in our educational system and as a result House Bill 1541 received support from both sides of the House. HB 1541 establishes specific policies and strategies to close the educational opportunity gap. Once clause states, “Reduce the length of time students of color are excluded from school due to suspension and expulsion and provide students support for reengagement plans”. The bill was signed by the Governor in March of 2016, and made effective this year in July 2016. The University of Washington quickly adopted the recommendations outlined in the bill, as they already have a policy not to expel students. Washington State did not respond to inquiries regarding this bill.”

The Board of Regents convenes tomorrow in Pullman at 8 a.m. in room 212 of the Compton Union Building with the public comment period the last order of business on the agenda.

UPDATE: WSU President Kirk Schulz also plans to speak at the meeting. He Tweeted this message today: "I will provide public comments and respond to Q&A on issues surrounding WSU Student Conduct Board tomorrow at WSU Regents Meeting"

Timeline of events in the Barber case, as compiled by CougFam:

  • July 23, 2016, Robert Barber and approximately 50-80 other students attended a summer house party, where a fight broke out and several students were caught on video swinging and throwing punches during the brawl
  • September 13, 2016, Robert Barber received his expulsion notice from the Student Conduct Board, stating that he’s been charged with abuse of others/disruption or interference with WSU community and violating reckless endangerment, stating “it is the specific intention of the conduct board that you not be allowed to graduate from this university”, but that he could appeal within 21 days
  • September 16, 2016, the football team surrendered Robert Barber and TJ Fehoko, to the Pullman Police Department, where he was booked for investigation of second-degree assault and then released. In addition, two non-football students were cited for minor offenses
  • October 10, 2016, Robert Barber filed his appeal
  • October 17, 2016, the Appeals Board ruled on Barber’s appeal and modified his expulsion to a suspension, where he was given 10 days to change the date of his suspension
  • October 24, 2016, Robert Barber appealed the suspension, requesting a deferment until spring 2017
  • October 26, 2016, the Appeals Board denied Robert Barber’s request for the deferment of the suspension
  • October 28, 2016, Barber, fifth-year senior from American Samoa was one class shy of graduation from Washington State University, when he was suspended by Washington State’s Student Conduct Board
  • October 29, 2016, President Kirk Schulz stated an independent law firm would be engaged to review the process
  • October 31, 2016, Senator Michael Baumgartner, APIC and Jack Thompson called a press conference in Seattle to ask that the Board of Regents and the Governor review the SCB processes and reinstate Robert Barber
  • November 2, 2016, Robert Barber and his attorney Stephen Graham filed a petition to the Superior Court of Whitman County asking they overturn the suspension handed down by the WSU SCB. In a signed declaration in support of Robert Barber, WSU Director of Football Operations Antonio Huffman stated there is a possibility the complainant may have been under the influence of drugs at the time of the incident, which could have affected his judgment. Huffman stated that “this was important, because the complainant admitted to being seen snorting a white powder prior to the altercation, but he claimed that the powder was crushed caffeine pills, and not a controlled substance.”
  • November 4, 2016, the WSU Board of Regents will be meeting in Pullman at 9 a.m.

RELATED STORY: WSU Conduct Board joked that Barber should be in 'holding cell'


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