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4 takeaways from today's WSU Regents meeting and the Robert Barber case

AS WSU PRESIDENT Kirk Schulz sought to a find middle ground in the Robert Barber/WSU Conduct Board imbroglio that has torn Cougar Nation asunder, advocates for the senior from American Samoa minced no words in their pleas to the WSU Board of Regents. Here are four takeaways from today's proceedings.

1. ROBERT BARBER WILL GET HIS DEGREE

As ham-fisted and round-about as it may be, Kirk Schulz and the Office of the Provost have cleared the way for Barber to get credit for his work this semester and graduate with his degree in criminal justice. Jack Thompson, APIC, CougFam, Sen. Mike Baumgartner and others can and should claim victory because the most important piece of this case was ensuring that Barber received his diploma. Here’s another critical development today: Board of Regents chair Lura Powell stated for all to hear that Barber will be allowed to walk across the stage at commencement ceremonies in December. Kirk Schulz nodded in agreement as she spoke.

2. A BATTLE, YES, BUT A STEP TOWARD REUNIFICATION

Everyone was in the same room talking. Kirk Schulz broke his silence. Gabe Marks delivered a powerful commentary on life as an athlete and life as a minority student. Jill Osur was succinct, articulate and persuasive in the need to put Robert Barber back in the classroom. Ryan Durkan reads the Cougfan.com message boards to keep up on what Coug Nation is talking about. Mike Worthy thinks the Conduct Board system is fine and fellow regent Ron Sims thinks it isn’t. For the first time, all the warring members of the family were in the same room. That is progress. Another battle was fought, but it seems clear the path toward reunification/reconstruction is visible from here.

3. JOSIE SALAVE’A’S TESTIMONY PULLED AT THE HEARTSTRINGS

The wife of WSU assistant head coach Joe Salave’a opened her comments with a simple but powerful statement: "I'm here as a Samoan mom.” She talked about growing up in Samoa, she talked about raising her two young children, and she talked about Robert Barber. “I love Robert,” she said. “He is like my son ... he is a fine young man who made a mistake ... " The Conduct Board, she said,  process doesn’t provide fair and equal treatment and Robert was victimized by that process. She talked about Robert’s humble beginnings as one of eight children being raised by a single mother following the death of his father. You could have heard a pin drop as she talked about the painful phone call she and Joe made to Robert’s mom informing her of the Conduct Board denial of Robert’s appeal. Robert’s mom has been saving money for the $2,000 flight from American Samoa to Pullman, she said, but not to see her son play football – to see him graduate. "Let him play football, let him finish his degree," Josie said.

4. KIRK SCHULZ MISSED AN OPPORTUNITY

Trying to straddle the fence between doing what’s right and defending his administration, Schulz succeeded with his plan for getting Barber his diploma but came across positively tone deaf in his comment that “we will vigorously defend the policies in place.” Schulz also fumbled badly at the end of the hearing. While a number of Regents, including chairwoman Powell, made a point to say hello to Robert Barber, who was standing near the doorway dressed in traditional Samoan garb, Schulz walked by.

Quote of the Public Comment Session:

“Rob has done too much for WSU and has sacrificed so much time and his life for this university to be treated with injustice ….Why is it even coming to this? This is an institution of higher learning. You have the power. We’re just football players,” – Gabe Marks

Quote of the Post-Hearing:

“The thing that is most disturbing to me is that they’re saying he can finish his degree, get the piece of paper, but he can’t come to class with his peers. That is shocking to me. They are so oblivious to the PR optics in that.” – Jill Osur of CougFam to Cougfan.com


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