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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Shawn Vestal

Stories by Shawn Vestal

Current Position: columnist

Shawn Vestal joined The Spokesman-Review in 1999. He currently is a columnist for the City Desk.

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News >  Idaho

Salmon don’t swap gender

When scientists announced seven years ago that chinook salmon in the Columbia River appeared to be switching genders, it attracted a lot of attention. For one thing, there was the simple strangeness of it – researchers said more than 80 percent of female fall-run chinook that spawned at the Hanford Reach in 1999 had started their lives as males. The news had potentially dire implications for the fish run, suggesting that future generations could become ever more heavily male and smaller.
News >  Spokane

Police chief demoted at WSU

The chief of Washington State University's police department has been demoted, following a university investigation that concluded he used his work computer to view and forward inappropriate e-mails. WSU announced the demotion of Steve Hansen, along with the resignation of Assistant Chief Scott West, on Friday afternoon. According to a report prepared by the university auditor and depositions in a court case, Hansen looked at sexually explicit e-mails that were sent to him, forwarded them to West, and invited other members of the department to view them.
News >  Spokane

EWU celebrates 125th birthday today

When Catherine Simpson was a college student in Cheney in the 1930s, she worked at Showalter Hall for a quarter an hour. Showalter Hall is still on the campus at Eastern Washington University, but almost nothing else about Simpson's days as an undergrad would sound familiar to today's students.

News >  Spokane

Statistics on abuse are difficult to pin down

Like a lot of violence that occurs within families, child abuse can be awfully tough to measure. The federal government's most oft-cited number of abused children nationwide is 900,000 a year. That's based on statistics from 2004 that peg that as the number of cases reported to authorities and considered substantiated enough to warrant an investigation.
News >  Spokane

WSU, Eastern faring well in Olympia

OLYMPIA – Lawmakers are getting ready to send some big dollars to Washington's colleges and universities. Depending on which proposal you cite, roughly $100 million is slated to increase enrollments, and about $80 million is budgeted to expand various financial aid programs. Budget proposals include money for faculty raises and research programs.
News >  Spokane

‘Positive year for higher ed’

The Senate budget includes money for an "unprecedented" growth in college enrollments statewide, an expansion of several financial aid programs, and construction projects on Inland Northwest campuses. The Senate also proposes spending $11.2 million to establish medical and dental programs at the Riverpoint campus in Spokane, $5.6 million for biofuels research at Washington State University, and $3.5 million toward an Applied Sciences Lab in Spokane to help develop spinoff companies and other business applications from university research.
News >  Spokane

Officer wins suit against WSU

A Washington State University police officer was awarded $96,000 in back pay and benefits this week in a federal lawsuit alleging the university fired him in retaliation for speaking out about civil rights issues. The jury reached its verdict Monday afternoon in federal court in Spokane in the lawsuit brought by Bryan Jacobson, a black officer who's been involved in a long-running struggle with his bosses in the WSU department.
News >  Spokane

Medical marijuana bill stirs debate

OLYMPIA – In 1998, Washington voters approved an initiative allowing seriously ill patients to use marijuana. But nine years later, lawmakers are still working out the details. How much marijuana is allowed? Where are patients supposed to get it? And what is their doctors' role in all this, given that the federal government still considers marijuana an illegal drug?
News >  Features

To catch a thief

Bill Condon's been sniffing out plagiarism a lot longer than the Internet's been around. Condon, director of writing programs at Washington State University, recalls a case from 25 years ago in which he tested a student about the contents of his own paper.
News >  Idaho

UI put staff data on Web

Personal information for about 2,700 University of Idaho employees was inadvertently posted at the school's Web site for 19 days in February, though officials say it was not easy to access and there's no reason yet to believe it was misused. It was the latest data breach at a regional college, following the theft of some computers from the UI's fund-raising office and the theft of a portable hard drive from an Eastern Washington University employee late last year. Officials say they have not heard of any crimes or other problems stemming from the incidents.
News >  Spokane

Goodall shares energy with WSU

PULLMAN – Katia Rossi was in high school when she met Jane Goodall on a plane six years ago. The famed primatologist and environmental activist handed Rossi a pamphlet for Roots & Shoots – the youth organization of the Jane Goodall Institute that supports environmental, humanitarian and animal-rights causes.
News >  Spokane

Gone, but not forgotten

Class B basketball has been a presence in most of Tom Peterson's 75 years – from his days as a player in the 1940s to this year, when he's rooting on the team coached by his son. Like many longtime fans of small-school basketball, he misses the Whitman County flavor at this year's 2B state tournament, the first season that the Bs have been split into two divisions. That sent the majority of the small Eastern Washington teams to Yakima for the 1B tourney, rather than to Spokane – where for almost 50 years small schools with big community support have taken over the city in ways big and small for "B week."
News >  Spokane

Whitworth making SAT, ACT optional for applicants

Starting next year, Whitworth College will stop requiring applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, joining a growing number of colleges that are downgrading the importance of the standardized tests in admissions decisions. Whitworth, which is set to formally announce the decision today, is making the move because of a range of concerns that test critics have been raising for years – that the tests are a narrow way of judging college potential; they favor wealthier students whose families can pay for test-prep courses and materials; and the tests are misleading predictors of college success for women and minorities.
News >  Spokane

Region’s universities test podcasting

Professors at the region's universities are looking for a new route into students' minds – the ubiquitous white cords hanging from seemingly every ear on campus. Podcasts and a variety of new technologies are making their way into academia, as professors test the waters with everything from recordings of lectures to multimedia offerings to the emerging possibilities of virtual classrooms.
News >  Spokane

Students dig up group’s rich past

When Jeremiah Sataraka started looking into the history of African American students at Whitworth College, he had no idea what he'd find. Wanting to do something for Black History Month, Sataraka was surprised to find a robust and somewhat radical history in the early days of Whitworth's Black Student Union – complete with demonstrations, arrests at a protest in Colfax and a regular column titled Whit Soul that asserted, "People are afraid to be funky."
News >  Idaho

Whistleblowers sue UI

A husband and wife who work at the University of Idaho's research park have sued the university, alleging they were punished for speaking up about conflicts of interest between researchers and two private companies. Kenneth and Margaret Hass say they've been defamed and retaliated against for reporting their concerns over the relationship between the Center for Advanced Microelectronics and Biomolecular Research in the UI's Post Falls research park and two private companies with ties to researchers there.
News >  Spokane

Donation to GU to go toward science center

A $2 million donation from a Bellevue-based company that specializes in designing long-haul trucks is helping Gonzaga University build a new science center that will expand the school's engineering programs, the school said Friday. The donation from Paccar Inc. will cover about a quarter of the cost of the new $7.9 million Paccar Center for Applied Science, which is scheduled to open in time for classes in fall 2008, GU said. The 25,000-square-foot building will be just south of the Herak Center for Engineering, with construction set to begin in the spring.
News >  Spokane

KPBX sale a feast for the ears

This weekend's KPBX record sale is a wonderland of nostalgia and obscurity. But which item is nostalgic and which is obscure depends on your perspective.
News >  Spokane

Sandpoint could get UI branch

A foundation run by the founder of Coldwater Creek has quietly proposed spending $20 million to establish a University of Idaho campus in Sandpoint – something civic leaders have long sought. Though the proposal is in preliminary stages, the nonprofit Wild Rose Foundation and the UI have drafted a memorandum of understanding that will go before the Idaho State Board of Education on Feb. 22. The proposal envisions the creation of "a unique model for education and research on a local, state and national level," with classes and research programs beginning in 2010.
News >  Spokane

Drug busts a shock, but use common

When two Gonzaga University basketball players were arrested on suspicion of drug possession over the weekend, administrators at the college said it came as a shock. But national and regional statistics show that drug use – and especially pot smoking – has remained a part of life for a significant minority of teens and college-aged youths for years.
News >  Spokane

Incoming WSU leader outlines goals

PULLMAN – In his first trip here since his hiring in December, the incoming president of Washington State University laid out the priorities that will define his administration in a public address to the school's campuses Friday. Among a wide-ranging list of priorities, Elson Floyd said he'd look for WSU to "quicken the pace" of its research efforts and seek "efficiencies and economies of scale" that could redirect more money toward classroom programs and other priorities.
News >  Spokane

Air quality forecasting gets a boost from NASA grant

Washington State University has received a grant to use satellite data to improve forecasts of air quality in the Northwest. Using readings collected from three NASA satellites, scientists will get a better picture of pollutants in the region, in part so officials may issue air quality alerts when conditions are poor.
News >  Spokane

Judge OKs trial for WSU lawsuit

A sexual harassment lawsuit against Washington State University and a distinguished professor will proceed toward trial, a judge ruled recently after WSU asked him to throw out the suit. In an opinion filed Jan. 16, Judge David Frazier dismissed one of the claims in the suit but ruled that graduate student Christina Garcia's claim of quid pro quo sexual harassment could advance. Frazier set a tentative trial date of Sept. 10.
News >  Spokane

Students learn to help

Sarah Urlacher was somewhat interested in community service during her years as a high school student in Billings. But that has flowered into a full-blown commitment during her years at Gonzaga University, where she has worked as a Special Olympics coach, a student mentor and in a homeless shelter. When she graduates in May, she plans to enter the Peace Corps.
News >  Spokane

Math-science partnership in the works

In a project that cuts across all levels of education in the Spokane area, universities, community colleges and school districts plan to collaborate on improving student performance in math and science. In an agreement to be formalized Monday, officials will start working toward aligning curricula among high schools, community colleges and university classrooms – trying to ensure that students are learning the things they'll need as they move up. Leaders from the institutions will also collaborate in an effort to hire more "highly qualified" math and science teachers and develop extracurricular programs.