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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Report on WSU incident draws fire

Anne Kim Associated Press

SEATTLE – Asian-American students and community leaders are criticizing a state Human Rights Commission task force report on Washington State University’s handling of a student complaint about behavior by two school basketball players.

“I was very disappointed,” said Doug Chin, president of the Seattle chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans.

The report looked at the way the university responded to a February complaint by WSU student Nina Kim, who worked in the school’s Multicultural Center. She complained that two white male students were among a group who would frequently pass by her office window, making animal noises and dancing in what she referred to as a monkey-like style.

On one occasion, she said, one of the young men pulled up his eyes in a slant and motioned “I heart you.”

Kim’s complaint prompted a Feb. 23 campus march by about 100 students calling for expulsions and better minority recruiting at the university.

A WSU student conduct board found that while the two young men might have engaged in adolescent behavior, there was insufficient evidence to call it harassment under the university’s code of conduct. The board also decided the behavior was not racially motivated.

When informed of the complaint, the students apologized, stopped the behavior and expressed surprise that it had been perceived as harassment, the school said.

The rights commission task force report – released last month – found that the process that the university used to address the conduct was sound but that issues such as communication between students and the university should be addressed.

The report was produced at the request of WSU and was neither an official commission document nor the product of an investigation.

Yvonne Kinoshita Ward, chairwoman of the Washington Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, said she was stunned by the report and may make a recommendation to the governor’s office or Legislature for a new outside investigation of the university’s handling of the complaint.

Nina Kim said she felt the report unfairly “points a lot of the blame back at me rather than really looking at the larger issues that occur on the campus.”

But she added her main issue is with WSU, rather than the two students or the task force report. WSU could have handled the situation more fairly, she said.

Marc Brenman, executive director of the state Human Rights Commission, said the task force report didn’t pass judgment, but simply noted facts and made recommendations.

“Some feedback we’ve gotten from other people in the field is that this report was done well and was objective,” he said.

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