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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Basketball players cleared of harassment

PULLMAN – Washington State University’s student conduct board has cleared two men’s basketball players of harassment charges brought after an incident at the school’s multicultural center.

Freshmen Robbie Cowgill and Alex Kirk had been brought before the board following a student’s complaint that the two had made racially insensitive gestures and noises while passing by the office, where the student worked in the reception area.

On Wednesday, WSU released information pertaining to the findings of the board.

“Conduct officers concluded that, although the accused students may have engaged in adolescent behavior, there was insufficient evidence to support a finding of harassment,” the statement said.

Cowgill and Kirk have become central figures in a race-relations dispute on campus. The alleged incident helped spark an on-campus protest over the treatment of minorities at WSU, and the two players were made the subject of fliers and another protest at the Cougars’ Feb. 24 home game against Arizona.

“At no time did we make gestures, comments or noises directed at anyone that were racially motivated,” the players said in a joint statement.

“We are upset by the accusations of racism, the damage to our reputations and the hurtful way our names and pictures have been associated with these events. We recognize a student in the multicultural center was offended and for that we are apologetic.

However, again, we maintain our actions were not racially offensive or harassing in nature and we were only attempting to be friendly with a group of people.”

The student who brought forth the accusation, Nina Kim, did not meet with the conduct board over the course of its investigation. Originally, the case was handled by WSU Police.

When it was determined that no criminal charges would be involved, the incident was passed along to the conduct board.

Kim could not be reached for comment and has stated that she will not discuss the case publicly.

“She’s obviously very upset. We’re still looking out for her safety,” said senior Angela Tamiguchi, a friend of Kim’s and one of the organizers of last week’s on-campus protest.

Students have scheduled a meeting with WSU President V. Lane Rawlins to discuss the status of race relations on campus. “Disappointed does not even begin to describe (my feelings). This is just part of this longer history of injustice.”

Men’s basketball head coach Dick Bennett publicly defended his players last week and said Wednesday he was satisfied that the board had cleared their names of any harassment.

“There was a lot of rhetoric and hate that was broadcast at that one game and it was unnecessary and it created some hard feelings,” he said.

“Now I’m glad it’s over.”