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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Guest Opinion

Reinstate suspended Cougs, reform conduct process

Jill Osur, founder of CougFam (Jill Osur)
Jill Osur, founder of CougFam (Jill Osur)
By Jill Osur Special for The Spokesman-Review

When my son committed to play football at Washington State University, I was over the moon with joy. During our unofficial and official visits to WSU, I fell in love with this magical place called Pullman and the community that welcomed us like family.

I founded CougFam, with the help of Athletic Director Bill Moos and fellow football mom Tracy Cracraft, a place where WSU football families could connect and create our own family unit while our sons were at WSU.

The unfair treatment of Robert Barber by the Pullman Police Department and the Student Conduct Board (SCB), which has suspended Barber and explicitly stated its intent that he never graduate from WSU, has sickened all of us in CougFam. He is one class away from a bachelor’s degree.

Given the fine young man we know Robert to be, we felt the obligation to do what was right and to launch the “Justice For Robert Barber” petition on Change.org.

Though Robert was arrested, he has not been charged. He has stated he was defending himself against a fellow student at a fraternity party who was pushing him in the chest and face. This has been corroborated by witnesses.

People want to make this a football issue. It’s not. It’s a human rights issue. It’s about fair and just treatment regardless of the color of your skin or whether you play a sport. This is about WSU being 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. Former President Elson Floyd was in the process of addressing this before his passing. Robert has become the face of this broken system because he is a football player and has been demonized through this unjust process.

As a mother, I am seeking justice for every student. Our petition has Robert as the focus, but we want to see major institutional changes so that all students receive fair treatment. Like the public, I have put my trust and faith in the Board of Regents and in WSU President Kirk Schulz to protect my student and all students.

The state of Washington recognized there was a systemic problem in our educational system, and as a result HB 1541 was passed last year by the Legislature, receiving support from both parties. The bill addresses the fact that student expulsions have a disproportionate impact on students of color (Robert is from America Samoa). Plus, there’s is a significant impact and cost to taxpayers when schools expel students, rather than work out a plan get them educated.

Listen to the legislative intent of HB 1541. It’s in the public interest to reinstate Robert and other suspended students until the problems within the SCB are fixed. State Sen. Michael Baumgartner has been a leader in this fight.

I believe in Robert Barber. He is a good man, great brother and an amazing teammate, and I believe in the stance that Coach Mike Leach has taken on this matter. I am standing up for what is right, because that’s what Cougs do.

I will be presenting the thousands of signatures from our “Justice For Robert Barber” petition to the Board of Regents and to President Schulz on Friday morning in the hopes that they will lift suspensions until the SCB is reviewed, revamped and serves the public interest of graduating all students at Washington State University.

Jill Osur is the president of GoldLine Brands, a winery group, and founder of CougFam. She is the mother of two WSU student athletes: football player Noah Osur-Myers and baseball player Ryan Osur-Myers.

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