MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

November 18, 2013

OSU seeks to ease rules on expulsions


Associated Press

— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Officials at Oklahoma State University are seeking a change in state law to make it easier to expel students for bad behavior, saying current law is too cumbersome.

“Under state law, expulsion is not a realistic alternative. It takes too long,” attorney Andy Lester, who serves on the Board of Regents for OSU and the A&M colleges, told The Oklahoman. “Suspension can be done very quickly.”

Acting quickly is important when officials want to remove a student for the safety of others, and the process required to expel a college student could take months — even beyond graduation, Lester said.

High schools, on the other hand, are not covered by the same law and can expel students based on district policies.

To expel a student from college, the law in the Oklahoma Administrative Procedures Act requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the student committed a violation, a standard like what’s needed for a conviction in a criminal court, according to Lee Bird, vice president for student affairs at OSU.

In all other situations, such as suspensions, university officials look for enough evidence to make it “more likely than not” that the violation is true, Bird told the newspaper.

In one instance, former student Nathan Cochran was suspended from OSU for three years after student conduct hearings in 2012.

Cochran pleaded guilty Sept. 20 to three counts of sexual battery in Payne County District Court in connection with the incidents that resulted in his suspension.

“To have that ability to expel instead of suspend makes sense sometimes,” Bird said. “We’re talking about a response to extreme behavior.”

Most violations that warrant expulsion are sexual in nature, said Douglas Price, associate general counsel for the OSU regents, who said such cases are rare.

Regardless, OSU officials are seeking what they consider a simple amendment to strike some language in the state law and make expulsion a realistic option.

“It’s a good move and long overdue,” Bird said.