The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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Willis awaits University investigation

Quarterback Justin Willis carries the ball in the season opener against Texas Tech.
Quarterback Justin Willis carries the ball in the season opener against Texas Tech.

Quarterback Justin Willis carries the ball in the season opener against Texas Tech.

SMU quarterback Justin Willis has been indefinitely suspended from the SMU football team after attacking sophomore Jamil Beard at an off-campus gathering early Friday morning.

The staff of Dean of Student Life Dee Siscoe is currently evaluating the case involving Willis and Beard.

Siscoe said she could not give any idea of how fast cases are considered, but that “all cases are dealt with in a timely manner.”

Football coach Phil Bennett said Tuesday, “We support Justin, we care about him…we know the situation. I hope at some point that we get the situation resolved.”

Dallas Police were called to the scene and are conducting a separate investigation.

SMU Athletics officials are waiting for the result of the university investigation before making a decision on Willis’ status with the team.

Siscoe would not comment on the Willis case specifically, citing FERPA and HIPPA regulations, but did describe the process that takes place.

She said her office handles 1400 cases each school year ranging from alcohol violations to thefts to drug cases.

She said the first step is for her office to talk with the witnesses of an incident, the accused and the accuser and each of the parties separately, so adjudicators have an idea of the parameters of the hearing.

There are two types of hearings – a hearing board, which is likely to be used in the Willis case, and an administrative hearing.

The hearing board is used for incidents with multiple parties and serious allegations. It consists of three students, one faculty member and one staff member. Siscoe said there is a pool for each of the positions and that every member has been trained in the judicial hearing process.

The next step is the actual hearing where the hearing board, the parties involved and the witnesses meet. The hearings are confidential, and no information is supposed to be divulged over what is said during the process.

The hearing board and the two parties involved are allowed to question the witnesses.

The accused and the accuser are allowed to give closing statements, and then the hearing board considers the case. If the board decides there is a code of conduct violation, then it will consider possible penalties.

There are no set penalties except for drug usage. The board is free to give any punishment it deems necessary for the specific case.

“The goal is to determine the best course of action and to provide an educational moment,” Siscoe said.

The student is free to appeal the decision of the board to the University Judicial Council within four days of the decision.

The Council is the final governing body for cases, except for recommended expulsions from the university. President R. Gerald Turner must review those before they become finalized.

The Council consists of two faculty, two staff, three voting students and two alternate students.

The Council only reviews the written appeal of the student – it does not re-hear cases. It has the authority to reduce a punishment or call a new hearing.

DPD report says Willis incident is hate crime

A Dallas Police report classifies the incident involving SMU quarterback Justin Willis and sophomore Jamil Beard as a hate crime.

The Daily Campus obtained two different copies of the report Monday afternoon, three days after Willis was indefinitely suspended from the team for a violation of team rules.

The first version is a complete report, and the second is a redacted version.

Police told The Daily Campus the first report was sent in error – but that version aired in a 6 p.m. report on CBS-11 Monday night.

The second version of the report does not include the names of those involved and the narrative of the report was withheld.

The report does say that two suspects “repeatedly hit” Beard in the face with their fists, causing injuries. The offense description included assault and hate crime, and the incident reportedly occurred at 1:07 a.m. Friday.

The first report goes into more detail, stating that Beard was at a party when two suspects entered the residence.

They walked in and “Susp. #2 stated to the comp (Beard) ‘I heard you been talking sh**” then called the comp a ‘fa*’.”

Then Willis and the other suspect “repeatedly struck the comp (Beard) in the face and neck with their fists causing a 1 inch laceration above the right eye and severe swelling of the comp’s lip.”

Beard told the police officers who responded to the scene that he knew the suspects and that the assault was a hate crime.

The Daily Campus was also able to obtain a copy of the SMU Police report on the incident.

It was heavily redacted, with only the ages and heights of those interviewed by SMU Police.

Six people were listed on the report – two suspects, two victims and two witnesses. A 19-year-old female is listed as one of the victims in addition to Beard.

An SMU police officer responded to the off-campus incident.

In an interview Saturday, Beard said he was not severely hurt but declined to give any further details,other than saying Willis was not arrested the night of the altercation.

The sophomore music performance and creative writing major also declined to comment on whether he would be pressing charges in the matter.

Former hall mates of Beard in Mary Hay, who wished to remain anonymous, said Beard had been seen around Willis during various times in the spring 2006 semester. The hall mates said they were not surprised to hear that the two were involved in an altercation.

SMU Police has a copy of the incident brief on their on-line crime log:

“2:41 a.m.: Off Campus Aggravated Assault: 6002 Sandhurst, Dallas. A student report that he was assaulted by two students. Open.”

Neither party has filed charges yet in the case.

The decision to suspend Willis came from conversations involving SMU President R. Gerald Turner, SMU Athletic Director Steve Orsini and head coach Bennett.

Orsini said that he learned of the incident Friday morning.

Players told The Daily Campus that Dallas Police officers showed up to Friday morning’s run-through wanting to question Willis and other players who were at the altercation.

Orsini said police involvement in the matter did not influence the decision to suspend Willis and that all parties carefully considered the matter. He said they came to their decision by interviewing as many people as possible and also consulted SMU Police officials.

Orsini said the decision to suspend Willis came around 6 p.m. El Paso time for a “violation of team rules.” Orsini said he would not specify which rule or rules had been broken as a matter of SMU Athletic policy.

Orsini said SMU Athletics would continue to reevaluate Willis’ status.

“There is a spectrum of options from either ending the relationship or it continuing in good standing -we want to do what’s best for Justin right now,” Orsini said.

Willis’ father speaks

Samuel Willis, Justin’s father, said that he has been given no timeline on when his son could return.

A meeting with Orsini on Monday only involved an explanation of what the suspension was for, according to Willis.

Tuesday Willis was on-campus again, speaking with members of the media.

“Justin wants to return to playing football. He wants to be the quarterback and wants this situation to be over,” Willis said.

Willis says his first priority is his son’s reputation.

“He’s got to live past football…can you imagine how a hate crime would stay with your reputation?” he said.

Willis said they currently do not plan on filing any charges against Beard. He said Beard began harassing his son through e-mail and then eventually began to slander him in public and follow Wil
lis around.

“It’s hard to do a restraining order on a college campus,” Willis said. But he emphasized that he and his son would prefer for the situation to go away and that they have “full faith and confidence” in the university.

“There is no reason we would want to leave SMU,” Willis said. “But if it gets to the point where we can’t stay there, then we will pack our bags up and go somewhere else.”

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