Jarred Ha, 22, took his first steps back on the UW Seattle campus earlier last month, after an absence of more than a year that took him from jail, media vilification, and academic suspension to acquittal and the resumption of his life.
These steps felt like the first in a return to normalcy, said Ha, who was served an emergency suspension order by the UW barring him from university grounds and temporarily suspending him as a UW student in January 2015, the day after he stabbed UW student Graham Harper six times during an altercation at an off-campus party.
In trial this January, a jury heard two recollections of the night’s events: from Ha and from Harper. Harper claimed he had been defending a group of women from a violent Ha, who attacked them at a party. Ha claimed the women attacked him, and when he defended himself, Harper assaulted him. A King County jury sided with Ha, acquitting him of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon and fourth-degree assault for punching a woman in the face.
Following the court’s decision, the UW lifted Ha’s suspension on Feb. 23, 2016. It is a suspension Ha’s supporters say was inconsistent with university policies, and the ASUW student senate is now demanding the university revise and clarify its policies on emergency suspensions.
Ha’s point of view
Because Ha’s emergency suspension was so long, he was forced to reapply to the UW upon his acquittal this winter as a returning student to finish his accounting degree.
After being allowed back on campus, Ha received a letter in the mail officially notifying him of his re-acceptance into the UW and Foster School of Business for spring quarter.
“It was kind of surprising,” Ha said. “It didn’t really hit when it first happened.”
In a meeting in Suzzallo Library on March 8, Ha remembered his excitement upon being readmitted. He said it was the UW Community Standards & Student Conduct’s (CSSC) failure to follow procedure described in the Washington Administrative Code in lifting the emergency suspension that postponed his return to classes.
This forced him to withdraw from two consecutive quarters and then reapply as a returning student for this spring quarter, per the UW’s Withdrawal Policy.
Seeing this delay as unfair, Ha said he and his lawyer fought “inch by inch” with the UW CSSC through multiple proposed resolutions. The first of these resolutions, according to Ha, asked him to sign an agreement requiring his attendance at alcohol consumption classes in order to reapply.
“[The] UW messed up and made a snap judgment,” Ha said. “But I respect them enough to give them the chance to make the right decision and they have been.”
Beyond a formal apology from the university, Ha hopes the UW will choose to discipline the other students involved in the Jan. 25 altercation.
If the UW is as concerned with student campus safety as it claims, Ha said, the university should discipline Harper, who the court concluded was the aggressor.
“It will definitely be uncomfortable and awkward,” Ha said about seeing Harper on campus. “I’ll probably ignore him.“
Harper’s point of view
Harper, 21, maintains his version of events, and is suing Ha for medical costs.
Confined to the hospital for a week following the stabbing, Harper also withdrew from the UW for winter quarter 2015.
In an on-campus meeting with Harper and his parents March 10, Harper displayed several massive scars on his abdomen and legs from the six stab wounds that required emergency surgery at Harborview Trauma Center.
Because of the ongoing legal proceedings, Harper, on the advice of his attorney, refrained from an interview, but provided a statement detailing the extent of his injuries and explaining his position.
Harper’s statement refers to one stab wound to the left chest as an “attempt at [his] heart,” and “two 6-inch-long, very deep, perfectly placed carvings to each upper inner thigh” as attempts by Ha at castration. These two thigh wounds came, Harper notes, “within one-quarter inch of [his] femoral arteries.”
Two stab wounds in Harper’s abdomen had his intestines protruding outside of his body, his statement details. One 10-inch wound reaching from Harper’s knee to his groin
“severed [his] quadriceps muscle into two separate halves.” One year later, Harper’s statement says that his knee “now dislocates easily due to muscle loss,” and that he has long-term nerve damage.
Harper’s mother, Deborah, recalled his first words after waking up in the hospital being “Can I still have children?”
Harper believes that the university is correct in not pursuing disciplinary action against him or the women involved in the altercation that night.
“Neither myself nor the young women who were assaulted have ever been charged with a crime. Our initial statement, deposition, and the trial recordings show that our stories are consistent. We did not attack Ha,” his statement read. “The other victims and I did not bring these charges against Ha. The state did and for very good reasons, which they continue to stand by.”
ASUW student senate speaks out
Despite Ha’s re-acceptance, the ASUW student senate is pressuring the UW to address what members believe was a misuse of emergency suspension orders.
Ha’s case came to the attention of ASUW through senate speaker Kevin Celustka, who reached out to Ha on the social media platform Reddit while Ha was hosting an “Ask me anything” panel on Feb. 9, following his acquittal.
Upon Ha’s agreement, UW student senator Alec Slaney said a group of senators mobilized immediately, wanting to get a resolution out as soon as possible to “correct the blatant injustice” on the part of the university.
Slaney sponsored the ASUW student senate’s resolution urging the UW to address what he called an “unjust” use of emergency suspension orders in Ha’s case, and aiming to prevent said injustice from happening again in the future.
According to the resolution, proposed to the student senate on Feb. 19, the law enables university authorities to suspend any student whose conduct “represents a threat to the health, safety, or welfare of the university or any member of the university community” through an emergency suspension order.
Originally, the resolution called for the university to forgo issuing emergency suspension orders while a student is in police custody, physically incapable of posing a danger to the public safety, the welfare, or health of the community. In situations like those, the original resolution recommended the university follow the non-emergency suspension procedure so as to “make sure that the student is allowed to advocate for themselves, regardless of what’s being charged against them.”
The most recent version of the resolution recommends that when a student is served with an emergency suspension, and when subsequent legal procedures force that student to withdraw, the student be fast-tracked for re-admission.
The resolution passed March 29 and has been forwarded to administration members, including UW president Ana Mari Cauce.
Ha said “it’s very humbling” to have others working hard to come to his aid just from hearing his story, without personally knowing him.
“I can’t wait for the first day of spring quarter to step foot back into Paccar,” Ha said two weeks before the quarter started. “I’ll probably have the biggest smile on my face walking in the first day.”
Reach contributing writer Shelby Mang at firstname.lastname@example.org.