WSU

COMMENTARY: Logan Tago case is ultimate indictment of WSU boards

FINALLY, SOME PROGRESS. Washington State has lifted the draconian suspension the WSU Conduct and Appeals boards had placed on sophomore football player Logan Tago, who hasn't suited up for the Cougars since the Stanford game, as a result of his involvement in an incident in June. The detached and misguided student disciplinary boards had handed -- apparently with straight faces all around -- Tago a two-year suspension from school.

The lunacy of this system WSU had been defending to the hilt is now in full public view following the Robert Barber case and now the Tago situation. Tago, who is from American Samoa, was found by the Conduct Board vigilantes to have been guilty of three things: being under the influence of alcohol, being part of a group that took another individual's beer, and participating in the group's assault. The board also cited a previous incident in which Tago appeared before the board for being intoxicated and was required to take an alcohol awareness class, which he did.

For these offenses, the Conduct Board ruled, and the Appeals Board upheld, that Tago be suspended from the university for – wait for it – two years and was eligible to apply for reinstatement to WSU in May 2018.

Two years. 

He of course wouldn't sit around waiting for two years, and likely would have returned to Pullman next as a student-athlete for Utah or some other FBS school.

A two-year suspension isn’t a suspension, it’s an expulsion.  It’s plain the Conduct Board was trying to permanently boot Tago without having the matters cross the desk of  President Kirk Schulz. At WSU, an expulsion is reviewable by the president, and a suspension is not.  It's understandable that underlings would want to give cover to a president who clearly has no stomach for a fight in this arena, but the seemingly casual sacrifice of a student is way out of line.

AMONG THE MANY things about the conduct board’s ruling that raise red flags, there’s this:  the board makeup. That seven members who ruled on Tago consisted of chair Lisa McIntyre, Adam Truss and five students (3 male, 2 female).

All of them are white.

And because the board’s actions don’t match its words when it comes to cultural diversity, there was a lack of cultural understanding in its ruling. McIntyre wrote in the ruling as a key point for why the board found Tago’s story implausible: that he would invite inebriated strangers into his home.

Tago said he invited the three, strangers in town for the night from nearby Moscow, to sleep on the floor because like himself, they had consumed alcohol and shouldn’t drive.  Given the Polynesian culture, it would not be out of the norm to offer a stranger or strangers a place on one's floor to crash because they didn’t want to see them drive drunk. Even though you don’t know the person.

Here's something else about the Polynesian culture: respects for elders is paramount. It's easy to imagine Tago's aim in front of the Conduct Board was to be as cooperative and amenable as possible. It was incumbent on the Conduct and Appeals Board to have some cultural awareness that the aim for Tago is to please people in authority.  Instead, they took it as license to effectively end his WSU career and paint him with a judgmental brush that will follow him the rest of his life.

And it's also important to note here that Tago's account differs significantly from what the conduct and appeals boards concluded. Tago said he was not the instigator. He said he was trying to break up the fight. He said he was confused by the questioning from the Pullman police about whether Tago threw punches at the complainant and if those punches connected. Tago said he helped the complainant to his feet and told the complainant multiple times he was trying to "save" him.  He said there were three others involved, all strangers he had just met and that none of them were Polynesian. The board said they did not believe him.

The board also said in its ruling the members were struck by the fact Tago didn’t answer its question about how far away from home he was at the time of the incident, but “simply repeated that you were on your way home.”

Why that point is offered as a key tenet to explain its heavy-handed decision is odd. But more importantly, English is Tago’s second language. Tago has only been in the United State since 2015. This too, was incumbent on the board to sort out. It's probably No. 532 on the list of things wrong with this long-broken process.

The board said it found the complainant’s story more persuasive than Tago's, though it doesn’t really say why.  The board specified they believed the complainant when he said there it was more like 5-6 people and “that a couple of them also seemed to be Samoan.”

A thought occurs:  I wonder if WSU regent Mike Worthy would care to reconsider his comments.

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