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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Frontline: Coach Halsell has to go

Parents send their children off to college with peace of mind, believing the safety of students will be the university’s top priority. When their safety is jeopardized, it’s expected that the school will hold people accountable and that steps are taken to redress the situation.

Former volunteer track and field coach Tanner Boyd was arrested for breaking into Highland Hall dorm rooms and wearing the clothing of a female resident on Nov. 12, 2016. Following his arrest, he was terminated from his position. He had to face the consequences.

However, Western only fired a single guilty person, while two people should be held responsible.

More could have been done to prevent the break-in. Three days prior to the incident, Boyd pled guilty to felony charges of attempted residential burglary — similar in situation to the November event. In 2014, he was arrested wearing female clothing after breaking into apartments off 32nd Street and Adams Avenue.

Western’s head track and field coach Kelvin “Pee Wee” Halsell and assistant coach Bill Roe were aware of Boyd’s first arrest. As the longest tenured head coach in Western’s history, responsibility fell on the shoulders of Halsell to notify the university, but he didn’t.

He allowed a felon to keep his job on campus. He endangered the safety of students. Where are the consequences for Halsell?

Illustration by Shannon DeLurio

The university claimed to have disciplined Halsell, but haven’t gone into detail about what that entails. No other form of discipline besides termination is suitable. Halsell’s poor judgment put
students at risk.

Halsell wrote a letter attesting to Boyd’s character for his trial after the first incident in 2014. He believed Boyd’s actions from that night shouldn’t define who he is.

“The person I know is a good, caring person [and] didn’t show any signs of anything,” Halsell said.

From Halsell’s point of view, this was what he truly believed. But he didn’t have the right to withhold vital information from the university. That wasn’t his call to make.

Halsell justified his actions by informing the team of Boyd’s arrest, and he didn’t hear any objections to Boyd’s return as volunteer coach. But did the team members truly feel they were in a position to object? Did they know the extent of the situation?

As head coach, Halsell shouldn’t have put the team in a situation where they might feel uncomfortable challenging his authority and the opinions of their peers.

Boyd was a returning coach, which means he had already built relationships with team members. Those close to Boyd didn’t have the ability to stay impartial about his arrest and how it would affect the rest of the student body.

Halsell made a bad call, and now the university is left in charge of damage control.

The victim of Boyd’s Highland Hall break-in said the Western Alert sent out the night of Nov. 12 didn’t fully capture the nature of the situation. There was no mention of Boyd’s connection to the track team.

Western Alerts are written by the Office of University Communications and Marketing, in collaboration with the University Police. The language used in alerts is chosen purposefully. Western was trying to keep the controversy quiet.

It’s time to rectify this mistake. The first step is to fire the man who could’ve done more to ensure the safety of students. Halsell needs to be held accountable.

Western shouldn’t protect the man who didn’t care enough to protect the student body.

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