News, University News

University investigates men’s swim, dive team for hazing

New team members vandalize U. property, vomit after drinking, strip to just swimsuits

By and
University News Editor and Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The University launched an investigation into alleged hazing of new members on the men’s swimming and diving team Nov. 29, according to Director of News and Editorial Development Brian Clark. Hazing is a violation of University policy and Rhode Island state law, Clark wrote in an email to The Herald.

The University launched its investigation after The Herald requested comments regarding alleged events from Deputy Director of Athletics Colin Sullivan, Senior Associate Director of Athletics Carolan Norris and Clark. The Herald learned that, on the night of Oct. 7, new members vandalized University property, were instructed to perform a skit and vomited after excessive drinking, among other activities.

The University has also launched a preliminary investigation into “unrelated conduct” regarding possible underage drinking that took place among members of the women’s swimming and diving team Oct. 7, wrote Clark in a separate email to The Herald.

“The University is not currently investigating the women’s swimming and diving team in relation to the allegations involving the men’s team,” and the investigation “at this time is distinct from investigation into the alleged hazing incident involving the men’s team,” Clark wrote.

In an email sent by captains of the women’s team to its members reviewed by The Herald and provided by a member of the women’s team who wished to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation, team members were told, “The University is looking into women’s team events that took place on Oct. 7 that may have violated the University student code of conduct.” The email continued, “If you do talk with an administrator, please be truthful, open and honest up front.” The Herald reached out to the coaches and captains of the women’s team, but they did not comment before press time.

Regarding the men’s team investigation, on Nov. 29, The Herald detailed its reporting on this incident to the athletics department and the Office of University Communications. The athletics department immediately informed the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards of the hazing allegation, which “notified members of the team that it had launched an investigation into the allegations” that day, Clark wrote.

The Herald reviewed screenshots and pictures of conversations regarding the night of events, provided to The Herald by a new member of the men’s team who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation from his teammates. The Herald also reviewed audio recordings of multiple men’s team meetings following the night of events, which were also provided by the new team member.

The coaches of the team did not reply to multiple email requests for comment, which detailed the alleged incidents. The captains, who were provided with the same information, set up multiple meetings with The Herald but failed to appear and have denied multiple requests to comment.

In a screenshot of a text conversation that took place Oct. 7 between new members of the team, one new member stated: “they’re ignoring us if you haven’t picked up on it.” A second member replied, “I still don’t know why tho.” The first responded, “I told u dude … initiation.” A third member then added, “U mean hazing.”

A screenshot of a team-wide GroupMe conversation reviewed by The Herald included a photo of seven individuals stripped down to their bathing suits or underwear standing in front of the Van Wickle Gates. The first new team member confirmed that the picture is of new members of the team.

Another image reviewed by The Herald provided by the new team member shows two people atop the Marcus Aurelius statue on the Ruth J. Simmons Quadrangle holding glass bottles. The anonymous new member identified this as a picture of team members in the process of smashing bottles of Smirnoff Ice against the statue. In a recording of a team meeting Nov. 14 that was provided by the new team member, one team captain referenced “the tradition of smashing the ‘Ices’ against the statues.”

Another photo reviewed by The Herald provided by the new team member shows a man’s bare back with a drawing of a penis and the word “Oedipus,” as an onlooker points and laughs. This source identified the person with the drawing on his back as a new member of the team and the onlooker as a returning member of the team. According to the new team member, new members of the team were assigned nicknames by upperclassmen, which were then drawn on their backs. In recordings of the team meetings reviewed by The Herald, the existence of assigned nicknames was discussed.

On the afternoon of Oct. 7, an email with a Google Doc titled “Freshman Activity Skit Script” was circulated among new members of the team, according to a copy of the email provided by the new team member reviewed by The Herald. New members performed the skit that night in an off-campus house, in which they impersonated various upperclassmen on the team, the new team member said. According to the National Collegiate Athletics Association website, NCAA hazing prevention guidelines categorizes “stunt or skit nights, with degrading, crude or humiliating acts” as “harassment hazing” — “behaviors that cause emotional anguish or physical discomfort required of those new team members.”

The new team member and other various sources detailed other events of the night.

New members of the team were collected from their rooms by upperclassmen, said the new team member and a second new member of the team.

The first new team member was given a mixture of Tabasco sauce and vodka in a water bottle to drink, he said. Two students who are floormates of the new team member said that they saw a red mixture in a water bottle on the floor of the source’s bedroom. Other members of the team were also given bottles of Tabasco sauce and vodka to drink, according to the audio recordings provided by the new team member.

That night, multiple new members of the team threw up after consumption of alcohol, according to the new team member and the audio recordings. The new team member said he saw someone call Emergency Medical Services for another new member, though he did not witness what followed after. At a party on the night of Oct. 7, members of the women’s swimming and diving team were told by members of the men’s team that a new member of the men’s team had been EMS’d, said a member of the women’s team, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. Police officers accompanied “multiple medical transports” between the night of Oct. 7 and early morning Oct. 8, wrote Deputy Chief of Police Paul Shanley in an email to The Herald, though he could not say whether they were associated with members of the swim team. Additionally, in the recordings provided to The Herald by the new team member, the team captain named two different first-year members who vomited that night. In a screenshot of a GroupMe text sent that night, a returning member wrote that one new member “is puking at faunce right now.”

University policy and Rhode Island law prohibit hazing, which includes “initiation into any student organization, whether on public or private property, which willfully or recklessly endangers the physical or mental health of any student or other person,” according to the 2017-18 Student Athlete Handbook.

The handbook defines several activities as hazing, including “forced consumption of food or liquids, including but not limited to alcohol,” “forced conduct … designed to produce embarrassment” and “destruction or removal of public or private property.” The handbook states that team members should “not assume that … informing the individual they are not required to participate mitigates the activity and culpability of the perpetrator.”

“Every student athlete must review Brown’s hazing policy and attest in writing that they understand and commit to adhering to the policy,” Clark wrote in his email.

In addition to the mandatory review of University hazing policy, student athletes must attend NCAA compliance meetings and meet with athletics department administrators “to discuss policies, including hazing, and their roles as team leaders,” Clark wrote.

“The University wants to make it clear unequivocally that students found responsible for code violations are subject to sanctions,” Clark wrote. “Should any student(s) be found responsible, the University will ensure that responsible parties are held accountable, whether through individual and/or collective disciplinary action.”

According to its website, the NCAA defines hazing as “an expectation, whether implicit or explicit, that to be accepted or part of the group, student-athletes must participate in the activity. An expectation can subtly coerce athletes to do things they would not normally do.”

Multiple first-year swim team members denied participating in initiation rituals or hazing in email responses to The Herald’s request for comment sent Oct. 27.

“I have never felt uncomfortable or forced into a situation against my will. This team, or rather, this family, has made my transition into college as a freshmen exponentially easier. The term ‘initiation’ doesn’t have any meaning to me whatsoever,” one first-year member wrote in an email to The Herald.

According to the anonymous new member and a recording of a team meeting Oct. 27 that he provided, a captain instructed the first-year members of the team to deny allegations in their email responses. As captured by the new team member’s recording of the meeting, the captain said that they should include the following “themes” in their responses to inquiries about hazing: “I’ve never been hazed, I’ve never seen hazing on this team. … I don’t think any of my teammates have ever been hazed or seen hazing either.”

In recordings of team meetings reviewed by The Herald provided by the new team member, captains instructed the team what to say to the University if investigated.

On Nov. 14, one captain said on a recording of a team meeting, “There’s things that are out there that could be damaging, it’s just about how we spin it right now.” On Nov. 27, the same team captain instructed the team to say, “We have not had any meetings to talk about this story about that night since we found out about the investigation.”

The University Student Code of Conduct prohibits discouragement of individuals from reporting policy violations.

If you have more information on hazing on sports teams at Brown, send tips to herald@browndailyherald.com.