Brown University is launching an investigation into hazing allegations regarding the school’s men’s swimming & diving team, the campus newspaper reports.
The investigation began on Nov 29, according to the Brown Daily Herald. The allegations focus on the night of October 7, an evening in which the newspaper reports new team members “vandalized University property, were instructed to perform a skit and vomited after excessive drinking.”
A new member of the team passed along screenshots of conversations to the Herald, requesting anonymity out of fear of retaliation from teammates. The newspaper reports that it saw a photo of “seven individuals stripped down to their bathing suits or underwear standing in front of the Van Wickle Gates,” as well as a photo of two people smashing bottles of Smirnoff Ice against a campus statue of Marcus Aurelius.
The newspaper also says it was provided an audio recording of a Nov 14 team meeting in which a team captain talked about a team tradition of “smashing the ‘Ices’ against the statues.”
The Herald report goes on to reference a photo of a new team member with the word “Oedipus” and a drawing of a penis on his bare back and a script for a skit performed by the freshmen at an off-campus house for upperclassmen. The NCAA does officially categorize “stunt or skit nights, with degrading, crude or humiliating acts” as hazing.
The Herald reports that on Nov. 29, upperclassmen collected new team members from their rooms and gave them bottles of Tabasco sauce and vodka to drink. Audio recordings referenced two new team members who vomited due to drinking that night, and a member of the women’s team said she was told by the men’s team that Emergency Medical Services had been called for one male team member who had drunk too much.
Worse still, the recording of a team meeting provided to the Herald features a team captain telling new team members to categorically deny any hazing allegations. “There’s things that are out there that could be damaging, it’s just about how we spin it right now,” the captain said, according to the Herald.
The school paper also reports that the Brown women’s team is under investigation for events that took place on the same night – October 7 – though the school says that investigation is into “unrelated conduct,” and the paper says that investigation regards “possible underage drinking.”
We reached out to Brown for comment and were directed to the school’s official statement, posted at the bottom of this report.
The Herald reports that it has reached out to the swimming & diving coaching staff with no reply, and that the men’s team captains “set up multiple meetings with The Herald but failed to appear and have denied multiple requests to comment.”
This is the third potentially team-wide disciplinary incident to crop up within the Ivy League in the past year or so. Princeton suspended its entire men’s swimming & diving team for all of last season after offensive content was found in a team listserv. Dartmouth cancelled three meets, the team’s winter training trip and put the women’s swim team on probation over the summer over a “sexualized PowerPoint” that first-year team members were told to create.
Outside of the Ivy League, hazing has caused myriad problems for a number of swim and dive programs. Five former Virginia swimmers were subject to a lawsuit in 2014 for alleged hazing, Drury’s head coach was forced to step back from his coaching role in early 2017, and Western Kentucky suspended its entire men’s and women’s programs for five years beginning in 2015.
Here is Brown’s official statement on the investigation:
On Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, Brown University’s Department of Athletics learned through a news media inquiry of an alleged hazing incident involving the men’s varsity swimming and diving team. At that time, few details were shared with Athletics regarding the circumstances that prompted the media inquiry, and no student had expressed concerns directly to the University. However, Brown considers any allegation of hazing with the utmost seriousness, and Athletics immediately shared information with Brown’s Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards. The two departments began conversations to gather information and on Nov. 29, the conduct office notified members of the team that it had launched an investigation into the allegations.
Since then, additional information regarding the alleged incident has emerged, both through the student conduct office investigation and through new details shared on Nov. 29 by the news media organization, which brought forward additional allegations from its unnamed sources. While it remains the case that no student has expressed concerns directly to Brown to date, the University remains deeply troubled by the allegations and continues to actively investigate. Any activity proven to constitute hazing is a violation of both Brown’s Code of Student Conduct and Rhode Island state law.
(The University is not currently investigating the women’s swimming and diving team in relation to the allegations involving the men’s team. While Student Conduct has started a preliminary investigation of unrelated conduct on the women’s team, that effort is focused on possible underage alcohol violations and at this time is distinct from investigation into the alleged hazing incident involving the men’s team.)
Brown’s policies regarding matters of student conduct and discipline protect the privacy of students records, and federal law limits when details related to student conduct investigations may be disclosed. However, the University wants to make it clear unequivocally that students found responsible for code violations are subject to sanctions. 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. The Code of Student Conduct website outlines the various sanctionsfor violations of the conduct code. In addition, Brown student athletes always are subject to conduct policies for athletes, as well as sanctions relating to any violations of Ivy League or NCAA regulations.
The University educates all students regarding the policy on hazing through its Code of Student Conduct. In particular, as a requirement for athletic participation, every student athlete must review Brown’s hazing policy and attest in writing that they understand and commit to adhering to the policy. Separately, all student athletes must attend an NCAA compliance meeting with their team. And Athletics administrators meet with team leaders to discuss policies, including hazing, and their roles as team leaders. Other training programs include discussions on responsible use of social media and the dangers of hazing.
Early this fall, in response to national attention to issues of hazing, a working group of Brown administrators began work on a proactive review and discussion of Brown’s resources and practices related to hazing. These efforts continue.