Former Drury University swimmer Evan Petrich came forward last week with allegations that a team hazing ritual performed on him during his freshman season left him unable to continue his swimming career. Petrich says hazing that included being locked in a basement wearing nothing but a diaper, being forced to drink a glass of water that included a live goldfish and violent “chest rubs” ultimately left him with Conversion Disorder, PTSD and chest pains that ended his swimming career.
Petrich detailed his story in a Facebook post last week, recounting an “initiation week” hazing ritual carried out on freshmen swimmers by upperclassmen. Petrich says the events of the week started out “simple and nothing major,” but that “as the week wore on the events we had to do became weirder and more damaging all leading up to a final night that Saturday.”
Petrich, who was a freshman at Drury in the fall of 2015, writes this about the alleged hazing activities:
I do not know if I can ever forget the events and activities that I was forced to participate in. Having dodgeballs thrown at my exposed bottom, or being terrified in a cold, dark basement corner surrounded by my drunk classmates who had covered the floor with throw up and urine while punching holes in the wall and ceiling. All I had to protect me was the diaper and shoes that the upper classmen were gracious enough to allow us to keep on. This event is in past. The violent chest rub, the swallowing of a live goldfish while we wore hoods is all in the past. There is nothing that I can do about that horrific event that ended my swimming career.
Six months later, he says, doctors diagnosed him with Conversion Disorder, which is a “psychological disorder in which a person shows psychological distress in physical ways,” according to a KY3 report. In Petrich’s case, the physical symptoms are chest pains so severe he couldn’t continue swimming. Petrich also says he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and recommended to increase his use of anti-depressants and talk to a psychologist.
After the diagnosis (about six months after the initiation week), Petrich says he went forward with his experience, reporting his hazing allegations to head coach Brian Reynolds. Petrich says Reynolds told him not to let it bother him, and Petrich also says Reynolds “failed his duty as a mandatory reporter.” Petrich says he didn’t trust Reynolds to address the situation and went to the dean of students the next day.
Ultimately, Drury suspended six swimmers for three meet each, fined each $300 and assigned them 20 hours each of community service. The school also says five non-swim team members were also punished in connection with the school’s investigation. It’s not known whether any punishments were handed down to the coaching staff, though Athletic Director Mark Fisher said he didn’t believe the swim team coaches knew about the hazing.
“I believe, if our coaches knew what was going on, they’d put a stop to it,” Fisher said in the KY3 coverage. “Our coaches are leaders, so they have an important role. They have to make sure all students within our programs are held to a higher standard. So they’re at the forefront to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Petrich says he was “heartbroken” that the punishment was “the bare minimum that the school would be required to do.” He also took issue with Fisher and Dean of Students Tijuana Julian recommending he transfer to another school if it would help his healing and allow him to continue his swimming career. Petrich called the recommendation “insulting” and characterized it as a protection for the University in getting him “out of their hair.” Fisher and Julian say that was not their intent.
“It’s important to know that, when we deal with students in a variety of issues that are struggling, part of our role is to offer options and brainstorm,” Julian said. “It was very apparent Evan loves swimming and wasn’t comfortable swimming at Drury. This was one of several options we talked about . . . for him.”
We’ve reached out to Drury head coach Brian Reynolds for comment, but have not received a response as of publication. We’ll update if Reynolds provides a comment.
This is the second hazing allegation in the last 8 years leveled at Drury. In 2009, hazing punishments blocked the team from making its annual training trip in Hawaii.