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The UNC men’s rugby team is suspended indefinitely from participating in team-related events because members have been accused of violating University policies.

The allegations are threefold: unlawful acts of hazing, club actions that violate the University’s alcohol policy and misrepresentation of the University and club locally and abroad.

Some members of the team declined to comment, but President Rufaro Sikipa gave an official response.

“There’s absolutely no hazing with initiation into or continued membership of UNC rugby,” he said, adding that the team does not condone underage drinking either.

The team is suspended from practicing, playing games and using University facilities under the team name.

Winston Crisp, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, and Jason Halsey, director of sports clubs, met Tuesday with the team of about 50 players to discuss the allegations and the suspension.

“We went in pretty blind,” Sikipa said, adding that team members had received an e-mail Monday informing them only of a mandatory meeting with their coaches and the Division of Student Affairs.

The team is suspended until administrators come to a conclusion based on their findings of an investigation now under way. Team officers will be interviewed, followed by the players, during the next two weeks.

“We do plan to investigate it fully,” Halsey said. “We’ll be trying to gather information to either confirm or refute the allegations that we’ve received.”

The rugby team is a member of UNC’s Sport Clubs Council. The team has placed well in several high-profile tournaments, including a third-place finish in 2006 at the USA Rugby South tournament.

Last year Sigma Chi fraternity was found guilty on hazing charges. The fraternity was put on probation until December, after appealing an original decision to be suspended until 2009.

Other than that incident, Margaret Jablonski, vice chancellor for student affairs, said there have been no other incidents similar to the rugby team’s in the past three years.

She said the team could face further suspension if members are found guilty of the allegations.

Senior Jose Estrada said that while the hazing charges are disheartening, team members are more concerned with making it to the field.

“As a team, we were just incredibly upset with what we’d been told, especially the indefinite suspension,” Estrada said. “We just want to play rugby.”

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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