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Bowdoin tries to learn new smooth sailing lessons from old hazing traditions

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Investigation into hazing nearing end
Bowdoin officials say they will release a report of their findings by next week
November 16, 2007

By Joshua Miller
Orient Staff

The Office of the Dean of Student Affairs continues to look into alleged incidents of hazing that may have taken place at a squash team party in 2005 and a sailing team party in 2004.

“We’re still doing our investigation at this point,” Senior Associate Dean of Student Affairs Margaret Hazlett said.

Meanwhile, the Bowdoin Student Government (BSG), which oversees more than 100 organizations, including club sports, plans to discuss legislation that would set guidelines for appropriate behavior.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to provide an exact rubric for what is and isn’t hazing,” BSG President Dustin Brooks said, “but I think we could definitely affirm positive team practices…that make sense in a community like Bowdoin to actually bond a team together.”

“From there, we can [also] make some pretty good statements about what things aren’t okay,” Brooks said.

“We do have a responsibility to have a standard…of conduct,” he added.

The investigation by the College was prompted by an October story in the Portland Press Herald about photos of a Bowdoin Squash Team party that appeared on the internet. In the story, Dr. Susan Lipkins, cited by the paper as “a national expert on hazing,” said the photos depicted “mild hazing.”

Another set of photos from 2004 which depicted a sailing team party were obtained by NCAAhazing.com. The site posted three pictures from each party and wrote that “[some] wonder if Bowdoin has a hazing problem on its campus.”

Hazlett is co-chairing the investigation with Director of Athletics Jeff Ward. They hope to submit a report on the alleged incidents to Tim Foster, the dean of student affairs, by next week.

“Director Ward and I have been meeting with [team members] together and…asking them to walk through the incidents that night, at the parties—the ones that [photographs of] were put up on that Web site,” Hazlett said.

Squash and sailing team members are asked how they felt that night as well as their experiences with the team, according to Hazlett.

Although the squash party where “mild hazing” allegedly took place happened more than three years ago, Hazlett said students’ memories of the night were “pretty good.”

Photos of the squash party and sailing party in question appear to show students drinking. The potential blurring effect of alcohol on memory and the time elapsed—the sailing party occurred more than a thousand days ago—is not an issue, Hazlett said.

“It was a memorable party because of what took place,” Hazlett said.

“For the squash team women were asked to do some lap dances on male squash players and for the sailing team [students put] water bailers on their heads,” Hazlett explained.

Whether or not what transpired at the sailing party in 2004 was hazing is “still to be determined,” Hazlett said.

But for Stuart MacNeil ’08, a veteran member of the sailing team, what happen at the party in 2004 is crystal clear.

“No hazing occurred,” he said. Far from being a senior-initiated hazing ritual, MacNeil, a first-year student at the time, explained that the idea to put a bailer on his head was his own.

“I will take the credit for being the first person at the party to put a bailer on their head,” he said. “I will take full responsibility for being the person who decided to do that.”

“No one ever told me to do it and I never told anyone else to do it either. It just seemed to be a good idea at the time,” MacNeil added.

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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