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Close call after rugby hazing lands RIT team a major red card

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HENRIETTA — Six RIT students hospitalized after a binge-drinking party last week were pressured into consuming “dangerously high levels” of alcohol to join the school’s rugby clubs, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office said.

Eight players on men’s and women’s rugby teams at Rochester Institute of Technology are facing misdemeanor charges after deputies found evidence that an off-campus party Friday was part of a rugby club ritual called “Rookie Day,” featuring drinking games for players, Lt. William Sanborn said Wednesday. “It was an initiation that involved consuming large quantities of alcohol,” he said.

The Sheriff’s Office filed first-degree charges of hazing and of unlawfully dealing with a child against: Jennifer P. Salavarrieta, 21, of Piscataway, N.J.; Marie E. Krysak, 21, of Endicott, Broome County; Lucas Sienk, 22, of Loden Lane, Henrietta; Kerry E. Gallagher, 20, of Stratham, N.H.; Katelyn M. Temple, 20, of South Winton Road, Henrietta; Lindsay L. Thompson, 22, of Mamaroneck, Westchester County; and Max Friel, 22, and Panagiotis L. Tzerefos, 20, both of Arnett Boulevard, Rochester.

The six victims — two men and four women — had blood-alcohol levels as high as five times the legal threshold for a charge of driving while intoxicated, according to RIT officials.

Sanborn said someone at the party called 911 when one of the players passed out and “turned blue.” The first deputies on the scene interviewed people in the apartment and found more victims in the basement, Sanborn said.

The deputies, Michael Bartholomay, Michael Wicks and Investigator Jerry Reger, likely saved some of those students’ lives, Sanborn said.

None of victims has been charged with a crime.

RIT has suspended both rugby teams and is conducting its own investigation of the incident. The university also is considering tighter oversight of its campus clubs.

“Obviously, RIT does not tolerate hazing,” said RIT spokesman Robert Finnerty.

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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