By Josh Zywienemail@example.com
Thu Aug 23, 2007, 11:47 AM EDT
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Amesbury, Mass. –
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It may be an unjust rule, but itâ€™s one the NCAA and the University of Maine appear ready to stand by.
Former Amesbury High School superstar Ashley Waters, who has played on scholarship for the Black Bears softball team the last two springs, will be suspended for two games next season and stripped of her captaincy after the school and the NCAA discovered pictures of Waters and teammates being hazed in 2006.
Yes, thatâ€™s being hazed, not doing the hazing.
But now Waters and teammates Courtney Gingrich and Jenna Balent will pay the price. Balent and Waters will serve two game suspensions while Gingrich will be suspended for 10 games.
â€œThese are severe penalties which are appropriate given the serious nature of the offenses,â€ said Blake James, UMaine’s athletic director, in a statement on the schoolâ€™s Web site. â€œHazing runs contrary to everything we stand for as a university and as an athletic department. It breaks down the foundations that support our teams, and it places individuals in difficult, sometimes dangerous situations. The message here is clear: we will not tolerate this kind of behavior.â€
But Waters, who sent a letter to the Amesbury News this week, doesnâ€™t believe the punishment fits the crime, if one was committed at all.
She may have a point. After all, as part of a 2006 â€œrookie party,â€ she was the one being hazed.
â€œI felt obligated by tradition to be there and bonding and unity of the team seemed important at the time,â€ Waters wrote in her letter. â€œI am now considered guilty of hazing because I did not leave the party or tell someone of authority about it. I would or could never have done that. I keep asking myself, if a crime was committed against me, am I guilty of that crime if I do not report it?â€
Apparently so, according to the NCAAâ€™s hazing guidelines.
The governing body of college athletics and the University of Maine consider students compliant if they keep mum on acts considered to be hazing.
According to reports, Waters and her freshman teammates were forced to dress up in skimpy outfits, smear makeup on their faces, and drink alcohol, despite being underage. The photos, discovered by hazing watchdog ncaahazing.com, confirm those allegations. The Web site found the photos after one of the players posted them on the Internet.
The site then forwarded the photos to the school and the Bangor Daily News. After the newspaper published a story on July 21, the school launched a two-prong investigation, enlisting the advice of UMaine professor. Elizabeth Allan, a nationally recognized academic expert on hazing, the press release said.
The schoolâ€™s investigation revealed that similar parties had occurred prior to the 2004, 2005, and 2007 seasons.
â€œI have never denied I had a few beers and acted â€˜crazy,â€™â€ Waters wrote. â€œThe party never crossed my mind again until this past July when I received a call that photos had been discovered on a website. At that time I was told that I was guilty of one thing, underage drinking! From that time until now the accusations have dramatically changed.â€
Waters worries what this will do to her reputation, and rightly so. A Deanâ€™s List student with a 3.7 GPA through her first two years of college, Waters has been a model student-athlete.
â€œMy reputation has been â€œripped apart,â€ a reputation I have long been proud of as an athlete as well as a person,â€ she wrote.
Still, as Waters and the other students have tried to defend themselves, the University of Maine hasnâ€™t budged.
The entire softball team will be suspended for one week at the start of the 2008 season and will remain on probation until May 31, 2010. The team will also participate in 20 hours of community service and will undergo a mandatory anti-hazing and alcohol education program.
The school said in its release that Balent, Gingrich, and Waters also violated the general student conduct code, but because of privacy laws the school couldnâ€™t disclose the penalties for those violations.
â€œWe have high expectations with regard to student behavior at the University of Maine,â€ UMaine Dean of Students Robert Dana said. â€œThis is a serious academic community where people must conduct themselves in ways that demonstrate both self-respect and an appreciation of the ways in which our actions affect those around us. Hazing is one of those behaviors that will not be tolerated under any circumstances.â€
Waters is simply left to pick up the pieces.
â€œAlthough I am forever changed, I will move forward,â€ she said. â€œHopefully I will remain on the Deanâ€™s List, maintain my 3.7 GPA and follow my dreams.â€