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Middlebury hazing case involving swim team: shrouded in secrecy–USA Today

Here is the story link. Details remain sketchy as to exact nature of offenses

Excerpt involving spokesperson Sarah Ray statement

In this case, a group of senior administrators made the determination not to involve police, Ray said. She said she did not know the basis for the decision, nor could she describe or categorize the type of hazing. Ray said she was unsure if the administrators involved were attorneys.

Addison County law enforcement officials were surprised to learn about the alleged hazing from the Burlington Free Press. Middlebury Sgt. Jason Covey and State Police Detective Sgt. Robert Patten of the New Haven barracks said there are no known hazing complaints involving Middlebury College.

Deputy State’s Attorney Chris Perkett said he was unaware of any report to the prosecutor’s office but noted it would normally come through police.

“I’d want to know more about the circumstances behind it,” Perkett said. “If it is criminalized by the statute, it would concern me. We’re here to protect the citizenry.”

Vermont‘s criminal laws for hazing stiffened after a serious incident led to the cancellation of the University of Vermont men’s hockey season midway through the 1999-2000 schedule. The initiation for freshman players included several cases of conduct that involved excessive drinking, nudity and lewd acts.

The first public reporting of the Middlebury hazing came from the student newspaper at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. It reported a shortage of Middlebury swimmers for a meet. The story later was covered by Middlebury College news media.

The college never issued a news release about the incident or subsequent investigation but had prepared a statement last month for anyone who inquired about the incident, Ray said.

“There was a hazing incident,” Ray said. “It wasn’t a secret.” She provided the statement to the Burlington Free Press when a reporter asked about the hazing allegations.

In the statement from Dean of the College Shirley Collado, the administration says it became aware of hazing allegations by the men’s and women’s swimming teams in early February. Internal investigations determined “violations did occur,” Collado said.

Collado’s statement said the hazing occurred Feb. 2. Both teams were unable to participate at the Middlebury Invitational Meet on Feb. 5. As of Feb. 7, the college’s Department of Public Safety had interviewed more than 30 students. The college agreed that only the freshmen on the women’s team would be allowed to compete for the remainder of the season.

In addition to teamwide investigations, the college was conducting an investigation into specific charges of hazing by individual members of both teams, the statement said.

Middlebury has a “zero tolerance policy for hazing and harassment, and takes all possible conduct violations very seriously,” the statement ended.

Ray was asked about Middlebury’s decision-making in not issuing a news release at the time the college took action against the swim teams last month.

“It is not cut and dry,” Ray said. “It depends, each time is different. It depends on the topic.”

Ray said she is unsure how many hazing complaints Middlebury has received in recent years. Middlebury’s all-male a cappella singing group “Stuck in the Middle” was suspended for hazing in April 2008.

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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