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McGill University cancels football season

Published: 18 Oct 2005

Sanctions and educational steps announced to prevent hazing.

Sanctions and educational steps announced to prevent hazing

Following an investigation into a complaint about inappropriate behaviour during the football team's initiation activities, McGill University announced today that it is cancelling the remainder of the varsity football season, taking disciplinary action against individuals, strengthening its policies and procedures, and launching a series of educational and team-building initiatives.

"As a university," said Interim Provost Anthony Masi in a statement to the football team tonight, "we have the duty to provide our students with the best academic education in an environment that is safe and comfortable and that promotes the highest standards and values of human behaviour.

"Today, we have evidence that we have not lived up to the very highest standards that we at McGill set for ourselves."

An in-depth investigation of a complaint resulted in a report that was submitted to the Principal on Monday. The report concluded that the football team engaged in activities involving hazing, in clear violation of McGill's existing policies and the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures. Despite these policies, despite the fact that all athletes signed commitments that they would not engage in hazing, and despite warnings from the coach that inappropriate behaviour would not be tolerated, activities were planned and carried out in clear violation of the rules.

"Hazing is based on humiliation and degradation," said Dr. Masi. "It has no place at McGill. It will not be tolerated in any form. No excuses. No exceptions."

The investigation concluded that "serious hazing including threats and intimidation, by comments and actions and by the use of demeaning, stereotyped epithets" did occur during Rookie Night on August 27, 2005.

Dr. Masi added that contrary to some media reports, there is no evidence that anyone was sodomized. However, the investigation shows that the event did involve nudity, degrading positions and behaviours, gagging, touching in inappropriate manners with a broomstick, as well as verbal and physical intimidation of rookies by a large portion of the team.

The full investigation report will not be made public as it contains confidential information.

Dr. Masi also commended the complainant for his courage in refusing to be treated inappropriately by his peers. "We commend the courage of the young man who engaged in exemplary behaviour by coming forward with the complaint that led to the investigation," he said.

This experience will enable the University to become a better institution. "We will respond to the challenge we now face in ways that make McGill an even greater university, deeply respectful of individual dignity.

"Greater vigilance, a stronger emphasis and investment in positive team-building programs and activities, a greater awareness and responsibility on the part of our coaches, staff and the players themselves are critical to ensure that this never happens again. That is our clear goal," Dr. Masi said.

In addition to cancelling the rest of the playing season and sanctions, the University has begun to implement a series of measures to strengthen policies and monitoring of athletics programs, and to educate students and staff about their responsibilities in promoting mutual respect in all our activities.

As part of the education program, the football team is required to perform community service as a team. Under the zero tolerance policy, any team engaged in hazing will automatically be suspended for the playing season. Team activities, including those of the football team, will be closely monitored to ensure positive team-building activities and behaviours.

The comprehensive program announced by McGill University involves:

Sanctions:

  • The football program is cancelled for the rest of the playing season.
  • Disciplinary actions against individuals are being taken in accordance with University policies and regulations regarding students and staff. In order to respect due process and the rights and privacy of the individuals, the University will not comment on these actions.

The University is taking immediate action to strengthen policies and regulations:

  • Revisions are being made to the Student Athlete Code of Ethics to include a zero-tolerance policy for hazing applicable to all sports teams at McGill.
    1. The University will suspend for the playing season any team that engages in hazing.
    2. The University will revoke the athletic awards of any student who engages in hazing.
  • McGill Athletics will develop a mission statement to include references to the university’s core values such as sportsmanship, respect for individuals, and healthy team spirit.
  • Immediately, the Director of Athletics and the Dean of Students will convene a work group to specify ways in which the new Student Athlete Code of Ethics can be linked to the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures.
  • Action is underway to specifically identify hazing as a form of harassment, both in the Proposed Policy on Harassment and Discrimination and in the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedure.
  • The Senate Committee on Student Affairs will draft an appropriate policy on hazing for all student activities at the University or recommend revisions to current policies, with the goal of defining the responsibilities of student leaders, deans, directors and chairs.
  • The Director of Athletics will appoint an Associate Director (Athlete Affairs) to ensure closer support, supervision and monitoring of student athletes, and to oversee the implementation of positive team-building measures in all teams and all activities.

The University is taking the following steps to ensure that these policies are enforced and that each member of the community — students, faculty and staff — understands that they have a duty and responsibility to prevent hazing and inappropriate behaviour in all our activities:

  • This behaviour of the football team has stained the reputation of the McGill Redmen, McGill Athletics and the University. Positive actions will be taken to repair that damage. The football team, including staff, will be asked to perform community service for at least two years.
  • Communications to the McGill community about harassment will explicitly address the issue of hazing.
  • The Director of Athletics will immediately undertake to prepare anti-hazing educational plans for personnel in Athletics and for athletes on all sports teams.
  • The revised Student Athlete Code of Ethics will be well publicized in order to inform all personnel and athletes of the procedures to be followed by victims or witnesses of hazing.
  • All coaches will play a role in implementing anti-hazing policies, and will demonstrate the leadership necessary to ensure that the policies are fully endorsed by their staff and fully respected by their athletes, and to ensure that only appropriate team-building activities are used.
  • The Director of Athletics will ensure that issues in Athletics are dealt with in a way that duly reflects the Charter of Students' Rights and the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures.
  • The Director of Athletics will ensure that official publications and websites in Athletics reflect the values of the University and prominently feature the revised Student Athlete Code of Ethics.
  • Staff members throughout the University, particularly those who are likely to come into contact with any hazing activities that may take place in any arena when and where they might occur — e.g., staff in Security Services, Student Services and Residences — will be made aware of the signs of hazing and its dangers as well as of their responsibility to respond appropriately if they encounter students engaged in it.

"All of us — individuals, teams and the University — are assuming responsibility for this unfortunate incident, and I am confident that we will emerge as a stronger and more open community," Dr. Masi said.

Dr. Masi's full statement to the football players and the community:

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Statement regarding the investigation into a complaint about football team initiation activities

Sent on behalf of Anthony C. Masi, Interim Provost

McGill University is known as a leader in academic excellence and achievement. Our students come from all around the world, with a desire to expand their horizons through learning and living in an outstanding university environment.

As a university, we have the duty to provide our students with the best academic education in an environment that is free from harassment and comfortable and that promotes the highest standards and values of human behaviour.

Today, we have evidence that we have not lived up to the very highest standards that we at McGill set for ourselves.

An in-depth investigation of a complaint resulted in a report that was submitted to the Principal on Monday. The report concluded that the Redmen Football Team has engaged in activities involving hazing, in clear violation of McGill’s existing policies and the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures. Despite these policies, despite the fact that all athletes signed commitments that they would not engage in hazing and, despite warnings from the coach that inappropriate behaviour would not be tolerated, activities were planned and carried out in clear violation of the rules.

During training camp at the beginning of this season, football rookies were subjected to harassment in the form of threats and sporadic intimidation by team veterans. Some of the harassment purposefully foreshadowed the activities that had been planned for Rookie Night (August 27, 2005), to be held after the team dinner. Rookie Night involved over the course of an evening, serious hazing, including threats and intimidation, by comments and actions and by the use of demeaning, stereotyped epithets. Contrary to some media reports, there is no evidence that anyone was sodomized; however, our investigation shows that the event did involve nudity, degrading positions and behaviours, gagging and touching in inappropriate manners with a broomstick, as well as verbal and physical intimidation of rookies by a large portion of the team.

Hazing is based on the humiliation and disrespect of others. It has no place at McGill. It will not be tolerated in any form. No excuses. No exceptions.

The hazing was organized as a team activity by veteran players and a large majority of team members participated. Consequently, the team as a whole is being held responsible, regardless of varying degrees of blame that may be attributed at the individual level. Separate disciplinary actions are underway to deal with individuals in accordance with University policies and regulations regarding students and staff. These actions are confidential, according to McGill’s policies and procedures.

The team and the program will be held responsible, and we will do everything in our power to ensure that similar events never happen again at McGill.

Hazing is a secretive activity. Even with clear anti-hazing policies and guidelines, repeated written and verbal warnings and formal individual commitments from students not to be involved, this incident shows that hazing can occur anywhere. It occurred at McGill. Greater vigilance, a stronger emphasis and investment in positive team-building programs and activities, a greater awareness and responsibility on the part of our coaches, staff and the players themselves are critical to ensure that this never happens again. That is our clear goal.

We commend the courage of the young man who engaged in exemplary behaviour by coming forward with the complaint that led to the investigation of the incident.

We will respond to the challenge we now face in ways that make McGill an even greater university, deeply respectful of individual dignity.

McGill is announcing the following sanctions:

1. The football program is cancelled for the rest of the playing season.

2. Disciplinary actions against individuals are being taken in accordance with University policies and regulations regarding students and staff. In order to respect due process and the rights and privacy of the individuals, the University will not comment on these actions.

The University is taking immediate actions to strengthen policies and regulations:

3. Revisions are being made to the Student Athlete Code of Ethics to include a zero-tolerance policy for hazing applicable to all sports teams at McGill and to reinforce values such as sportsmanship, respect for individuals, and healthy team spirit as the basis for positive team-building activities.

The University will:
• Suspend for the playing season any team that engages in hazing.
• Revoke the athletic awards of any student who engages in hazing.

4. Action is underway to specifically identify hazing as a form of harassment, both in the Proposed Policy on Harassment and Discrimination and in the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedure.

5. McGill Athletics will develop a mission statement to include references to our core values such as sportsmanship, respect for individuals, and healthy team spirit.

6. Immediately, the Director of Athletics and the Dean of Students will convene a work group to specify ways in which the new Student Athlete Code of Ethics can be linked to the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures.

7. The Senate Committee on Student Affairs is now asked to draft an appropriate policy on hazing for all student activities at the University including orientations for academic and other non-athletic activities and programs, or recommend revisions to current policies, with the goal of defining the responsibilities of student leaders, deans, directors, and chairs, as well as academic and non-academic members of staff for ensuring that hazing does not occur at McGill and that all students are welcomed into groups by means of positive team-building activities that respect the dignity of individuals, including their right to participate voluntarily without any pressure.

8. The Director of Athletics will appoint an Associate Director (Athlete Affairs) to ensure closer support, supervision and monitoring of student athletes, and to oversee the implementation of positive team-building measures in all teams and all activities.

The University is taking the following steps to ensure that these policies are enforced and that each member of the community – students, faculty and staff – understands that they have a duty and responsibility to prevent hazing and inappropriate behaviour in all our activities:

9. This behaviour of the football team has stained the reputation of the McGill Redmen, McGill Athletics, and the University. Positive actions will be taken to repair that damage. The football team, including staff, will be asked to perform community service for at least two years.

10. Communications to the McGill community about harassment will explicitly address the issue of hazing.

11. The Director of Athletics will immediately undertake to prepare anti-hazing educational plans, to be approved by the Provost, for personnel in Athletics and for athletes on all sports teams, to be delivered as soon as possible. Members of the Department of Athletics will be made aware of the signs of hazing and must understand its dangers. It will be their responsibility to play an active part in ensuring that the environment in Athletics is indeed free of domination, intimidation, and other forms of hazing.

12. The revised Student Athlete Code of Ethics will be well publicized in accordance with a communication plan, to be prepared by the Director of Athletics with the approval of the Provost, to inform all personnel and athletes of the procedures to be followed by victims or witnesses of hazing. The plan will spell out actions to be taken to assist victims of hazing or of other violations of the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures and to bring perpetrators of hazing and individuals who fail to report it to the attention of the appropriate University authorities.

13. All coaches will play a role in implementing anti-hazing policies, and will demonstrate the leadership necessary to ensure that the policies are fully endorsed by their staff and fully respected by their athletes, and to ensure that only appropriate team-building activities are used.

14. The Director of Athletics will ensure that issues in Athletics are dealt with in a way that duly reflects the Charter of Students’ Rights and the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures, as well as to the revised Student Athlete Code of Ethics.

15. The Director of Athletics will ensure that official publications and web sites in Athletics reflect the values of the University and prominently feature the revised Student Athlete Code of Ethics.

16. Staff members throughout the University, particularly those who are likely to come into contact with any hazing activities that may take place in any arena when and where they might occur—e.g., staff in Security Services, Student Services, and Residences—will be made aware of the signs of hazing and its dangers as well as of their responsibility to respond appropriately if they encounter students engaged in it.

Professor Anthony C. Masi, Interim Provost

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