Women’s swim and dive move forward following violation

by Cody Fujii and Evan Morgan | 8/18/17 2:25am

The women’s swim and dive team looks to move forward after receiving probation following a violation of the College’s hazing policy on July 17. The charge concerned a team tradition in which freshmen created and presented a PowerPoint about intimate relationships between members of the men’s and women’s teams.

After a series of interviews conducted by Safety and Security and the Department of Athletics, the team admitted to having members of the Class of 2020 “create and present a sexualized PowerPoint presentation” on the team’s winter break training trip this past December, according to a press release from the College. The team will be required to serve one year of college probation and participate in education and development programs. Additional athletic department sanctions have cancelled the usual winter training trip and prohibited the team from participating in three meets during the fall.

One member of the 2016-17 women’s swimming and diving team agreed to comment on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the topic.

According to the team member, the PowerPoint consisted of personal information about members of the women’s team.

The creation and presentation of the PowerPoint during the winter training trip was part of the women’s team tradition, the team member said. The PowerPoint was expected to be kept secret. Before the training trip, the team member said, word of the PowerPoint generally circulated from upperclassmen team members to freshmen team members via rumor and word of mouth.

Though freshmen were expected to present the PowerPoint, the subject of the presentation was the whole team, according the team member.

“It was more of a funny thing than a punishment or initiation,” the team member said. “Objectively it wasn’t a great tradition — we got charged with hazing, so obviously it wasn’t a wonderful thing.”

The team was informed that it was under investigation for hazing at the beginning of the spring term, according to the team member. Safety and Security and senior athletics staff conducted interviews with team members during the following weeks. Shortly after the investigation concluded, the team was informed that they had been charged with hazing and learned of the College’s punishment several weeks later.

Athletic director Harry Sheehy said that following the College’s investigation, the athletics department had the option to add additional sanctions to the probation handed down by the Organizational Adjudication Committee. They opted to suspend the fall portion of the upcoming season and to cancel the customary training trip.

“We discussed it as a senior leadership team, we talked with [head coach Jamie] Holder about it, and we arrived at a place that we thought was appropriate [and] that was not overly burdensome relative to what they did, but certainly was not an under-reaction,” Sheehy said. “We trust that this will be enough to send a message.”

Once the College handed down the results of its investigation, the team admitted that they had violated College hazing policy, Sheehy said. The case was not pursued as a criminal investigation under New Hampshire state law.

“The women’s swimmers were very thoughtful and came back to say, ‘yeah, we see what you’re saying,’” Sheehy said. “They didn’t fight it.”

According to the team member, the team was surprised about the severity of the sanctions, as some athletes did not expect to lose the privilege of participating in meets.

“It’s stupid that we get a similar punishment to the Princeton men’s team, for example,” the team member said.

The Big Green is not the only Ivy League team to be sanctioned for its conduct during the 2016-2017 season. In December, the Princeton University men’s swimming and diving team was suspended for the remainder of the season after revelations of “misogynistic and racist” messages on the team’s listserv. Columbia University’s wrestling team and Harvard University men’s soccer and men’s cross country teams were also sanctioned by their schools for lewd conduct within the last year.

“As far as the sanctions go, while it’s a difficult punishment, I agree that it’s a fair one,” Holder said. “I think for us it sends a very clear message that the university doesn’t tolerate behavior like this. I fully support it.”

Holder added that he has not been able to meet with the entire team after sanctions were released earlier this summer. As for moving on to next season, Holder mentioned recruiting a great class and becoming a competitive team as two main goals.

Sheehy said that the athletic department would continue to investigate any hazing incidents that come to its attention, though he acknowledged that there are many different interpretations of a hazing violation. In addition to activities that cause physical harm, Sheehy mentioned actions “where someone normally wouldn’t do [said action] but they’re doing it because of the pressure to do it” as potential hazing, since they can foster a “bad dynamic” and negative team culture.

“When I was a basketball coach, we used to have the freshmen sing their high school fight song on the way back from a road trip,” Sheehy said. “Now, there are some places that would define that as hazing. That’s how stark the contrast is [in interpreting hazing] … I actually think that [if] we hand out papers to ten people around a table to define hazing, we might get 10 different answers. But we all know it when we see it, and I think that’s the key — [a] slight smell test.”

Though the athletic department followed through with what it deemed to be the appropriate reaction, Sheehy added that the women’s swimmers were “very thoughtful” throughout the investigation.

“I had a conversation with the captains [earlier in the summer] and just said to them, ‘You know what, you get back on campus, come see me, let me help you start to build the kind of culture you want,’” Sheehy said. “Because I think they’re diligent people and they’ll help us to build [the program’s culture] in a better way.”

The women’s swim and dive team will return to the pool on December 1 to begin the 2017-18 season.