Bowdoin College men’s tennis team sanctioned for hazing, forfeits 4 matches

Posted April 04, 2013, at 3:05 p.m.
Last modified April 04, 2013, at 5:56 p.m.

BRUNSWICK — Two years after the Bowdoin College men’s hockey team vacated its first-ever conference title after the discovery of hazing at an initiation, the men’s tennis team will forfeit games and be ineligible for postseason competition following its own hazing incident.

A letter sent Wednesday from Dean of Students Tim Foster and Athletic Director Tim Ryan to students, faculty and staff states that, as a result of the hazing, the team will forfeit four of its eight remaining matches against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Williams, Colby and Middlebury colleges, and be ineligible for team and individual post-season competition.

Individual and team sanctions also will be forthcoming, according to the letter. Doug Cook, director of news and media relations at Bowdoin, declined Thursday to say what any of the sanctions would be or when they would occur.

Cook also declined to answer questions about what specific actions constituted the hazing, how many students were involved or where and when they took place.

Neither Foster nor Bowdoin College President Barry Mills was made available to answer additional questions by the Bangor Daily News on Thursday. A call to men’s tennis coach Conor Smith was not immediately returned Thursday.

According to the letter, the administration was alerted to the hazing involving the men’s tennis team last week by “a concerned student unaffiliated with the team.”

The letter continues, “Following a careful investigation that included interviews with and the cooperation of team members, we have established that the team engaged in activities that clearly violate the Bowdoin Social Code as well as our very well-articulated and frequently explained policy that prohibits hazing.”

Foster wrote that “none of the actions taken by team members placed any individual in physical danger.”

The hazing, he wrote, “follows by a matter of days an explicit discussion and warning about hazing initiated by Coach Smith that involved the entire men’s tennis team, the second such discussion he initiated this year.”

Later Thursday, Cook wrote that Smith had the conversations during the tennis team’s fall and spring seasons.

Foster wrote, “This pattern of disregard for college policies and for our values is especially disappointing. As a result, we will redouble our efforts aimed at eliminating hazing at Bowdoin, and we will impose more severe sanctions in the future if this behavior continues, including the forfeiture of a team’s entire season, the loss of an organization’s recognition and/or funding, or similar penalties.”

Bowdoin College is a private, coeducational, liberal arts college with a student body of approximately 1,750.

Deputy Chief Marc Hagan of the Brunswick Police Department said he was not aware of any recent hazing incidents at the college.

In May 2011, Bowdoin saw its most public hazing incident in years, when the college voluntarily vacated its first-ever NESCAC hockey title after the discovery of a team initiation event.

The college did not speak publicly about what transpired during the hazing, but Foster told The Bowdoin Orient, the college’s newspaper, at the time that it involved “an unambiguous case of hazing.”

A former team captain told the Orient that the incident involved drinking, and President Barry Mills wrote in the Bowdoin Daily Sun, a college newsletter, that the hockey team had “willfully disregarded” the college’s hazing policy.

Foster said at the time that team members “were dishonest in their characterization of events” and that he was disappointed at the “collusion” by team members.

No one was expelled as a result, and no sanctions against any student were disclosed.

Early in the fall of 2011, the college’s men’s a capella group, the Meddiebempsters, was found to have also violated the college’s hazing policy at an initiation event.

According to the Orient, in 2008 Bowdoin revised its hazing policy after allegations of hazing on the women’s squash and sailing teams in 2006.

In the current college handbook, hazing is defined as “any activity that is part of an initiation, participation, or affiliation in a group that 1) physically or psychologically humiliates, degrades, abuses or endangers — regardless of a person’s willingness to participate; 2) results in the disruption of the educational process or the impairment of academic performance; or 3) violates college policy or state law.”

As of March 31, the Polar Bears were ranked sixth in the latest ITA Division III poll, had improved to 9-2 (2-0 New England Small College Athletic Conference) and had extended their winning streak to five games, the Bowdoin College website reported.

Because the college is in Division III, it does not award athletic scholarships.

Emails to members of the Bowdoin College men’s tennis team were not returned Thursday.

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