Posted by Alex Hodor-Lee/Contributing Writer
What began as a very public lambasting for the Men's Soccer Team by the college's administration in late February and continued to be an ongoing investigation into the events of what is being labeled "rookie night," seems to finally have come to an end.
In his Feb. 21 email, addressed to all members of the Skidmore community, President Glotzbach described the events of Nov. 30 as a "team initiation," and "hazing and underage drinking."
While team initiation can be a benign activity, which the anti-hazing handbook of the NCAA-the governing body of college athletics-calls "elements of any culture," and "meaningful experiences in which no one becomes a victim," hazing has been taken very seriously by colleges after a string of recent hazing-related deaths.
Troubling to some student-athletes close to the situation was that the email-publicly rebuking the men's soccer team to an audience of their professors and peers-was sent at 6:38 p.m. that evening, a mere 23 minutes after the beginning of the team's meeting with the athletic department in which they first learned of the investigation.
"The athletic department gave us letters about possibly getting suspended. I was totally out of the loop; I had no idea," recalls one senior member of the men's soccer team.
Following the meeting, players received a letter from Donald Hastings, Associate Dean of Student Affairs. The letters ordered a time and a date for each player to individually meet with the Dean. One student-athlete said each individual was punished on the basis of a ten-minute discussion about their respective involvement in rookie night, adding, "I did get a little upset."
When asked, Hastings, due to confidentiality protocol, could not confirm the details of his meetings with students but said that, when meeting with students in similar circumstances, "the average meetings lasts no less than 30 minutes." Hastings also said that during these meetings, he always asks students for their story, and if a student denies certain charges, he takes that into consideration, and often gives them the benefit of the doubt. "If a student tells me they weren't drinking, I believe them," Hastings said."
In addition to canceling the team's spring season, the college administration also dispensed hefty athletic bans to players said to have been involved. Each member was sentenced to a four-match game ban for the upcoming fall season. The two captains, going into their junior and senior years this fall respectively, received nine-match game bans in addition to the forfeiture of their captaincy.
Furthermore, members of the team have received academic punishments for their involvement in "rookie night." Many upperclassmen received points on their student account as well as a fine-varying from 100 to several hundred dollars. First-years had a less severe $25 fine, and at least one has enrolled in a mandatory alcohol education course. Every member of the team is now expected to write a letter of apology to the administration. Additionally, every player on the team was banned from competing in any sports season this semester.
All students are given the option of appeals, usually on the condition that the respondent felt the punishment was inappropriate for their action. At least three members of the soccer team who also compete for Skidmore's lacrosse team have had their bans lifted. Other members of the team are also in the process of appealing, although Hastings revealed that at this point in time all appeal processes were coming to a close.
Skidmore's "rookie night" has garnered some national attention, making headlines in the Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Gate. The episode was also covered in Saratoga Springs' local newspaper, the Saratogian. When asked how the incident found its way into print, one reporter at the Saratogian replied that the newsroom "was sent a press release from the school."
"It caught my editor's eye. A small college in upstate New York? When do you ever hear of a non-violent hazing incident that didn't involve forced drinking?" said one representative of the Wall Street Journal.
At this time it's still unclear who the victims were on Nov. 30, or what prompted the investigation.
Five members of the men's soccer team opted not to partake in "rookie night". This leaves uncertain if rookie night was a hazing incident if members were not forced to participate in the "bonding experience," as one player called it.
With punishments being rescinded and Saratoga County District Attorney Jim Murphy opting not to pursue criminal charges, members of the men's soccer team said they were slowly winning vindication.
On March 23, members of the team (and at least one Skidmore student who is not on the team) received an e-mail from the Director of Campus Safety Dennis Conway indicating that their contact information had been passed along to Saratoga County Police investigators.
Some student-athletes said this e-mail was the conclusion to a four-month long investigation, and litigious battle with the college administration.
The carefully worded e-mail also stated, "[Campus Safety] will not assist in these interviews." Furthermore, Mr. Conway wrote, "This email is sent as a courtesy to you and in no way are we advocating that you agree to being interviewed by the police. That choice is yours," emphasizing the school's decreased role in the investigation.
Two days later, players received an email from Saratoga PD Investigator Glen Vidnansky. In his email Mr. Vidnansky wrote, "I am assigned to investigate the incident that involved the Men's Soccer Team and underage drinking."
As of late April, student-athletes on the men's soccer team have not been further questioned, and those who declined to respond or comment to Vindansky's email were not emailed again. It appears that the police investigation, too, has come to an end as well, with no charges being filed.