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UWRF men’s, women’s rugby teams suspended over hazing, other violations

Falcon News Service

April 19, 2017

After a long and at times difficult investigation by the Student Conduct & Community Standards office at UW-River Falls, both the men’s and women’s rugby teams have been suspended for the next several years.

Under the suspension, the men’s team will be banned from participation for the next four years while the women’s team received a slightly shorter penalty of three years. Both teams are sport clubs overseen by UWRF Campus Recreation. Appeals of the suspensions were denied on April 13.

The investigation stemmed from a hazing complaint received by Student Conduct & Community Standards in November. The complaint was made by an anonymous member of one of the teams at UWRF.

Steve Stocker, UWRF’s director of Recreation and Sport Facilities, said the news was shocking.

“I’ve been here for 21 years and I’ve never seen anything of this magnitude before,” Stocker said.

The two rugby teams are among 10 sport clubs at UWRF that are funded through the campus recreation fee paid by students. For spring semester, the fee was $13.51 per student.

After receiving the complaint, the conduct and standards office launched an investigation that took place over several months and finally came to a conclusion just before spring break in mid-March.

“Some of the students were reluctant, mostly on the men’s side, to give us information at first,” Stocker said of the investigation.

Through their probing and questions, Student Conduct & Community Standards staff found that there were numerous violations of campus policies as well as illegal activity within both the men’s and women’s club rugby programs.

“Both teams were in violation of the state of Wisconsin’s statute on hazing,” Stocker said. Stocker said he isn’t allowed to share publicly what exactly was happening in terms of specific acts of hazing but did stress they were in violation of state law. Under Wisconsin law, “(n)o person may intentionally or recklessly engage in acts which endanger the physical health or safety of a student for the purpose of initiation or admission into or affiliation with any organization operating in connection with a school, college or university.”

A number of other campus and student organization violations occurred.

“They were serving alcohol to underage students along with misappropriation of funds,” Stocker said. The teams were using money they had raised on their own to buy alcohol, not funds from segregated fees, Stocker said.

“In the investigation report, it was cited numerous times that the men’s team was obstructive to the process and difficult to get a hold of for questioning,” Stocker said.

However, after a couple of long months of questioning and investigation, a couple members of the men’s team came forward with what actually was occurring at parties and other rugby events and that led to the rest of the team revealing information as well.

The disregard for compliance in the process was the main reason for the men’s rugby team receiving a longer suspension than the women’s team.

“The women’s team was remorseful as well,” Stocker said.

It seemed that there was a consensus among those involved in the investigation that the culture was so bad that both teams needed a new start, hence the long suspensions of both teams.

“I think we’re dealing with a poor culture problem. We need extended training for our clubs officers and for participants,” Stocker said. While some training about alcohol, bystander intervention and hazing is provided to sport club officers, Stocker said it should also be provided to team members.

Members of both teams were unable to be reached for comment. However, former president of the women’s rugby team Melanie Eck said she wouldn’t have enjoyed her time at UWRF as much if the opportunity to play rugby hadn’t been available to her.

“It’s sad news to hear,” Eck said. “Rugby is becoming a more popular sport in college and high schools with it now being in the Olympics and the rugby community is outstanding.”

Corrections and clarifications

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the rugby teams used university funds to purchase alcohol. The earlier version also incorrectly reported Steve Stocker’s title. The story also has been updated with clarification that the rugby teams’ appeals of their suspensions have been denied.

Comments

Note: Commenting closes 14 days after the original post.

7 responses to UWRF men’s, women’s rugby teams suspended over hazing, other violations

  1. Prof. Hardtke says:

    Excellent reporting by the way. The Student Voice has been very impressive the last few years. Thank you for the important but time-consuming work you do on a shoestring budget. We need you!

  2. Katie says:

    Addressing Professor Hardtke’s comment:

    Both sides of this story were not accurately represented, so I question your comment on excellent reporting. We were never even contacted in regards to this article. By the way, I am unaware of the sexual assault allegations you are referring to and would like to know what you mean by that statement.

  3. Patrick Wros says:

    As a former Rugby team member I would like to say that I also believe that both sides of the story were not presented. I’d say I was fairly angry while reading this story for the first time. Having time to think about it has allowed me to see that this how the students and faculty, specifically those that don’t know and interact with our club members on a regular basis, perceive us. I would say with a great level of confidence that if you were to talk to those who do know us on a personal level that they do not view us in a negative light. We are not bad people, we are not a bad club. Over the last few years our club has gone out of it’s way to change practices for the better in the hopes of making our newer and younger players feel more welcome. My first year on the team (Spring 2015) the coach and club officers specifically addressed hazing in one simple way “don’t do it” and the current officers have continued that. It was said at practice and it was anounced via social media to make sure everyone recieved the message. A team is made up of individuals and individuals will make individual choices both good and bad, but the team as a whole strives to provide an accepting environment for anyone and everyone that wishes to participate while removing those that consistently make poor choices. I’m proud to have been part of this team and I will respectfully disagree with those that will try to make me feel otherwise.

  4. Tread Carefully says:

    Interesting thoughts by Katie. The above poster just accused the teams of something not even mentioned in the article. Two problems here- either a lack of transparency or an individual being allowed to throw out accusations on a message board. Isn’t the Voice liable for the posts placed on their website? They should think twice before allowing a poster to make such serious accusations.

  5. Natalie Howell says:

    After reviewing the previous comment, we have come to the conclusion that it indeed makes accusations that were not addressed in the article and have not been proven in any form. We have taken the comment down.

  6. Tread Carefully says:

    Good call, Natalie. Glad to see folks in the media owning up to and correcting mistakes.

  7. Maple Street Neighbor says:

    You may want to ask those of us who live on the same block the rugby house how we perceive them. I can tell you that it is not in a positive light. The frequent requests to clean up their post-party trash, to clean up their loud and offensive language and to respect the neighborhood peace and quiet went unanswered. Neighbors called the landlord, the police, and spoke to their parents to no avail. These people showed no regard for their neighbors, the property or, as it turns out, for each other. Only after the University took matters into their hands did a change in behavior take place. I am impressed and thankful that the University of River Falls responded seriously to these abuses. Serious abuses require serious consequences.