Women’s lacrosse hazing investigation

BY LILA EPSTEIN ’14
News Editor

The campus community was notified about the College’s investigation into a lacrosse hazing incident in an email sent from Kent Trachte, dean of the College, Tuesday. It included that the College removed the head coach of the women’s lacrosse team and suspended a significant number of upperclassmen student-athletes.

“I strongly support this decision as part of the College’s commitment to safeguarding the health, safety and well-being of our students,” said Dan Porterfield, president of the College, in an email sent to the campus community Friday. “Hazing, which occurs in many forms, is dangerous and can create serious physical and emotional harm to all parties. It can sweep up students into thoughtless behaviors that may be incompatible with their own deeply-held values as well as those of the College.”

The College first received information from the Lancaster City Police Department (LCPD) in Feb. that there had been an anonymous hazing report. At the time, the College was not informed as to which organization the report was related to or in what time frame it had occurred. A formal investigation launched on April 10 discovered the hazing incident involved the women’s lacrosse team and an unsanctioned student-organized event it held last academic year.

“Because this involves an athletic team, there were two distinct sets of processes that were needed,” Trachte said. “The first one was the athletic department policies and regulations, and the second [was] the Student Code of Conduct. Thus far, we have only taken action under athletic department rules and regulations, and we will continue to review the situation in light of the College’s general Student Code of Conduct.”

Trachte noted a hazing incident from any organization would follow the same dual process.

“If we were to receive a report that there was hazing by a student club or Greek organization, we also would have pursued it aggressively,” Trachte said. “In that case, the information we received would be processed both through rules for Greek or other specific organizations and the Student Code of Conduct, which governs individual behavior for all students.”

In addition, the College will review its policies with regard to hazing.

“Any time something happens at the College that is of concern, we are going to review procedures, policies, and educational programs to determine if there are policies that might be changed or improved,” Trachte said. “Just as in any other situation, we will be reviewing our policies relating to hazing as well as our educational programs.”

Porterfield noted how important it is for the campus community to work together to prevent situations that are harmful to students.

“To prevent and address high-risk behavior, it is essential for educators to work in partnership with students, listening and learning in respectful dialogue,” Porterfield said in his email. “I’m struck by examples of how F&M has done just that in the work of groups like .08, One in Four, and [S.A.V.E.], just to name a few. This type of collaboration can be a source of extraordinary, lifelong pride.”

Trachte emphasized the College wants to support the women remaining on the team.

“The athletics department, with the support of the president and me, will be working closely with the young women who are still active members of the team to help them make a decision about how they want to proceed,” Trachte said.

At the time of the interview, on April 18, the team was traveling to its game against Gettysburg.

“They are on their way with many staff members and administrators accompanying them in the bus to support them and demonstrate the College’s support of them,” Trachte said. “I admire them greatly for making the decision to compete in an emotional and difficult time.”

Melissa Mariano, head coach of the women’s field hockey team and senior women’s administrator for the Athletic Department, will serve as the interim coach for the team.

“The athletic director and I thought long and hard about who would be the best person to serve as interim coach for the remainder of the season,” Trachte said. “Melissa Mariano was the best option because she is a great coach and a terrific educator who is well-respected by student-athletes throughout the department. We felt it was most important that we had someone whom our student-athletes know, respect, and would feel comfortable with in this situation. There was no better choice than Missy.”

At the conclusion of the season the College will start its search for a permanent coach.

“We will follow normal procedures, which includes opportunities for input from student-athletes and incoming student-athletes,” Trachte said. “We always have a search committee composed of other members of the community, usually with at least one faculty member. We are committed to finding an exceptional coach to lead these young women forward.”

Trachte hopes members of the campus community will continue to support the women of this team by attending any future games.

After losing to Gettysburg April 18, the team defeated Dickinson 16-11 April 20. They will participate in the first round of the Centennial Conference Championships against Washington College April 27.

Porterfield advises other organizations to learn from this incident and maintain a safe environment for their members.

“We should continue to work together to sustain an environment where students feel they can speak freely to college officials and educators about high-risk behaviors,” Porterfield said. “As we work to create and sustain the community we want, student leadership, initiative, curiosity, creativity, and yearning to make a difference are tremendous assets to achieve our goals.

“Our highest priority must always be to share responsibility to promote the physical and emotional well-being of all, because a feeling of security and safety is a precondition for a learning community to achieve its full promise,” Porterfield added.

Questions? Email Lila at lila.epstein@fandm.edu.

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