Freshmen members of the Boston College swimming and diving team were allegedly directed to binge-drink alcohol, then consume their own vomit, the school’s student news outlet, The Heights, reported Thursday, citing a letter it obtained.
The disturbing allegations were disclosed in a letter, dated Sept. 19, from an administrator in BC’s Office of the Dean of Students to a member of the swimming and diving program, the report stated.
Asked to comment on the disclosure, BC communications director Jack Dunn said: “As a matter of policy, we do not discuss student disciplinary matters.”
The letter from the dean’s office cited two additional occasions when underage drinking by team members occurred. At one gathering, young swimmers or divers were allegedly encouraged to play drinking games.
The incidents occurred between Sept. 2 and Sept. 4 at two BC residence halls and a house off campus. The letter said the allegations would be investigated for possible violations of BC’s student code of conduct regarding hazing, alcohol use, disorderly conduct, community disturbance, and complicity.
Law enforcement authorities in Boston and Newton said they had yet to receive any information about the hazing allegations, a day after BC announced it had indefinitely suspended the swimming and diving program because school officials “determined that hazing had occurred within the program.”
When Dunn was asked about BC alerting the police, he said: “At this time, the matter is being investigated by the dean’s office but will also be referred to law enforcement as required by law.”
Soon after, Dunn added: “To clarify, the matter has been reported to BC police, and the university will coordinate with external law enforcement as appropriate.”
The new disclosure came just hours after BC walked back the statement it issued Wednesday about determining that hazing had occurred. The school’s statement Wednesday also said “the university does not — and will not — tolerate hazing in any form.”
On Thursday, BC issued a new statement — a “clarification” — that no longer appeared as if the school had already concluded that hazing had occurred before its investigation into the allegations had begun. The original statement no longer appears on the school’s website.
BC’s new statement said the team was suspended “following credible reports of hazing.”
“Based on the information known at this time, [the athletics department] has determined a program suspension is warranted, pending a full investigation by the university,” the updated statement continued.
Asked to explain the clarification, a spokesman for the athletics department referred a reporter to Dunn.
Dunn said: “Today’s clarification combines statements that were issued yesterday and provides additional information on our student conduct process. The student-athletes in this alleged incident will get a fair and impartial hearing through the Office of the Dean of Students. BC Athletics, however, reserves the right to suspend a program following credible allegations of hazing.”
Meanwhile, questions remain, including who may have conceived and carried out the alleged hazing, how many student-athletes may have been targeted, and how many may have been harmed. In addition, the investigation is expected to examine whether any coaches may have been aware of the alleged hazing or may have sanctioned it, and whether it may have occurred in previous years.
Efforts to reach the team’s head coach, Joe Brinkman, were unsuccessful.
Brinkman, who was entering his second year at BC, had previously served four years as an assistant coach at Notre Dame and two years on the coaching staff at Stanford. He was a two-year captain of the swim team at the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky, where he was honored as the Mid-South Conference Champion of Character.
BC was scheduled to open the season with its annual Maroon vs. Gold event Saturday in Chestnut Hill. An ACC spokesperson said the conference’s swimming and diving schedule will be adjusted as necessary during BC’s suspension.
Members of BC’s swimming and diving team will “continue to have access to academic and medical resources” that are available to all Eagles athletes, the school said.
The swimming and diving program made headlines in 2020 when 13 team members contracted COVID-19 after some attended a party while allegedly failing to follow safety protocols. Concerns about the health of students throughout the university rose as cases spiked. BC shut down the swimming and diving program for a minimum of two weeks.