Nearly 30 members of Boston College’s swimming and diving team have called through their lawyers for the university to immediately lift the program’s indefinite suspension, asserting that the school has “grossly mishandled” its response to allegations of hazing.
Swimmers and divers who may not have been involved in allegedly directing freshmen to binge-drink and then consume their own vomit, as a college dean purported, “are now facing tarnished reputations, public humiliation and ridicule, and harm to their social, physical, mental, and academic well-being,” the law firm Nesenoff & Miltenberg wrote to BC’s general counsel, saying it represented 28 team members. “As such, it is clear that the suspension is not warranted, is unnecessarily punitive, and will cause long-lasting harm to the student athletes if not vacated immediately.”
The indefinite suspension will remain in effect, according to university spokesman Jack Dunn.
“Boston College is not at all swayed by threats of legal actions from the program’s parents,” Dunn said. “The University will continue to follow its procedures and treat any allegation of hazing with the utmost seriousness. Given that the investigation is ongoing, the University will not comment further on the matter.”
Since news of the allegations broke last week, BC swimmers and divers have been subjected to “jeering and hurtful remarks by their peers” as well as “hateful social media postings,” “public humiliation and embarrassment, and are becoming increasingly concerned for their safety and well-being, all of which has also prevented them from being able to focus on their academics and training,” the letter from their lawyers states.
The letter, dated Thursday, was first made public by The Heights, the university’s student news outlet.
BC has yet to state how many swimmers or divers were allegedly hazed, and a parent of one of the alleged victims expressed concern to the Globe that the university has “elected to violate its own policies and issue false, misleading and damaging press statements, based on rumor and innuendo.”
The law firm for the swimmers and divers complained that BC did not conduct an investigation before it issued a public statement reporting that “hazing had occurred within the program.” The university later posted a “clarification,” describing the allegations as “credible reports of hazing” that were “based on the information known at this time” and said a full investigation was pending.
As for the indefinite suspension, however, Dunn said BC’s athletics department “reserves the right to suspend a program following credible allegations of hazing.”
BC’s website lists 52 members of the 2023-24 swimming and diving team, 26 men and 26 women, but does not cite any freshmen. The 2022-23 roster listed 56 team members, including 16 freshmen.
Concerns about the hazing allegations have reverberated throughout the school’s swimming and diving community. Sam Roche, a captain of BC’s 2021-22 team who holds multiple school records in individual and relay events, said of the allegations, “I haven’t heard about anything in the past happening like that. I haven’t experienced anything happening like that. And we don’t know if any of this is true. They’re currently doing an investigation, so we’ll see.”
A letter from the dean’s office Sept. 19 to a team member, as reported by The Heights, cited freshmen being instructed to binge-drink, then consume their vomit. The letter cited two additional occasions where underage drinking by team members occurred. At one gathering, young swimmers or divers were allegedly encouraged to play drinking games.
The incidents allegedly occurred between Sept. 2 and Sept. 4 at two BC residence halls and a house off campus.
Left unanswered were questions such as who may have carried out the alleged hazing, how do those who may have been involved identify by gender, and how many may have been harmed.
The letter to BC from the law firm sharply criticized the administration’s initial report that “hazing had occurred.”
“This declaration is demonstrably false as the College has yet to complete any investigation into allegations of hazing by the Swimming and Diving team, let alone made any determinations regarding responsibility,” the letter states.
BC, as is required by law, reported the alleged hazing to its police department, and, according to Dunn, will coordinate with external law enforcement as appropriate.
A spokeswoman for the state Department of Higher Education said BC most recently complied in July with a law that requires college and universities to report annually that they have informed all student groups, teams, and organizations to notify each full-time student about the hazing statute. BC also complied with the law that requires schools to report annually that they have adopted a disciplinary policy to address any organizers or participants of hazing.
Under state law, hazing is punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine as large as $3,000, or both.
Bob Hohler can be reached at email@example.com.