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Hazing in America

Brown University investigating alleged hazing on men’s swimming and diving team

Brown University is investigating alleged hazing on its men's varsity swimming and diving team, officials at the Ivy League school said Wednesday, joining the growing list of colleges and universities that have taken action after recent reports of inappropriate behavior.

The prestigious university, located in Providence, Rhode Island, said in a statement Wednesday that it was "deeply troubled by the allegations." Hazing violates the school's code of conduct and Rhode Island state law, the statement said.

The investigation was launched after the student newspaper, the Brown Daily Herald, reported that it reviewed text messages, emails, photos and audio recordings from team members, who described Oct. 7 as a wild night of "initiation" or "hazing."

Image: Brown University campus.
Brown University campus. Courtesy Brown University

The newspaper found that multiple new members of the team vandalized school property and vomited after a night of heavy drinking, among other activities.

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An anonymous first-year member provided the newspaper with a photo showing teammates smashing Smirnoff Ice vodka bottles against a statue of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. In a recording of a Nov. 14 team meeting provided to the newspaper, a team captain mentioned "the tradition of smashing the 'Ices' against the statues."

Another photo provided by the first-year member, who asked to remain anonymous over fear of retaliation, shows a team member with a drawing of a penis and the word "Oedipus" on his bare back, as an onlooker points and laughs. (Oedipus is a mythical Greek king who fulfilled a prophecy that he would kill his father and marry his mother.)

Team members also told the school paper that they were made to drink mixtures of Tabasco sauce and vodka.

In its statement, Brown said the university received a media inquiry about the alleged hazing on Nov. 14. At that time, the school said, "no student had expressed concerns directly" to the university. But its Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards began looking into it and opened an investigation on Nov. 29.

"While it remains the case that no student has expressed concerns directly to Brown to date," the school "continues to actively investigate."

In a recording of a Nov. 14 team meeting provided by the anonymous first-year member, one captain said, "There's things that are out there that could be damaging, it's just about how we spin it right now." Thirteen days later, the same captain instructed the team to say, "We have not had any meetings to talk about this story about that night since we found out about the investigation."