The Student Conduct and Community Standards office at the University of Wisconsin—River Falls has recently concluded an investigation of several months into the conduct of its men’s and women’s rugby teams.
Both teams are student clubs, overseen by UWRF campus recreation, and are funded through student recreation fees.
An anonymous tip by a team member in November alerted investigators to multiple incidents of hazing, illegal activity and numerous other violations of campus policy on the part of both teams. The investigation ended in mid-March with the suspension of the teams.
Steve Stocker, director of recreation and sport facilities at UWRF, was not at liberty to share details of the teams’ transgressions, but he confirmed to the New Richmond News that “Both teams were in violation of the state of Wisconsin’s statute on hazing.”
State law decrees that no 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.”
Stocker further revealed that the teams were involved in using funds they had raised for team activities to buy alcohol, and were serving that alcohol to minors. “I think we’re dealing with a poor culture problem,” he said. “We need extended training for our clubs’ officers and for participants.”
The women’s rugby team’s suspension will endure for three years, while the men will be suspended for four. According to Stocker, part of the reason for the men’s longer sentence came from their reluctance to cooperate with the investigation.
“Some of the students were reluctant, mostly on the men’s side, to give us information at first. 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,” he said.
The teams appealed their sentence on April 13, but were denied. Officials involved in the investigation felt that several years’ suspension was needed in order for the teams to get a “new start.”