EKU denies rugby team's appeal

gkocher1@herald-leader.comDecember 5, 2012 

Eastern Kentucky University has denied the men's rugby team's appeal over its suspension following allegations that new members were paddled with a piece of wood nicknamed "Betsy."

The team had said that a committee's findings that the team violated the school's hazing policy are incorrect.

In a letter released Wednesday by EKU, Claire Good, interim vice president for student affairs and dean of students, wrote: "I believe that members of the hazing committee heard testimony that indicated, based on a preponderance of evidence, that hazing by the EKU men's club rugby team did occur. The appeal by the EKU men's club rugby team is denied."

The decision is final, Good said in the letter dated Nov. 27.

The university announced last month that the team had been suspended until Aug. 18, 2014. During that time, members cannot hold practices, meetings or games. All members must attend an educational session on hazing.

The practice of paddling students with "Betsy" was brought to the university's attention Oct. 23. According to the hazing committee's report, a freshman rugby player was paddled to the point of bleeding.

The hazing committee — a panel of one faculty member, one staff member and one student — said in its findings that it has been a common practice for rugby players to be paddled to be considered "part of the brotherhood."

Good's letter said that much of the appeal provided by the team focused on the fact that people being paddled with "Betsy" did so voluntarily and that the paddling was done without malice.

However, school policy "states very clearly that 'consent to hazing is never a defense to a violation of this policy.'"

The team says it provided "additional pertinent information" that was not previously available to the hazing committee members. That information was an affidavit signed by numerous people stating that "they have never experienced, seen or heard of the EKU men's club rugby team hazing anyone as defined by the university."

But Good said a denial by the team members "is not 'additional pertinent information.'"

The team also appealed the punishment as "being inconsistent with the offense" because "truthfully we feel that our team has done no hazing."

The owner of the 2-by-4 paddle stated that he "used it with many persons not associated with" the team" and only when asked by someone.

Good responded: "It is not the role of the appeal officer to hear a denial of the facts already presented to the hazing committee. Therefore, this section of your appeal is denied."

In its appeal letter, the team indicated that "one witness appearing before the hazing committee was 'nervous about the future of the team' and 'in his responses he made it sound more like this was something primarily involved with rugby players' when it was not."

Good said "the purpose of an appeal is not to rehear evidence already provided to the hazing committee. I do not believe that the information provided by the owner of 'Betsy' was misleading. Therefore, this section of your appeal is denied."

Finally, the appeal letter included a typewritten statement from someone who wrote, "I was intoxicated the night the blood was found in my room and anything I said was trying to be tough, nothing said by me that night can be taken serious (sic) due to the fact that I was an intoxicated minor."

Good wrote that she found this statement "to be a very unfortunate indication that the very organization that describes itself as being an extremely close-knit group allowed an underage member to reach this level of intoxication."

"The statements taken into account by the hazing committee were not statements made by anyone while they were intoxicated," Good wrote.

"Information provided to the committee came via statements made to and by others during the course of several days after the reported incident. Therefore, this section of your appeal is denied."

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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