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UMW to investigate possible hazing incident
UMW investigating possible hazing incident

Date published: 9/29/2006

By JEFF BRANSCOME and MICHAEL ZITZ

University of Mary Washington officials are investigating photos that appear to show members of the 2004-05 women's basketball team engaged in hazing rituals.

The spokesman for an anti-hazing Web site provided nine of 113 such pictures to The Free Lance-Star yesterday.

They're dated April 2, 2005, and are "absolutely" a violation of the college's hazing policy, said Bernie Chirico, vice president for student affairs.

The women are blindfolded in many of the pictures, with some wearing sombrero-like hats. With the exception of some casually dressed onlookers, all are wearing UMW basketball jerseys and appear to be drinking alcohol.

School officials became aware of the photographs after being contacted by officials of the anti-hazing Web site.

Raymond Tuttle, director of judicial affairs and community responsibility at UMW, will meet with the women's basketball coach today to review the pictures, Chirico said. He said he's "pretty confident" they'll be able to identify the students involved.

"My expectation is they will be upfront and tell us what each role [in the hazing] was," he said.

But before they implicate any students, they deserve their "due process," he said.

"I always think it's important to give students an opportunity to respond and give their side of the case," Chirico said.

Possible sanctions for violating the school's hazing policy would include suspensions from the basketball team, as well as what he called an "educational component." That includes a review of nationwide hazing-related deaths, as well as a written report and presentation.

"I'm not a big believer in just punishing people," he said. "My main concern is how do we help to change the behavior."

The images include five women on their knees, being recorded with a camcorder as they sip something from ice trays with straws.

A blindfolded woman is shown on a couch with her head tilted back and a mouth full of whipped cream. Behind her, two others are armed with a can of whipped cream and what appears to be a spice shaker.

Another photo focuses on a woman drinking from an orange beer bong with the words "2005 CAC Champs" on it.


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UMW's Hazing Policy

Hazing is strictly prohibited at the University of Mary Washington. Specifically, the university defines hazing as any physical or mental interference, request, or obligation that could cause inconvenience, discomfort, pain, fright, embarrassment, disgrace, or injury; that is personally degrading; or that violates any federal, state, or local statute or university policy. Whether or not the student so endangered or injured voluntarily participates in the activity is not a factor in determining if the activity was hazing.

Source: UMW student handbook