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UMW: Students were not hazing
University officials said one athletic rule was broken in the incident in 2005.

Date published: 10/7/2006



University of Mary Washington officials have determined that members of the 2004-05 girls basketball team did not engage in hazing at a party in the spring of 2005.

However, one student will be punished for violating an athletic department policy, said Bernie Chirico, vice president for student affairs. He would not describe the violation or the punishment, saying it was a personnel issue.

No other students will be sanctioned, but Chirico said they will all be subjected to "an educational process to ensure that they understand what their behavior has created in terms of their image at the school and the coverage in the media--so that they fully understand what hazing is. And I am not implying that they engaged in hazing. "

Twelve of the 13 team members were present at the party. Of those members, five are still enrolled at UMW. The others have graduated.

A series of photographs dated April 2, 2005, which showed the students engaged in what appeared to be hazing, were obtained by an anti-hazing Web site and presented to UMW officials last week.

The spokesman for the Web site provided nine of 113 such pictures to The Free Lance-Star last Thursday.

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.

However, all those jerseys in one place made sense to Chirico.

"These young people--by virtue of them being athletes--there is very little time for them to do anything except with one another," Chirico said.

While he conceded alcohol was present at the party, Chirico dismissed questions about potential underage drinking.

Students of drinking age attended the party, he said. And during his investigation, the underage students said they were drinking apple juice--in one case, out of a bong. Chirico said he believed their testimony.

"You're talking about digital photos," he said. "You can't judicially process someone for a photo. There is no way to prove or disprove something. It was more important to me that they understood the situation."

To reach MELISSA NIX: 540/374-5418
Email: mnix@freelancestar.com