Instead of being suspended for the entire academic year for hazing, the Towson University cheerleading squad was issued a modified punishment by its Student Appeals Committee, the university announced yesterday.
The national-championship-winning team will now be on social probation for the fall semester only and will not be allowed to participate in any university or off-campus events or make appearances as a squad. The Maryland team will be allowed to practice.
In addition to the probation, the cheerleaders must complete 650 hours of community service by the end of the fall semester and participate in educational sessions about hazing.
Documentation of the service requirement must be submitted by Jan. 17, 2014. New members of the team are not required to participate in community service, but the entire team will be required to participate in the educational sessions outlined in the original sanction.
The decision to modify the yearlong suspension came after the cheerleaders appealed to a committee made up of students, faculty and staff.
According to Deb Moriarty, Towson’s vice president for student affairs, the committee made the change because it believed the cheerleading team had not received the same level of anti-hazing education and training as other athletic programs on campus.
Some students have complained that the lighter punishment sets a bad precedent for a campus promoting zero tolerance on hazing.
“While the appeals committee found that the behavior was very problematic and felt like the students should have known [better], they do feel like they were presented with evidence that they hadn’t as a team been given the educational information about hazing,” said Moriarty.
“It does not mean that we did not take the charges seriously,” she added. “In fact, the Student Appeals Committee really struggled with the decision.”
The revised decision for probation for the fall semester puts the team in position to possibly compete at the National Cheerleaders Association competition in April, where they became the national champions last year.
According to university officials, the alleged hazing occurred off campus and was not the subject of any police investigation as no one was injured. The university said they will not reveal the details of the hazing incident while the appeals process is under way.
The squad was suspended for the entire season in early August after a three-week investigation by university officials who received an anonymous phone call about potential hazing by some of the squad’s members at an off-campus location on Aug. 6. The hazing incident reportedly involved the 25 returning students and 10 incoming freshmen.
The team has the right to make a final appeal about the probation to the university president by September 17.