BC swim team files suit, asks to lift hazing ban

BC swim team files suit, asks to lift hazing ban

More than 30 members of the Boston College men’s and women’s swimming and diving team, whose season was indefinitely suspended after reports of alleged hazing in September, have filed a civil lawsuit and asked a judge to take action that would let them return to the pool.

A lawsuit filed Tuesday by 37 unnamed members of the school’s swimming and diving team says the university imposed an unjustified “blanket suspension” and ended the entire team’s season before an investigation into the allegations was finished and before any findings were made. Among the allegations in the suit, the athletes say the university violated its own code of conduct system and deprived athletes of the right to defend themselves.

The suit names university trustees, athletics director Blake James and senior associate athletic director Reggie Terry as defendants. It says James and Terry made a defamatory statement, and it accused James of taking “drastic, unfair and unprecedented” action against the entire co-ed team.

In a related court filing Wednesday, the athletes’ lawyers requested a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction that would let the athletes resume their season. Middlesex County Superior Court Justice Diane C. Freniere scheduled a hearing Tuesday on the injunction request.

“The request is to lift the full team suspension so that the students can go back to normal training and competition,” said Tara Davis, a partner with Nesenoff & Miltenberg, the firm representing the athletes.

Jack Dunn, a Boston College spokesman, said in a statement Wednesday: “The investigation and University conduct process involving these credible and serious allegations of hazing will continue through the Office of the Dean of Students, undeterred by any threats of legal action.”

Allegations of hazing surfaced after reports that attendees at a freshman event in early September “were allegedly instructed to binge drink and forced to drink their own vomit,” according to The Heights, the independent student news outlet at Boston College, which cited a university administrator’s letter that it had obtained. The Heights reported that the letter also stated that members of the team allegedly engaged in underage drinking at two additional events.

Boston College’s athletic department placed the program on indefinite suspension Sept. 20, three days before the swimming and diving season was scheduled to begin. The university initially said in a statement that administrators determined that hazing had taken place within the program. The university later revised the statement to say there were “credible reports of hazing.”

“Based on the information known at this time, Athletics has determined a program suspension is warranted, pending a full investigation by the University,” BC’s revised statement said. “Consistent with University policy, the matter will be investigated by the Office of the Dean of Students and adjudicated fairly and impartially through the student conduct process. Once the investigation and adjudication process is complete, Athletics will reassess the status of the teams.”

The swimmers’ lawsuit says members of the team have been “ostracized by their peers, subjected to hateful social media postings, stalked by various local and national media seeking comments, mistreated by others on campus to the point that they were afraid to wear their swimming and diving gear in public, subjected to public humiliation and embarrassment, and have become concerned for their safety and well-being, all of which has also impacted their ability to focus on their academics and training.”

The names of the 37 athletes were not included in the lawsuit, which seeks an unspecified amount of damages along with a retraction of the university statement and a reversal of the suspension. The judge granted a request for the use of “John Doe” and “Jane Doe” pseudonyms. The judge also sealed for 10 days each individual plaintiff’s declaration of personal harm.

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Anthony Olivieri

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