As the news of last spring's hockey hazing has spread across campus, members of the Bowdoin community have debated the merits of the College's response. While many believe that the College overreacted to a minor incident of hazing, others say that Bowdoin took a firm stance on a practice that is completely unacceptable.

Bowdoin is the first college in the NESCAC to ever vacate a championship title, and the punishment is certainly one of the harshest penalties for hazing in the conference's history. However, Middlebury dispensed an almost equally severe penalty last year after reports of hazing on its women's swim team: the administration cancelled the rest of the team's season, according to the Middlebury student newspaper.

Nevertheless, both Bowdoin and Middlebury seem to have reacted much more strongly to hazing in the last year than many of their peer schools, and some argue that the punishment was far more punitive than the infraction deserved. After all, hazing and initiation practices are common on college campuses across the nation, and Bowdoin is no exception.

Director of Athletics Jeff Ward said that the first reason for the harshness of the punishment was that "community is really important here, and in the end, hazing has the potential to create a situation where one group is being hurtful to another group or individual," and "there are very few things that I have so specifically ruled out of bounds." The second reason was that the team was not forthcoming at the outset of the investigation and lied about the nature of the incident.

Regardless of what one thinks of the severity of the punishment, it is unusual for a college to forgo a championship banner for any reason, let alone for the purpose of maintaining ethical standards. Over the past year alone, there have been a number of situations where it is clear that colleges and universities have been willing to prioritize athletics over the integrity of the school.

For instance, the improper benefits scandal at Ohio State University, which included a variety of attempted cover-ups by players and coaches, highlighted the fact that the school was willing to overlook its values to protect the football team. In response to a question asking whether head football coach Jim Tressel would be fired as a result of his participation in the cover-ups, Ohio State president Gordon Gee said, "I'm just hoping that the coach doesn't dismiss me."

While that was clearly a poorly-timed joke, it does reflect the extreme importance that Ohio State, and many other colleges and universities, put on athletics. Earlier this year, the NCAA charged Boise State with lack of institutional control, which means that the NCAA did not believe that the university even had the guidelines and procedures in place to comply with NCAA rules. With its harsh response, Bowdoin has clearly come down on the opposite end of the scale.

Many have also worried that the penalty could have a negative impact on recruiting for the men's hockey team. To that, Ward said that he is not at all worried about losing recruits.

"In the end, [the punishment highlights] that we are a place with values, and I think the type of kids we want...are attracted to a place with standards," he said.

The College has also taken flak for its punishment from off-campus sources. On Wednesday, ran a piece titled "Bowdoin hockey team gives back NESCAC title because one player tattled about minor hazing." The article suggested that the hazing that occurred was very minor and that the College was taking itself far too seriously. It was very critical of the athlete who stepped forward to report the hazing and used demeaning language to describe him.

If Bowdoin is as serious about quashing hazing as the punishment suggests, it needs to determine a more effective way of detecting initiation practices. Currently, athletes are expected to report hazing to a captain or coach. In reality, however, the captains are probably going to be involved in any potential hazing, and many athletes would feel uncomfortable reporting hazing to a coach. The College started the Campus and Community Index this year as a means to report incidents of discrimination, but athletes could benefit from a similar forum to report hazing. Even something as simple as an anonymous drop-box could be a step in the right direction.

In vacating the championship, the College has taken an important step to show that athletic success will not come at the cost of institutional integrity, and it should continue to make every effort to prevent and detect hazing. Regardless of whether one agrees with the scope of punishment, the fact that Bowdoin was willing to adhere to its proclaimed values—a rare occurrence in today's world of college sports—is something to admire.