The men’s tennis team will forfeit its next four matches and will be barred from post-season competition as a result of a hazing allegation and subsequent investigation by the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs and the Athletics Department. 

Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster and newly appointed Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan ’98 informed the student body of the incident in an email sent Wednesday evening. This is the first hazing event brought to the Bowdoin community’s attention since the men’s rugby team was found to have hazed first years at its annual Epicuria party in September. 

“This latest incident was brought to our attention late last week by a concerned student unaffiliated with the team,” Foster and Ryan wrote in the email.

The Dean’s office originally planned to talk to all members of the team as part of its investigation into the incident, but “we didn’t have to,” Foster said in an interview with the Orient.

“It became pretty clear after talking to a number of the members of the team that this happened,” he said. “The team took responsibility for their mistakes from the outset. That’s not always been the case.

“To the credit of the team, they owned this. They realized that what had happened was not okay,” Foster said.

“We met with the team and had an open and honest conversation with them,” Ryan said in an interview.

Neither Foster nor Ryan would discuss the incident in detail.

The Orient reached out to many members of both the men’s and women’s tennis teams, all of whom declined to comment. 

The men’s team is ranked No. 5 in national D-III tennis, though it is now ineligible for individual and team competition in the post-season. 

In the email, Foster and Ryan wrote that Head Coach Conor Smith “supports these sanctions.” Smith could not be reached for comment before press time.

The email also stated that “there will be both individual and team sanctions for those involved.” Foster would not comment on what those consequences might be, though he did say that they would be limited to the upperclassmen on the team.

Upon completing the investigation, Foster and Ryan wrote that it was clear that “the team engaged in activities that clearly violate the Bowdoin Social Code as well as our very-well articulated and frequently explained policy that prohibits hazing.” 

The Bowdoin Student Handbook broadly defines hazing in a five-paragraph description, which includes questions to help determine whether or not an event can be considered hazing. These include: “is a person or group being singled out because of status?” “Is alcohol involved?” “Was it demeaning, abusive or dangerous?”

“It is important to note that none of the actions taken by team members placed any individual in physical danger,” Foster and Ryan wrote in the email. “That said, this is clearly a case of poor judgment by team members and an unfortunate example of a lack of leadership by students who should know better. 

“We heard from students in this case that they were simply continuing a long-standing tradition for which they felt a sense of obligation,” they wrote. “We also heard again that the activities defined as hazing were ‘optional,’ and that participants could simply choose not to participate. Neither of these explanations stands as a valid defense.” 

“There’s no place for hazing of any kind within our campus community,” Ryan said, in response to a question asking how the incident qualified as hazing despite a lack of harm or force.

“I am particularly discouraged that some of our alumni would continue to urge our current students to not let such traditions falter,” Foster said. “I know that that happened in this case—there was some pressure being put on some of our current students and I think that’s a real shame.”

Earlier this year, team members “chose to discontinue” another tradition that was “not a hazing-related tradition, but they really decided that it wasn’t who they were as a team,” said Foster. He declined to provide details of that tradition as well. 

“Men’s tennis alumni support the men’s team and will continue to support them through this process,” wrote one alumnus of the team in an email to the Orient. He commented on the incident on the condition of anonymity. “While we support Bowdoin’s aim to provide a nourishing environment for its student athletes, we find these punishments entirely excessive, unwarranted, and contrary to the promotion of team unity.”

Foster said he did not know how the third party learned about the team’s hazing.

“We’re appreciative that a student came forward with a report of an incident that caused them a lot of concern,” Ryan said.