By HOPE RACINE
The men’s rugby team at the University of Mary Washington is facing indefinite suspension and mandatory sexual assault training following a decision from the administration regarding the team’s involvement in an offensive chant. On Thursday, March 19, President Rick Hurley sent an email to the community discussing the school’s decision after the team was found to have engaged in a “chant that contained sexually explicit, derogatory and violent language.”
The chant in question was reportedly sung at an off-campus party during the fall 2014 semester, where a student recorded the song covertly. The audio was later turned over to the administration.
According to Hurley, the university was made of aware of the chant on Nov. 30, 2014 after the audio was given to Leah Cox, special assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion and director of judicial affairs and community responsibility.
The lyrics contain reference to sexually explicit and somewhat violent rhetoric:
Finally found a wh*re!
She was right and dead
She was right and dead!
Well god damn son of a b*tch we’re gonna get it in!
God damn son of a b*tch we’re gonna get it in!
The decision was made by a task force consisting of Doug Searcy, vice president for student affairs, Melissa Jones, assistant dean for student involvement, Mark Mermelstein, director of campus recreation, and leadership from the men’s rugby club.
The initial decision placed the rugby team on a 12-month probation, which the team appealed. Following a semester-long study, the final decision to suspend the team was made on March 18. All practices and meetings are currently suspended, and each member of the men’s rugby club will be required to participate in education and training sessions regarding sexual assault and violence.
According to Hurley, the suspension was based on the argument that the chant contained lyrics that violate the University’s Statement of Community Values.
“The University will not stand for such behavior. It not only violates our community values, it is not how members of this collegial campus live, and it is not reflective of the Mary Washington we all know and love,” wrote Hurley in the community-wide e-mail.
The day before the email, Hurley sent an initial email to the student body without specific details of the event, but alluding to actions and situations in which “our own students (groups and individuals) have engaged in behaviours that I find repugnant and highly offensive to members of our community.”
Community members have reacted to the decision with differing opinions. Some, like UMW psychology professor Chris Kilmartin, said he believes the situation can be a teachable moment. Kilmartin offered to run the sexual assault awareness classes and work with the team to meet the administration’s requirements.
“Most of the guys on the rugby team are good guys. But they stood by passively while the other guys did this stuff, and the purpose of the classes are to help them understand the social psychology of social pressure and help them learn how to step up as bystanders,” said Kilmartin.
However, other community members question the legality of the school’s decision. According to Mark Smith, who reached out as a representative of men’s rugby alumni, the majority of the men’s rugby team were not present at the party in question. Only eight out of the total 46 members were present, as the rest of the team away at a game in Maryland, according to Smith. In addition, the lack of video evidence makes it difficult to verify individual singers.
At this juncture, it is unknown what will be required of the team in order to lift the suspension.
The men’s rugby team failed to respond for comment by the time of publication.