Volleyball charges raise greater issues

On Sunday Sept. 2, the Geneseo Police Department arrested 11 Geneseo students – eight of which are members of the women’s volleyball team – after investigating the alleged alcohol poisoning of a freshman volleyball player.

The eight volleyball players – senior Laura Galvin, juniors Alysia Negron, Alex Wende, Noelle Morrison and Julia Gangloff, sophomores Sarah Dewey and Carissa Gagliardi and first-year Meagan Johnson – were arrested for class-A misdemeanors of hazing in the first degree and unlawfully dealing with a child in the first degree.

The Geneseo Police Department also arrested seniors Laura Raheb, Courtney Long and Megan Reed who are not currently part of the volleyball team, but played in the 2011 season.

The students potentially face consequences from the college, its department of athletics and recreation and the state of New York due to their individual codes of conduct, which list expectations as a student, athlete and state resident.

Each code of conduct presents a different definition of hazing; the college’s states, “Hazing means any act, explicit or implicit … to have the effect of humiliating, intimidating or demeaning the student or endangering the mental or physical health of the student, regardless of the person’s willingness to participate.” The definition also includes facilitating the act of hazing.

The department of athletics and recreation’s Student-Athlete Handbook agrees with the college’s code of conduct and alcohol and illicit drug policy, but also includes a stipulation that “behavior … that [results] in the embarrassment of myself, my team, the department of intercollegiate athletics and recreation or the college could result in immediate dismissal from our program.”

The NCAA Hazing Prevention Handbook states that hazing “creates an environment/climate in which dignity and respect are absent.”

In Section 120.16 of the New York State Penal Law, hazing in the first degree is when a person “intentionally or recklessly engages in conduct which creates a substantial risk of physical injury to such other person or a third person and thereby causes such injury.”

Despite the numerous definitions, hazing is still not clear among student athletes, administration and coaches.

“Hazing is making anyone do something that they’re not comfortable with doing,” graduate student Mary Bostwick said. Bostwick, who is in her fourth year of NCAA eligibility on the women’s softball team, added that she believes that the definition applies everywhere: practice, games and behavior on and off the fields. Her definition would seem to include tasks such as making freshmen carrying equipment; however, Bostwick said that she personally doesn’t consider this hazing.

The recent incident has provided Geneseo administrators – both at the college level and within the department of athletics and recreation – with an opportunity to reassess how to raise awareness and change procedures and policies regarding hazing, alcohol abuse and illegal substances.

The college has already tried different solutions through numerous annual presentations and programs that discuss hazing, alcohol abuse and illegal substances. Instruction begins at orientation and continues through a student’s four years on campus through Weeks of Welcome events, the Stand Up program and presentations by the dean of students.

The department of athletics and recreation also holds annual meetings for all student athletes. The meetings have four stations, which cover NCAA eligibility, paperwork, trainer’s room and health, hazing, alcohol and illegal substances.

This year, the meetings were reformatted to have smaller, more focused discussions. The student athletes were separated by season of competition.

The athletics administration also reaches out to new student athletes with an annual picnic and presentation.

At this year’s first-year meeting, athletic director Mike Mooney recognized the need for change: “I need you to be the change agent, because evidently it’s not getting the point across … I need you to change the culture that’s going on.”

Though Vice President for Student and Campus Life Robert Bonfiglio suspended the team indefinitely on Friday Sept. 7, the school is not taking any more immediate action against the team at this point.