The Geneseo Village Court recently released the supporting deposition containing the official statement of the freshman volleyball player who was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning following the alleged hazing incident.
The deposition contains an in-depth account of the Sept. 2 events that resulted in the arrest of eight female student-athletes for class-A misdemeanors of hazing in the first degree and unlawfully dealing with a child in the first degree.
Though Geneseo administrators were largely unable to offer official statements about the incident and resulting charges due to implications related to the upcoming court trial and the college’s student code of conduct, Vice President for Student and Campus Life Robert Bonfiglio did express his reaction to the deposition’s release and incident at large.
“In a general sense, I feel for the individuals involved,” he said. “Whatever happened is going to have a long-term impact on these students’ experiences at Geneseo and well afterwards.”
“It’s easy to make the individuals who perpetuated the hazing out to be villains,” said Director of College Union and Activities Charles “Chip” Matthews. “The reality is that everyone involved is a victim.”
Though he was unable to read the supporting deposition, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreation Michael Mooney said, “This incident is like an onion. There are a lot of layers to it and right now only some of it has been peeled back.”
“I know that the students involved are predominately good people. We all make mistakes,” he said. “Part of growing up is learning and developing and maturing, but we have to be the ones who stand up against what isn’t right. Sometimes it’s difficult, but standing up is not about when it’s convenient. You have to be willing to make the tough decisions.”
Much of the public backlash from the exposure surrounding the incident was directed toward Geneseo administrators.
“As administrators, we have to really recommit ourselves to the work that we have been doing with hazing and underage drinking and explore new and different ways to make sure we have guided our students most effectively,” Bonfiglio said.
In response to the incident, Matthews is hosting mandatory meetings with leadership members from each campus organization to discuss the issue of hazing.
“In our meetings, I’m discussing with students how hazing is a continuum,” Matthews said. “It usually begins with a relatively small incident and escalates over time.”
Likewise, Mooney said student-athletes should act as “change agents” and “sprint away” from situations where they feel pressured or uncomfortable.
With the Geneseo Village Court trial set for 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 9, the futures of the eight accused women hang in the balance.
According to Bonfiglio, the outcome of the trial will not affect the school’s disciplinary actions against the women.
“In a trial situation, it involves a standard of evidence that is beyond a reasonable doubt. The standard of evidence we have at the college is more likely than not, or a preponderance of evidence. We have different standards and different processes,” he said. “The purpose of the disciplinary process here is educational. I’m not sure the same thing can be said for the process that is going to take place in the court room.”
“With disciplinary action, there are four different levels of things that are looked at: the courts, who will do their own thing, the college’s conduct review, the athletic department, who have their own code of conduct, and the expectations of the coaches,” Mooney said. “These levels don’t all affect each other. For instance, if the court happens to dismiss this, that doesn’t mean that the school will just let it go.”
The publicity surrounding the incident and upcoming trial has affected the internal and external perception of the Geneseo college community.
“Any time you have people accused of an alleged hazing incident, it doesn’t bode well for that athletic program or college itself,” Mooney said.
“We are striving to be a center of excellence for education, but now we’ve become that place where they handcuff people,” Matthews said.