St. Thomas University in Fredericton has suspended its men's volleyball team after the death of a rookie player who attended the team's initiation party earlier this year, the school's president announced on Thursday.
Dennis Cochrane accepted a recommendation from an internal committee to suspend the team for the rest of the academic year for violating school rules by organizing the team party, at which heavy drinking and hazing took place.
The review was launched after the death of rookie volleyball player Andrew Bartlett, 21, who attended the party on the night of Oct. 23. Fredericton police discovered his body early the next morning.
Bartlett was a fourth-year student at the liberal arts university, but it was his first year on the volleyball team.
A police report released on Wednesday concluded Bartlett had been drinking and later fell down some stairs at his Fredericton apartment building and hit his head.
The university's review was conducted by Larry Batt, the dean of students, and Mike Eagles, the director of athletics.
The review found the volleyball team gathered in Harrington Hall and later at an off-campus residence, where the hazing took place.
The report said that by organizing the party, the team broke the university's statement of conduct, which states that "team initiations are prohibited."
Further, a university statement said these rules were explained to student athletes in September and they all signed behaviour agreements indicating they knew the rules.
At a news conference, Cochrane said the volleyball team encouraged drinking at the party, especially among the new players.
"There was, collectively, a decision to buy alcohol, and there were two amounts to be contributed — one amount for the first year players and a lower amount for the veteran players," he said.
Cochrane said the way the rookies on the team were treated "was a major factor in us reaching this conclusion" — to suspend the entire team, rather than just discipline individuals.
He said the team's behaviour called for a harsh response.
"They blatantly disregarded the university's rules, and, obviously, it got a lot of attention, and we want to make sure that they, as individuals, know that it was not acceptable behaviour and, more importantly, that everyone knows that's not acceptable behaviour at St. Thomas University," Cochrane said.
The university is also reviewing its student conduct policies.
"While we can't change the past, we can do a better job in strengthening conduct policies, explaining to students why these are important matters and better emphasize personal safety," Cochrane said in a statement. "Then, we can, hopefully, influence behaviour."