For the last two years of my undergraduate degree at St. Thomas University, I was the President of the Student Athlete Council, where I represented student athletes from across campus to the staff, faculty, and other students. My time in this position involved organizing events, fundraisers and holding meetings with the other members; I was lucky to never face controversy.
This year’s president, Jason Cassidy, is not so lucky. He represents a group of student athletes during one of the toughest times that the STU Athletic Department has ever faced; a police inquiry into the accidental death of a male volleyball player, and a hazing accusation.
Andrew Bartlett was found dead in his apartment on October 24th, after a night of partying with the men’s volleyball team. Bartlett had just been named a rookie to the team, and was celebrating with his friends and teammates. While autopsy results are still being waited on, accusations of being forced to drink and being hazed quickly followed his death.
As a past student-athlete, I know what reputation rookie parties have. After violent hazing incidents stemming from football and hockey teams in the US, the public is quick to condemn any parties where first year athletes are welcomed to the team. However, smoke does not always indicate fire.
Rookie parties are used to welcome first year players to the team, and build camaraderie and mutual respect within the ranks. The idea is that while a rookie is dressed up and given tasks, they will become closer one another, and eager to impress the rest of the team. When everything is said and done, the seniors respect the rookies for putting up with embarrassing costumes and games, and the rookie feels welcomed into the family.
In Bartlett’s case, as most other rookie parties, alcohol was clearly involved. However, Bartlett and his teammates were all above the age of majority, and no one was forced to consume alcohol or participate in any of the events. So was his cause of death any different from a regular party with non-athlete friends? Hazing accusations are undeserved when the same results could have happened at a birthday party, or after a night on the town. The mere fact that his death occurred after a party with athletes does not imply that he was hazed.
Feel free to share your thoughts on hazing, and your condolences for Andrew’s family, friends and teammates.