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Swim and Dive Program participants are suing BC, requesting the lifting of suspension and payment of damages - The Heights


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    Thirty-seven unnamed members of Boston College men’s and women’s swim and dive filed a lawsuit against the University on Tuesday for allegedly imposing an unjustified suspension after recent hazing allegations. 

    A judge will decide whether to impose a temporary restraining order lifting the suspension in a hearing scheduled for Oct. 24 in Middlesex County Superior Court.

    “The BC Athletics Department unilaterally sought to dismantle the BC Swimming and Diving Team in its entirety, engaging in a series of unprecedented and egregious actions, which culminated in the unjustified suspension of the men’s and women’s swimming and diving program,” the lawsuit reads.

    On Sept. 20, BC Athletics said it indefinitely suspended the team after determining hazing had occurred within the program. A letter from an administrator in the Office of the Dean of Students alleged that freshmen were instructed to binge drink and consume their own vomit at one event. Members allegedly engaged in underage drinking at two additional events.

    The lawsuit comes after Nesenoff & Miltenberg, LLP—the law firm representing the student-athletes—sent a letter to BC’s general counsel on Sept. 21 calling on the University to lift the team’s suspension and issue a public retraction of BC Athletics’ statement.

    Defendants named in the lawsuit include Boston College’s trustees, Athletics Director Blake James, and Senior Associate Athletics Director Reggie Terry. The suit alleges that the student-athletes are entitled to damages and injunctive relief that directs BC to reverse the team’s suspension, remove records of the suspension, and publically issue a retraction of its initial statement. 

    The lawsuit states that BC is violating both Massachusetts state law and the University’s policies. The specific allegations include breach of contract, breach of basic fairness, estoppel, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and a violation of Title IX.

    The swim and dive team is composed of 35 males and 32 females, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit argues that the University’s decision to suspend the full team was motivated by the fact that swim and dive is a co-ed program.

    “This unlawful discrimination in violation of Title IX proximately caused Plaintiffs to sustain substantial injury, damage, and loss, including, but not limited to: emotional distress, psychological damages, loss of education, loss of future educational, athletic, and career opportunities, reputational damages, economic injuries and other direct consequential damages,” the lawsuit reads.

    Additionally, the lawsuit claims that there was no victim who reported the alleged hazing—the University allegedly initiated the investigation after a professor overheard students speaking about their activities over Labor Day weekend.

    University Spokesman Jack Dunn said the hazing allegations are both serious and credible in a statement to The Heights on Thursday.

    “The investigation and University conduct process involving these credible and serious allegations of hazing is ongoing through the Office of the Dean of Students, and will continue undeterred by any legal action,” Dunn said.

    James and Terry declined to comment to The Heights, according to a BC Athletics official. 

    The lawsuit alleges that BC Athletics first initiated the process to suspend the team on Sept. 11, when Terry called a meeting with seven juniors on the team who live in an off-campus home on Kirkwood Road. Terry said they were suspended from the team because of alleged alcohol consumption at their house, the lawsuit says.

    The juniors could not fairly defend themselves as there was no hearing before the suspension, according to the lawsuit.

    The lawsuit then alleges that Terry discussed an instance of an unrelated alleged rape that occurred on campus—causing confusion among the seven swimmers who felt they were being compared to rapists.

    Despite learning the following week that the freshman event occurred on campus, not on Kirkwood Road, the University never lifted the suspension of the seven members, according to the suit.

    “The suspension of the junior boys remained in effect, and continued when AD James suspended the entire Swimming and Diving Team the following week,” the lawsuit reads. 

    On Sept. 20, the entire team met with James for approximately seven minutes, when he told the members that the program was indefinitely suspended, the lawsuit alleges.

    “AD James admitted that the school did not yet have all of the relevant information and acknowledged that not everyone was involved, yet nonetheless called the students ‘disgusting’ while berating and humiliating them,” the lawsuit reads.

    On the same day, BC Athletics issued its initial statement.

    “University administrators had determined that hazing had occurred within the program,” the statement read.

    The lawsuit claims that the University had not determined that any hazing had occurred at the time of its statement.

    “Indisputably, as of September 20, 2023, University administrators had not determined that any hazing had occurred, and the affected students were only first notified of such allegations the day prior,” the lawsuit reads. 

    BC Athletics revised the statement to add that the “the matter will be investigated by the Office of the Dean of Students and adjudicated fairly and impartially through the student conduct process.”

    The lawsuit argues this revision was an attempt to “save face.”

    The University clarified its original statement on Sept. 21 saying it received “credible reports of hazing.” 

    “Boston College Athletics has suspended the activities of the Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving teams following credible reports of hazing,” the statement read. “Based on the information known at this time, Athletics has determined a program suspension is warranted, pending a full investigation by the University.”

    But the revisions were inconsequential, the lawsuit alleges, as the team’s reputation has already been damaged.

    The lawsuit alleges that the student-athletes were stalked by various local and national media seeking comments, mistreated by others on campus, and subjected to public humiliation and embarrassment to the point that they have become worried about their safety and well-being, making it hard to focus on classes and examinations.

    “One student even dropped a course due to a low mark that came directly after BC abruptly enacted the suspension—something that this particular student has never done before,” the lawsuit reads.

    The University double-downed on Oct. 6, the suit alleges, by canceling remaining meets for the year on the program’s online schedule.

    The team members believe the University has never suspended an entire sports program, and it has never done so based on an incomplete investigation, according to the lawsuit. Additionally, the lawsuit alleges several of the students did not attend the events that brought about the allegations, and they will likely not be deemed responsible. 

    As a result of the suspension, the lawsuit alleges that the University deprived the students of their rights to defend themselves through the BC Student Code of Conduct process.

    “It is without question that the members of the Swimming and Diving Team could not be considered threats to the health, safety, or well-being of the University community (the allegations concerned events occurring during Labor Day weekend, rather than any ongoing conduct of concern), there was no threat to the effective functioning of the University, and none of the student athletes have been charged with a serious criminal offense,” the lawsuit reads.

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