Last updated: November 11, 2010 12:29 pm
St. Thomas investigating alleged hazing following death
Police investigation still ongoing following death of student shortly before Halloween
FREDERICTON (CUP) — Some serious questions are being raised about university athletic policies after the death of a St. Thomas University student.
Andrew Jason Bartlett, 21, was found dead in his off-campus apartment building on the morning of Oct. 24.
Const. Rick Mooney, media relations officer with the Fredericton Police Force, said foul play has been ruled out in the incident.
He was unable to comment under which circumstances the body was found and said police are awaiting the results of the autopsy to comment further.
Bartlett was a fourth-year English major and a new member of the St. Thomas varsity men’s volleyball team. He was known as a kind, responsible and funny person to many friends and members of the St. Thomas community.
Jeffrey Carleton, spokesman for the university, said the tragedy has had a big impact on campus.
“It’s been a very difficult two weeks now. Andrew was well known among his classmates. He was a successful student at St. Thomas. He thought a lot of the university. You see that by speaking with his family and friends,” he said. “It was a pretty significant accomplishment to make a varsity athletics team in your senior year and this has hit his friends, his teammates and the community pretty hard.”
On the evening of Oct. 24, Carleton said Dennis Cochrane, interim St. Thomas administration president, indicated to Larry Batt, dean of students, and Mike Eagles, athletics director, that he wanted them to “review the circumstances with regard to the student and with regard to the services and the athletics program and anything that would perhaps have an impact on this university.”
A story published in the New Brunswick Beacon on Nov. 1, the online publication of St. Thomas’ journalism program, linked Bartlett’s death to an alleged “hazing party” in a residence on campus on the evening of Oct. 23.
The St. Thomas spokesman confirmed the investigation by Batt and Eagles will surround the university’s policies with drinking and athletic parties.
“We want to make sure we understand. We want to make sure we exactly understand what happened and then sit down and take a look at those areas that intersect with St. Thomas University and see if we have to make any changes,” said Carleton.
“Keep in mind, we’re still in the early stages of this, the Fredericton City Police have not finalized their investigation and Mike [Eagles] and Larry [Batt] are just getting going and the president expects, in two to three weeks, to have something from them,” he said.
Carleton said investigators at the university are speaking to “anybody who has first hand knowledge of the circumstances and of the situation.”
Though the Carleton couldn’t confirm when the results of the investigation will be released, he expects within two to three weeks.
Even though the outcome of the investigation won’t be known for a while, it has not stopped Kevin Dickie, University of New Brunswick athletic director, from stepping into action.
Dickie has already ordered meetings to review his department’s hazing policies. He did admit, however, that defining, enforcing and regulating hazing can be a difficult task.
“For us at UNB, because hazing has such a broad definition — it can mean so many different things — it’s tough to come up with a policy that defines everything,” he said.
“From our end, we’ve done orientations with each of the Varsity Reds at the beginning of the season. Hazing fit in for us as a standalone with performing enhancing drugs where we spent the time to discuss zero tolerance in either of those areas.”
Dickie puts the onus on the coaches and the athletes to heed these rules and credits them for the exemplary work they have done so far in combating hazing. However, situations do arise in both university and club sports.
Multiple athletes weighed in on their experiences with hazing, both what they have seen and experienced.
Second-year UNB linebacker Mat Flosse has never had any problems with hazing personally, but has been a witness to both subtle and obvious cases.
“I guess we have had issues of singling out the rookies, kind of without intention,” said Flosse. “Telling the rookies to pick up shoulder pads or pick up pylons or stuff like that after practice. To you it seems harmless, like you see it in the NFL and other leagues, but it is definitely a part of hazing that not a lot of people are aware of.”
Aside from this Flosse has not had witnessed any other hazing incidents on his team, but had situations arise in high school.
“We had to go through a couple different drinking things or do stupid stuff like at school in front of the rest of the school,” he said. “Whether it is during lunchtime having to sing in front of the cafeteria or whatever. Sing a song or dance, but nothing personally has been too extreme, nothing I felt I was uncomfortable with.”
UNB men’s hockey team captain Kyle Bailey, like Flosse has also not had any trouble with negative affects of hazing because some of these situations are introduced at an early age to hockey players.
“I think it is an interesting phenomenon in the sense that, especially being a hockey player that the word hazing itself gets introduced to you at a young age,” said Bailey. “The first thing I think of when you hear hazing is there is such a negative stigma attached to it. Anything I have been a part of has always been a fun thing and something to loosen new guys up to be more comfortable around the older guys.”
Bailey continued to say that doing small tasks like picking up pucks or equipment after practice was not thought to be hazing, rather that it was just something they assumed they had to do.
“In all honesty I’ve never considered those things [like picking up pucks after warm-up] hazing,” he said. “I think as a hockey player that is sort of just customary. It is just one of those things that most time, anytime you go into a new league or anything as a first-year player it is one of those things you don’t need to be told.
“In junior [hockey], a lot of it is helping load and unload the bus, cleaning the bus, picking up loose garbage that may be left behind, but other than that I can’t think of anything that is too standard.”
Although both Bailey and Flosse have not had a negative experience, Holly Patterson, a former STU women’s soccer player was not as fortunate. When Patterson, 22 at the time, made the women’s soccer team as a rookie she did not expect the initiation that took place.
One situation concerned wearing white T-shirts and getting phone numbers and signatures from men on campus.
“Our shirts had nicknames along the back of them, which weren’t terrible names, but the fact of the matter is we weren’t supposed to be doing it. We also had to get signatures and phone numbers from men across campus, which did not sit well with me,” said Patterson.
Patterson asked if participating would have negative repercussions. The response was no.
“The captain at the time said that is not a problem, you are not forced to participate. I asked if there would be any negative repercussions for saying no. She said, ‘No, of course not.’”
The rookie party followed a week later, where the T-shirts were to be worn. Patterson’s discomfort grew.
“We were supposed to be wearing these shirts to the rookie party, which they had been talking about all week, having to go buy alcohol for this rookie party, and all these other things I said again I’m not comfortable going to the rookie party,” said Patterson. “There were video segments from the [party] the year before and there were images of girls performing mock sexual acts on each other … that was not for me.
“So I asked if I did not have to go. I was told there would be no negative repercussions, but this was an event the coach was also attending.”
Patterson felt she suffered negative repercussions by not participating in these events.
Carleton wouldn’t respond to Patterson’s claims, only saying the STU administration and the athletic department will further review them.
The CIS has held various general meetings discussing the organization’s hazing and harassment policies. The UNB athletic director noted that progress has been made, but regrets that change is usually directly linked to an unfortunate incident.
“As a national body, we’ve spent some time discussing it at AGMs and gathering information. Unfortunately when things become front and centre, they become teachable moments. Something happens at another institution and all of a sudden it becomes a hot-button issue and you want to make sure that you are doing the best to stay ahead of,” Dickie said.
Dickie said it is imperative to take action and hopefully avoid harmful incidents by isolating the problems and engaging them with regulations.
“Hazing can be boiled down to one-three hundred and sixty fifth of a year, but we need to take care of the other 364 days.”
With files from Alex Kress