Writings

Letter Announcing Findings of Men’s Ice Hockey Task Force

By Robert Brown | September 5, 2012

Dear Colleagues:

Last spring, after two members of our men’s ice hockey team were accused of sexual assault, I established a Task Force of faculty, staff, trustees, and overseers to review and assess this program. The Task Force was charged with determining whether the culture and climate of the program could have contributed to the actions that led to these criminal charges and with making recommendations based on this assessment to improve the program. The complete charge to the Task Force and its membership can be found here. The Task Force was co-chaired by University Provost and Chief Academic Officer Jean Morrison and Dr. Jonathan Cole, Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees and Provost Emeritus of Columbia University.

The Task Force has completed its work and its report is available on my website. I have made the body of the report public; the appendices (including subcommittee reports) are not written in such a way as to protect the privacy of individuals who contributed information to the Task Force and thus will not be released. Public disclosure of individuals’ identities would breach our assurance of confidentiality to those who stepped forward to provide valuable information and insights. The report describes the process used by the Task Force, which I believe was comprehensive and thorough.

You will note that during the course of its work, the Task Force received information that raised the possibility that one or more NCAA rules might have been violated. As explained in the report, an outside law firm with specific expertise in NCAA issues was engaged to investigate these allegations. No major infractions were identified by this independent review. The findings from this review have been reported to the NCAA.

The Task Force concluded that the unique culture of men’s ice hockey, played at the highest collegiate level, and the preeminent status of our team on campus contribute to a celebrity culture and an isolation of these athletes from the majority of our student body. I believe this situation is exacerbated in men’s college hockey where professional teams frequently draft players before they enter college, an observation contained in the Task Force’s report. This insular and elevated status can lead to unacceptable and destructive behavior, including a culture of sexual entitlement and abuse.

The fourteen recommendations the Task Force has made are based, I believe, on careful consideration of information collected in the course of the group’s deliberations, and are designed to improve oversight of the hockey program and foster the success of these student-athletes and their integration into the University community. Other recommendations deal with more systemic issues of sexual assault/harassment and alcohol abuse on campus. We are moving to implement the majority of the Task Force’s recommendations as rapidly as possible.

For example, the new Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Center (SARP) opened on August 27 at 930 Commonwealth Avenue. The Center’s staff will work with victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment from across campus. In addition, the SARP staff will offer sexual assault awareness and prevention education. We are also implementing sexual assault and violence prevention educational programs for the members of the men’s hockey team.

The report and the investigation of possible breaches in NCAA rules both highlighted the lack of clear reporting lines for the men’s ice hockey program. To regularize reporting relationships, Jack Parker, men’s ice hockey coach, has stepped down as Executive Director of Athletics and will focus all his efforts on coaching. We also have reorganized reporting relationships in the Athletics Department to provide clear lines of responsibility and accountability among the coaching staff, the Athletic Director, senior administrative leadership, and me. These changes also will ensure that potential violations of the Code of Student Responsibilities by student-athletes will be handled through the University’s judicial process under the auspices of the Dean of Students.

Also as recommended by the Task Force, the Athletics Department has been charged with updating its Student-Athlete Code of Conduct so that it clearly articulates our expectations for student-athlete behavior and the sanctions that will be imposed for violations. This code and team rules must be consistent with the University’s Code of Student Responsibilities.

It is clear that excessive alcohol consumption has played a role in the majority of the instances of alleged sexual assault or other inappropriate behavior that have been identified through the work of the Task Force. We are reviewing the recommendation about how best to implement a comprehensive, campus-wide program aimed at moderating alcohol use by our students.

The role of intercollegiate athletics is to provide opportunities for individuals who are fully committed to their college education to participate in competitive sports. Our community revels in the success of our teams and our individual athletes. Men’s ice hockey has a storied history and has defined the pinnacle of athletic success at Boston University. We owe it to our student-athletes, including the members of our men’s ice hockey team, to help them be successful students at Boston University while performing at the high level required for NCAA Division I sports. The Athletics Department has been asked to develop a plan that will help better integrate members of our hockey team into the student community, paying special attention to student housing accommodations and student life.

Issues such as excessive use of alcohol and a sense of sexual entitlement in a subset of students, which were studied and discussed by the Task Force, have plagued college campuses for decades and are strongly coupled to norms that are deeply embedded in our society and extend beyond the boundaries of any one campus. We must work diligently toward providing our students the best possible environment for living and learning in the context of the pressures from society and each other.

I hope you will join me in thanking the members of the Task Force for their considerable effort in producing what is a very important document for the future of our athletics program and Boston University.

Sincerely,

Robert A. Brown