Reports

Report of the Men’s Ice Hockey Task Force

August 28, 2012

Introduction

On March 7, 2012, Boston University President Robert A. Brown established and charged the Men’s Ice Hockey Task Force with the responsibility to review the culture and climate of the Boston University men's hockey program and to provide a thoughtful and impartial assessment. The task force was initiated in response to criminal charges, which included sexual assault being brought against two members of the men's ice hockey team within a three-month period. These charges raised serious questions about whether the culture and climate of the ice hockey program contributed in some way to the alleged actions of the two individuals. The University chose to investigate these questions with the understanding that if evidence of systemic problems emerged, then appropriate changes would be made to ensure that our men’s ice hockey program is held to the same high standards to which we hold all members of our university community.

Of primary concern was the question of whether inherent aspects of the program’s culture and climate could have helped to foster the actions that led to the criminal charges. For those unfamiliar with Boston University athletic programs, the men’s hockey team, which has won a total of five national championships, has garnered substantial national recognition and is often among the top university ice hockey programs in the nation. Its visibility both on and off campus exceeds that of any other BU athletic program.

It is essential to note that the task force was not asked to conduct an assessment of the guilt or innocence of the two individuals who were charged with sexual assault. Neither was the task force asked to evaluate the judgments that were rendered in these two cases by Boston University’s Judicial Affairs, which has the responsibility for adjudicating alleged violations of the Student Code of Responsibilities. Those processes are the purview of the State of Massachusetts and the Boston University Dean of Students, respectively. In fact, prosecutors have since dropped the criminal charges that were filed against one of the individuals, while the other individual has pleaded guilty to reduced charges of assault and battery.

The task force was composed of members of the Boston University staff and faculty, whose expertise aligned with the issues the task force would need to address, as well as members of the Trustees and Overseers of Boston University. The co-chairs were Dr. Jonathan Cole, chairman of the Academic Affairs Committee of the BU Board of Trustees, and BU University Provost and Chief Academic Officer Jean Morrison.

This report includes: 1) the charge to the task force; 2) a list of task force members, 3) a description of the task force’s methodology; 4) a summary of findings and recommendations; and 5) an appendix containing subcommittee reports and the data and information used in developing this report. The report has been prepared for internal University use and not for any other purpose.

1. Charge to the Men’s Hockey Task Force from President Robert A. Brown

On March 7, 2012, President Robert A. Brown presented his charge to the task force, outlining the task force’s responsibilities, the subjects to be covered, and his expectations. This document can be found in its entirety at the following URL: http://www.bu.edu/president/letters-writings/letters/2012/3-07/.

Thank you for agreeing to serve on the task force to review and assess the men's hockey program at Boston University. The task force will be co-chaired by Jonathan Cole, chairman of the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees, and University Provost and Chief Academic Officer Jean Morrison. Chief of Staff for the Office of the President, Doug Sears, will serve as staff. The full membership of the task force is included below. The Boston University community expects that our student-athletes, as representatives of the University, will adhere to the same high standards to which we hold all members of our community and which reflect the mission and aspirations of our university.

Within the last three months, serious charges of sexual assault against female BU students have been brought against two members of the men's hockey team. Quite understandably, these charges have given rise to legitimate and serious questions about whether the hockey team's culture and climate have contributed in some way to the actions of the two individuals. The University must address these questions and, if deficiencies are identified, make appropriate and necessary changes.

Your charge is to review, as comprehensively as you are able, the culture and climate of the men's hockey program, and to offer the University a thoughtful and impartial assessment. The goal is to answer the question whether that culture and climate could have contributed to actions that, in turn, led to criminal charges. Your task is also to offer recommendations based on your assessment. Your review and assessment should include consideration of:

  1. Academic Quality: Rigor, attendance, diligence, and performance in players' chosen fields of study. How does the academic engagement and performance of hockey players compare with that of other students and student-athletes?
  2. Student Life Issues: Interactions of members of the men's hockey team with other members of the student body, male and female, and with the broader University community. Do team members have the same expectations for engagement in student life as do other undergraduate students and student-athletes? Is their participation in community life similar to, or different from, that of other students and student-athletes? How does their engagement and conduct, individually and collectively as well as on and off campus, compare with that of average students and student-athletes?
  3. The disciplinary history of members of the men's hockey team. Does that history differ from the norm for other undergraduate students and student-athletes in our community?

I encourage you to reach out broadly to our faculty, staff, and students, including members of the team itself as well as to other student-athletes. Other members of the University community, including our alumni, may have valuable perspectives as well. The task force may also seek the advice of outside experts, as it deems necessary.

The work and the deliberations of the task force are strictly confidential. Although I anticipate that your report will be made public, I will decide how and when that will occur. Please refer any media inquiries to Doug Sears. You should feel free to consult the co-chairs if you have any questions or need further guidance in this regard.

I would like to receive your report in the summer so that we can consider your recommendations and implement needed changes as early as possible in the fall semester.

I appreciate your willingness to take on this important responsibility. Through your efforts, we will take whatever steps are necessary to restore the community's confidence in our men's ice hockey program and to ensure that the standards we set for our students in conduct and academic performance are consistent with our mission, core purposes and aspirations, and that those standards are consistently applied.

2. Task Force Members

Co-Chairs

  • Dr. Jonathan R. Cole, John Mitchell Mason Professor at Columbia University, Boston University Trustee
  • Dr. Jean Morrison, Boston University Provost and Chief Academic Officer

Members

  • Professor Amy Baltzell, Coordinator, Sport Psychology Specialization/Counseling Program, School of Education
  • Professor Sara Brown, Athletic Training Program, College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College
  • Professor William DeJong, School of Public Health
  • Mr. David E. Hollowell, Boston University Overseer
  • Dean Jeffrey Hutter, Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine
  • Professor Michael J. Lyons, Chair, Psychology Department, College of Arts & Sciences
  • Professor Elizabeth Mehren, Department of Journalism, College of Communication
  • Ms. Carla E. Meyer, Boston University Trustee
  • Ms. Francine Montemurro, Office of the Ombuds, Boston University
  • Dean Maureen O'Rourke, School of Law
  • Mr. C. A. Lance Piccolo, Boston University Trustee
  • Ms. Kim A. Randall, Director of Equal Opportunity, Boston University
  • Mr. Richard D. Reidy, Boston University Trustee
  • Professor Emily Rothman, School of Public Health

Staff

  • Dr. Doug Sears, Vice President and Chief of Staff, Office of the President
  • Dr. Nancy Baker, Special Assistant to the President, Office of the President
  • Ms. Susan Tomassetti, Assistant to the Chief of Staff, Office of the President
  • Mr. Shih Chi Chang, Executive Assistant to the Provost, Office of the Provost

3. Methodology

The task force gathered information and data in a variety of ways to ensure access to a wide array of relevant information and to ensure broad community participation in the process.

The task force issued a general call for input from the BU community at-large via a memo distributed on April 9, 2012 (http://www.bu.edu/hockey-task-force/2012/04/09/men’s-ice-hockey-task-force—call-for-input/). The task force received the community’s input in three ways: 1) open forum public meetings attended by task force members; 2) written comments submitted via the web; and 3) letters written directly to the co-chairs.

The task force staff established a website to share publicly available information about the effort (http://www.bu.edu/hockey-task-force/), which included a web portal where individuals could provide information in a confidential manner, either anonymously or with attribution. Eighty-six submissions were received via the web portal and an additional five letters were received via post.

Two open forum meetings were held on the BU campus on April 11 and April 23, 2012. Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore served as moderator.

The task force issued a request for input specifically to Boston University faculty via a memo distributed on May 22, 2012 (http://www.bu.edu/hockey-task-force/2012/04/09/men’s-ice-hockey-task-force—call-for-input/).

The full task force held a total of six meetings, on March 23, April 6, April 27, May 11, May 25, and June 8, 2012. At the March 23 meeting, the co-chairs announced the formation of three subcommittees to review and analyze the gathered input: 1) Academic Performance and Student Life (APSL); 2) Athletic Team Culture and Climate (ATCC); and 3) Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment (SASH). The individual subcommittees held their own respective meetings; the APSL subcommittee held 3 meetings, the ATCC subcommittee held 4 meetings, and the SASH subcommittee held 3 meetings.

Various task force members conducted a total of 34 personal interviews during the investigation with 1) current and former men’s ice hockey players; 2) members of the men’s ice hockey coaching staff; 3) Athletics Department leadership and athletic training and coaching staff; 4) relevant members of Boston University administration; 5) faculty; 6) current students and alumni; 7) resident assistants in the Office of Residence Life; and 8) university staff with responsibility for student health, wellness, and safety programs. At least two task force members conducted each interview. The attendees then prepared and submitted a written interview summary to the full task force.

Members of the task force also hosted two group meetings: one with members of the BU Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism, and the other with members of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

The task force also received and reviewed the following additional data: 1) Clery Act Reporting Requirements–Disclosures Required; 2) Clery Act Reporting Requirements–Electronic Code of Federal Regulations; 3) BU Hockey Team Rules and Guidelines; 4) Student-Athlete Code of Conduct; 5) Student Athlete Handbook; 6) “Bringing in the Bystander, Facilitator’s Guide, 2010”; 7) “Bringing in the Bystander Prevention Workshop, Slides 2010”; and 8) a former undergraduate’s description of a BU Alcohol Orientation session.

Various University staff also provided us with 14 information and data tables including: 1) Aggregate violations of the Code of Conduct by team members; 2) BU Hockey Disciplinary Background Summary 2012; 3) BU Sexual Assault Summary 2007-2012; 4) Clery Act Sex Offenses at Multiple Institutions 2008-2010; 5) Men’s Ice Hockey Recruiting History (Junior and non-Junior) 2006-2011; 6) BU Men’s Hockey Applications; 7) BU Men’s Ice Hockey Grades for Spring 2012; 8) Graduation Success Rate Report 2002-2005; 9) Men’s Ice Hockey Graduates: Entering Years 1994-1997; 10) Response of Department of Athletics to Questions Posed by the Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Subcommittee; 11) Student Athlete Exit Questionnaires (Ice Hockey players’ exit interviews); 12) Disciplinary Data; 13) Student Athlete Enrollment; and 14) Draft status data.

Concerns regarding potential NCAA infractions arose during the course of the task force efforts. In response, President Brown commissioned an investigation by Michael Glazier, chair of the Collegiate Sports Practice Group in the firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC. Glazier’s report represents an independent investigation into possible violations of NCAA rules and regulations in the men’s ice hockey program, which was judged to be outside the purview and capacity of the task force. The task force received and reviewed Mr. Glazier’s full report.

Each subcommittee prepared a written report based upon the data and information described above, and then submitted its report to the entire task force. The co-chairs prepared a draft of the full committee report, which was based on the three subcommittee reports. The draft was then circulated to the full task force for input and comment. This document is the result of that process.

4. Summary of Findings and Recommendations

Summary of Findings

Our assessment of the information and data we gathered and reviewed concerning the Boston University men’s ice hockey program can be considered in two broad categories. The first includes the full range of university structures, processes, and procedures that govern all aspects of the men’s ice hockey program in particular, and competitive athletics at Boston University in general. Our conclusion is that there are a number of important structures and processes that are failing to achieve the full level and quality of oversight of the men’s ice hockey program that is expected and appropriate at a major university. These failings include issues of institutional control and governance structure at the highest levels, as well as shortcomings in leadership at the team level. Further, the absence of a few routine, transparent, and systematic processes that would establish clear expectations for players’ behavior has created a culture in which important aspects of oversight for our student-athletes’ behavior—beyond performance as a team member—has fallen inappropriately to the coaching staff.

The second broad category of findings relates to issues surrounding the social and sexual interactions of the men’s ice hockey players with the broader student community. Our assessment has shown that a culture of sexual entitlement exists among some players on the men’s ice hockey team, stemming in part from their elevated social status on campus. This culture of sexual entitlement, as evidenced by frequent sexual encounters with women absent an emotional relationship or on-going commitment, can also involve unprotected sex. This culture is actively supported by a small subset of BU’s undergraduate population. The absence of systematic processes for sexual assault prevention training for members of the men’s ice hockey team, and for BU students more broadly, contributes to behaviors that place many University students at risk. Substance abuse, including heavy alcohol use in particular, can be an important part of students’ social and sexual culture. Institutional practices and educational efforts relating to sexual health and substance abuse—for the men’s ice hockey players in particular, and for the undergraduate student body in general—do not provide sufficient information or guidance to our students.

Academic performance data show that with some exceptions, the academic performance of the men’s ice hockey team falls below that of the undergraduate student body as a whole. Information provided by faculty regarding their classroom experiences with team members was highly variable. Some had very positive interactions with players and some had much less positive experiences. Historically, the players’ NCAA graduation rates have been high. The data and information, taken together, are interpreted to indicate that while there are not clear systemic problems, the academic performance of the men’s ice hockey team members should continue to be monitored to ensure that they meet university standards. The admissions data we examined indicates that a number of team members matriculated despite test scores and grade point averages that are considerably lower than the mean for students admitted to Boston University.

With respect to student life, players very quickly become insulated from the larger BU undergraduate population by virtue of their housing arrangements, having their own functionally exclusive training and competition venue, and the demands of team participation. This insulation is an inherent part of participation on a high-level athletic team and is not necessarily a problem in and of itself. It is our judgment, however, that steps should be taken to address the extent to which hockey players are separated from both other BU athletes and the larger undergraduate population. Finally, our assessment of team members’ recent disciplinary history did not reveal a pattern of infractions that was significantly different, in type or number, from the undergraduate population as a whole.

One characteristic that distinguishes men’s ice hockey from other collegiate sports, such as football and basketball, is the pathway that players take to the National Hockey League (NHL). Most young men with the potential to play in the NHL first play in ‘junior hockey’ which involves competitive league play in both the United States and Canada for players between 16 and 20 years old. Because players in North America are eligible to be drafted by the NHL when they are between the ages of 18 and 20 years old, the NHL can draft players before they enter college. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) does not prohibit ice hockey student-athletes from participating in collegiate play if they have been drafted by the NHL. This creates a potentially troubling situation for colleges and universities as some ice hockey student-athletes may have already committed to an NHL team for future play. The extent to which these student-athletes may be invested in their academic success and student life may be markedly different from other students and other student-athletes. At BU, on average, about one-third of the incoming players have already been drafted to play in the NHL, and our assessment is that this contributes in substantive ways to a culture and climate in which players may not be fully engaged in the academic, intellectual and extra-curricular activities that are routine for the broader student body.

Regarding potential NCAA infractions, Michael Glazier, chair of the Collegiate Sports Practice Group in the firm of Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC, found no evidence of major NCAA violations as a result of his investigation. In addition to requesting that Mr. Glazier conduct an unbiased, complete, and thorough investigation, President Brown asked Mr. Glazier to offer his recommendations for enhancing BU’s athletics compliance program. All of the compliance-related recommendations put forward in the Glazier report have been incorporated into the task force’s list of recommendations.

In summary, we interpret the information and data we have reviewed to indicate that there are a number of aspects of the culture and climate of the men’s ice hockey program that require action by the University. Some of the issues are serious and require immediate attention at the highest levels of the University. It is important to note that we have not found any evidence to indicate that the problems we have identified are necessarily unique to Boston University. We do believe, however, that if the University is responsive to the recommendations made below, all of our students, not just members of the men’s ice hockey team, will benefit.

Recommendations

The recommendations listed here are based on our assessment of the culture and climate surrounding the men’s ice hockey team:
  1. Normalize the reporting structure in the Department of Athletics so that all coaches, including the men’s ice hockey coach, report directly and exclusively to the Athletic Director. The Executive Director of Athletics position should be eliminated. This would establish clear lines of responsibility and accountability between the coach, the Athletic Director, and the President of the University.
  2. The University should establish an office that provides care and counseling for victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment, as well as programs for sexual assault prevention training and sexual and reproductive health education. The director of this office should report directly to the Office of the Provost.
  3. The men’s ice hockey team members should undergo sexual assault prevention training on an annual basis from a reputable specialty organization that has expertise in evidence-based best practices.
  4. The University should establish an office to develop and implement a comprehensive alcohol and other drug prevention program that is grounded in evidence-based best practices. The director of this office should report directly to the Office of the Provost.
  5. The Provost’s Office should oversee a review by the Athletics Department of the Student-Athlete Code of Conduct to ensure that it clearly articulates the behaviors that are expected of the University’s student-athletes and describes the sanctions that will be imposed for violations. The Athletics Department should also ensure that the Student-Athlete Code of Conduct is readily available to all student-athletes, and that all student-athletes recognize it as the governing code.
  6. The Athletics Department should develop a strategic plan to ensure that members of the men’s ice hockey team in particular, and student-athletes in general, are better integrated into student life. Special attention should be given to the issue of housing, including the extent to which team members are housed in the same residence halls.
  7. A review of the processes and standards used by admissions for recruits to the men’s ice hockey program should be conducted to ensure that student-athletes are academically prepared to be successful students at Boston University.
  8. Student-athletes should not have the option of enrolling in Metropolitan College.
  9. Steps should be taken to establish regular, formal communication between coaches and representatives from appropriate campus resources in order to ensure that men’s ice hockey players have full access to campus programs and staff to help them address their behavioral, substance abuse, or mental health-related issues.
  10. The Provost’s Office should oversee an Athletics Department review and revision of the team-level written policies for men’s ice hockey, which should include clearly articulated expectations for players’ behavior both on and off the ice, as well as the disciplinary actions that can result from violating those policies. This effort should include, but not be restricted to, updating the current team rules document to include specific polices related to sexual misconduct/sexual violence and alcohol use.
  11. Procedures should be developed to require—and ensure—that any misconduct that involves potential violations of University policies or federal, state, or local laws, be handled by Judicial Affairs or through other regular channels, consistent with how the same incidents would be handled for non-athletes.
  12. The Department of Athletics should provide access to a sports psychologist or similar professional who can provide confidential psychological and emotional support and guidance for the players.
  13. Formalize a program of peer and alumni mentoring for men’s hockey players involving academically high-achieving team members and professionally successful alumni who could set standards for, support, and encourage players to achieve academic excellence and meet their career goals outside of hockey, and develop healthy and mutually respectful interpersonal and sexual relationships.
  14. The University should develop collaborative partnerships with local businesses, campus area bars, and restaurants to implement policies and programs that will help ensure the safety of all students.