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PC announces lacrosse incident conclusions, punishments

Presbyterian College President Matthew vandenBerg announced Thursday that four students have been expelled and a fraternity has been permanently banned from campus following an investigation into an incident that occurred at a women’s lacrosse game this past February.

PC President Matthew vandenBerg

According to the release from PC, an independent investigation conducted by attorney Cindy Crick validated reports that a group of PC students harassed and verbally assaulted members of the Howard University women’s lacrosse team. Howard is an Historically Black College & University (HBCU) whose alumni include U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris, former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and author Toni Morrison.

PC took the following actions following Crick’s investigation:

  • PC is permanently separating four students from the college, effective (Thursday, May 5).
  • One student received a one-year suspension from PC.
  • Two students received probated suspensions and must complete educational programs and counseling.
  • Two students received penalties for alcohol-related policy violations.
  • PC determined that two students were not involved in any misconduct.
  • The Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, whose charter had already been revoked by its national organization due to hazing incidents, has been permanently banned from PC.

“Ultimately, the evidence, including personal statements, eyewitness accounts, and exhibits, indicated that a small number of students taunted members of the visiting Howard University women’s lacrosse team during pre-game warmups using racist, misogynistic, hateful, and otherwise inappropriate language and behaviors,” vandenBerg said in the release. “The evidence also revealed that some nearby students and staff took immediate, proactive measures to address the inexcusable behaviors.”

PC students attend a diversity and Unity March on campus in early March following an incident involving the Howard University lacrosse team in February.

According to the release, the investigation included interviews with 31 individuals, including witnesses from PC and Howard. Eleven PC students, some of whom retained attorneys, were named respondents in the investigation. Crick’s team collected 44 exhibits, producing an account of all interviews and supplied PC administrators with a detailed report of what happened that day, the release said.

Earlier reports from PC and Howard, which made national headlines, said that several PC students shouted misogynistic and racial comments and slurs as the Howard women’s lacrosse team made its way to Bailey Memorial Stadium for a game.

While the incident included several members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, PC said it did not include all of its members.

“In light of the PC chapter’s continued student conduct issues, including their significant involvement in the Feb. 11 incident, PC is permanently removing the chapter from campus and eliminating any possible path to reestablishment,” vandenBerg said in the release.

vandenBerg also reiterated sentiments from his statements in the immediate wake of the incident.

“We are profoundly sorry for what our guests from Howard University experienced that day. Our hearts are heavy for them and for women and people of color throughout the PC community, many of whom felt less safe because of the actions of a select few,” he said in the release. “Standing together as a unified community, PC categorically condemns racism, misogyny, and hate, all of which have no place in civilized society and are anathema to our most deeply held institutional values.”

The release said PC will not and cannot by law identify students involved in the incident under parameters set by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Soon after the incident, the “Hoseville” area for students attending games at Bailey Memorial Stadium was closed indefinitely, and the release said PC is looking into if, how and when the area will be reopened.

According to the release, Howard students and administrators cooperated with the investigation from start to finish.

“The leaders and students of Howard have been gracious throughout the process, as we have worked to remedy and atone for what they experienced on that day,” the release read.

vandenBerg said the incident has spurred tangible changes at PC, including a new vice-president focused on diversity and inclusion issues, beyond the punishments announced Thursday.

Members of the PC women’s lacrosse team join a March for Unity on campus in early March.

“We are proud of and encouraged by the enormous amount of support from PC students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and friends for our visitors from Howard University and for all women and people of color,” vandenBerg said in the release. “Such gestures, including a recent student-led Unity March featuring robust faculty and staff support, are a testament to the real Presbyterian College.

“In an earlier demonstration of our values, PC announced in October the establishment of its first named and endowed cabinet-level position: the Rogers-Ingram Vice President for Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. We look forward to celebrating the appointment of our new VP within a few days.”

Photos by Judith Brown, Laurens County Advertiser 

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