Nick Westoll & Mahnoor Yawar
Humber College has suspended the entire men’s varsity rugby team for the rest of the 2015-2016 season for violations of the Varsity Code of Expectations.
The decision was made after an internal investigation determined that the team had been involved in behaviour “reflective of a culture that is problematic,” said dean of students Jen McMillen in an interview Friday afternoon with Humber News.
“We have been made aware of certain behaviours and attitudes that we believe are inconsistent with the values of both the department of athletics and Humber as an institution,” said McMillen.
The five-time OCAA championship men’s team was initially suspended on Oct. 2, along with the women’s varsity rugby team, pending internal investigation.
The women’s team was partly reinstated on Wednesday after that investigation concluded that some players had been involved in hazing rookie players.
The college has not disclosed the focus of the investigation that led to today’s stunning decision.
Meanwhile, Toronto Police Constable Victor Kwong told Humber News Friday that an investigation into alleged sexual assault involving members of the rugby team remains open.
McMillen said the men’s team suspension was not related to any one incident, but a larger issue of negative culture in the team.
“There is a code of student conduct which seeks to hold individuals accountable for behaviour that they may have engaged in which violates that code. But what this release speaks to is the Varsity Code of Expectations and in this particular circumstance, this relates to team consequences, not individual specifics,” she said.
Humber will not be fielding a men’s team for the rest of the 2015-2016 season. It is unclear how schedules, rankings and points from games previously played will be affected by the decision.
A spokesperson for the OCAA said they are “not in a position to make a comment right now.”
Former men’s rugby coach Carey French said, “I am clearly gutted by the decision. It’s a huge disappointment. This was to have been a record-breaking year for the team.”
“I have great respect for the current players and coaching staff. I know that they must be feeling as disappointed as I am. There are many alumni of the team that are very concerned about this,” he said. “I stand with them and the current coaching staff on this. There are clearly lessons to be learned. That may be the silver lining in all of this.”
French, a faculty member in the School of Media Studies and Information Technology, added he was not privy to any inside information on the situation.
French is the founding coach and took the team to three OCAA championships.
Team members are staying quiet about the circumstances surrounding the announcements despite multiple attempts by Humber News to reach them for comment.
Members of the men’s team and coaching staff met with Humber officials leading the investigation Friday to learn of the findings and suspensions.
McMillen previously said the women’s team will go ahead with its Sunday game against Sheridan College.
After the teams’ suspensions were announced on Oct. 2, Toronto Police Const. Jenifferjit Sidhu told Humber News police were called to Humber’s North campus the previous evening to investigate an alleged sexual assault incident that took place on Sept. 25.
“Someone became aware of the situation and relayed it to school security, who in turn called police,” Sidhu said.
Sidhu told Humber News that the complaint allegedly referred to members of Humber’s rugby teams.
However, she added a complainant had not come forward and there is no word on any suspects.
McMillen denied that the investigation leading up to the suspension was related in any way to reports of a police investigation involving members of the rugby teams.
“I can’t speak to another organization’s processes or what the Toronto Police Service told you. I can tell you that any time that police are involved in incidents on campus, we cooperate to the fullest extent possible,” she said.
For the women’s team, penalties were handed out among individual players ranging from one-game retroactive suspensions to season-long suspensions.
McMillen offered a short answer when asked about Humber’s definition of hazing.
“When we’re talking about the term hazing, we are talking about activities that we’ve determined to be inappropriate, to potentially be demeaning or disrespectful to individual members of the team and typically that is focused on the new members, or the rookies of the team,” McMillen said.
The Humber community remains in the dark about details on what led up to this decision.
When asked how he felt about the lack of details provided by the college, first-year film and television student Chris Sewitt said, “It doesn’t make any sense. Why would they hide it unless it’s something really bad?”
McMillen acknowledged the community’s concern.
“This is a winning team. We don’t take any decision lightly. There are individuals on this team. They are people. They’re human beings. They’re students. And we have undergone as comprehensive a process as we’ve been able given all the complex circumstances to ensure that we’ve come to a decision that we believe to be appropriate. And we’ve used a number of different processes and mechanisms in order to do that. But it is not a situation that we take lightly. It’s not a decision we make easily. It is something that we have considered at great length and have come to this end,” she said.
With files from Travis Kingdon