Brutality, humiliation and in the end — loss of life. That is the legacy of the Texas Cowboys.
On Feb. 27, UT introduced it might enable the spirit group to return to campus on a provisional foundation, alongside Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, as a part of its 9 Dimensions of Profitable Pupil Organizations Pilot Program. The Cowboys had been suspended for six years in 2019 after a College investigation into their initiation retreat, prompted by the loss of life of member Nicholas “Nicky” Cumberland, uncovered proof of hazing. The investigation concluded that college students on the retreat had been subjected to bodily brutality, animal cruelty and compelled ingestion of undesirable substances.
This marked the second time the Cowboys had been faraway from campus for hazing offenses. Their first suspension occurred in 1995, after the loss of life of pledge Gabe Higgins throughout that yr’s initiation retreat. Regardless of this tragedy, it seems the Cowboys didn’t study their lesson and continued to repeat the identical harmful hazing practices that in the end resulted in one other loss of life and one other suspension. Now, they’re coming again to campus.
Hazing is an institutional subject. It’s deeply rooted within the tradition of spirit organizations and Greek life itself, making it undeniably tough to vary. Whereas we respect the College’s try to disrupt this vicious cycle by way of its new program, we’re appalled by its resolution to permit the Cowboys to return to campus early.
Whereas the Cowboys are definitely not the one group with a historical past of hazing, they’re consultant of hazing’s deadliest penalties. Given the severity and repeated nature of their infractions, the Cowboys ought to contemplate themselves fortunate to have solely obtained a six-year suspension.
For his or her half, UT was gradual to reply and unwilling to dole out acceptable punishment. College officers didn’t open an investigation till the Cumberland household requested for one, they usually didn’t begin interviewing college students till almost two months after the autumn retreat. Though the investigation report really useful the Cowboys obtain a “minimal six-year suspension,” this was later diminished to a most six-year suspension interval. Moreover, whereas the group was prohibited from recruiting new members through the investigation, they had been by no means positioned on social probation.
For the eight months following Nicky’s loss of life and earlier than their suspension, the Cowboys continued to get together — unencumbered by the absence of substantive College motion.
“I perceive then-President Fenves on the time capitulated to calls for made by influential alumni-donors in ‘a whole lot’ of calls and emails to cut back the sanction interval from six to 4 years,” Jay Maguire, hazing reform advocate and founding father of Dad and mom and Alumni for Pupil Security, mentioned in an announcement. “It’s disappointing and a significant concern that exterior affect, somewhat than the foundations of the College, information of the case and the skilled judgment of different college officers, had been allowed to cut back the penalty.”
Regardless of clear proof of harmful and unlawful hazing practices, the College softened the Cowboys’ unique punishment and now seeks to cut back it even additional. The group appears incapable of taking accountability or enacting lasting, institutional change. The Cowboys don’t deserve the good thing about the doubt from the College or the UT neighborhood.
“In Nicky’s case, we noticed that the Cowboy Alumni Affiliation fully distanced themselves from having any responsibility or accountability over the scholars,” mentioned Shawn Cumberland, Nicky’s father. “My sense is that the alumni simply need their very own get together to proceed.”
Brian Antweil, president of the Texas Cowboys Alumni Affiliation Board of Administrators, mentioned he’s decided to finish hazing within the group and understands why they had been suspended in 2019.
“We deserved to be suspended. Completely,” Antweil mentioned.
Sadly, he appeared simply as prepared to divert from the central position hazing has performed within the group’s historical past.
“Why are you targeted simply on hazing?” Antweil mentioned. “What about what we’ve executed as a corporation for the previous 100 years on the constructive aspect?”
Antweil’s defensiveness of the Cowboys’ fame undermines his efforts to persuade us that the group seeks real accountability in its return. Whereas it’s true the Cowboys have a protracted historical past on UT’s campus, their legacy will at all times be tarnished by the hurt and violence they’ve perpetrated. These components can’t be erased or negated by the group’s constructive contributions — one thing Antweil fails to know. Given the Cowboys’ historical past and Antweil’s deflection, we’re not assured of their capacity to enact institutional reform.
Katie McGee, UT’s government director of Pupil Conduct and Educational Integrity, defined the intention behind the pilot program.
“Traditionally, universities have responded to pupil group conduct by eradicating problematic organizations from campus; Now we have not invested as a lot time, effort and power into serving to these teams return,” McGee mentioned. “What usually occurs with out intervention is a bunch tends to revert to the identical issues they did earlier than.”
Jenny Walker, this system’s director, mentioned it addresses misconduct by way of a standardized curriculum with methods tailor-made to every group. This contains independently led self-reflection, academic workshops, ongoing College evaluations and “written deliverables,” meant to assist organizations incorporate procedural adjustments. McGee defined that organizations that fail to finish your complete program will lose their provisional standing.
The College’s try to deal with organizational hazing with its interventional program is a much-needed shift from its beforehand hands-off method. We’re notably glad that the provisional interval isn’t time-based, permitting organizations to hunt reform at their very own tempo somewhat than merely ready out the clock. This system’s premise is admirable, however whether or not it would actually reform a corporation with such a deep-rooted historical past of hazing because the Cowboys stays to be seen.
“I’ve a whole lot of religion within the 9 dimension plan and the great folks attempting to finish hazing within the administration, within the alumni and future pupil management of the Cowboys,” McGuire mentioned. “Nevertheless, if the Cowboys haven’t actually stamped out its long-standing hazing tradition for good, this early reinstatement can be much more an affront to Nicky’s reminiscence, and people who suffered essentially the most — his pals and family members.”
The editorial board consists of affiliate editors Justice DuBois, Religion DuFresne, Mihir Gokhale, Alyssa Ramos and editor-in-chief Megan Tran.