BOSTON — Following the recent arrests of two Boston University men’s ice hockey players on assault charges, the school is forming a task force to investigate the culture of the team.
In a letter to the BU community (posted below), school President Robert Brown stresses that no one has yet concluded involvement in hockey has contributed to the arrests.
But he says allegations of sexual assault against two hockey players raise questions that must be examined by a school task force.
“The charges in these cases understandably lead to questions about whether the hockey team’s culture and climate have contributed in some way to the actions of the two individuals,” Brown wrote. “The University must address these questions and, if deficiencies are identified, make appropriate and necessary changes.”
On Sunday, junior Max Nicastro was arrested on sexual assault charges. Nicastro’s arrest came a little more than two months after his teammate, Corey Trivino, was arrested on similar charges.
In 2010, Trivino and another hockey player were disciplined for producing a vulgar rap song and posting it on the Web.
Boston University, which owns WBUR, did not make anyone available for an interview.
Hockey East Commissioner Joe Bertagna says the university is acting responsibly by launching an investigation.
“I’m pleased that from all indications that the university is taking all the steps that one would want to see, from a hockey coach to the administration, with this latest announcement,” Bertagna said.
Sarah McMahon, a professor at Rutgers University and an expert on athletes and sexual assault, says a sense of entitlement can make a person more likely to commit a sexually violent act. Another precursor to sexual assault, McMahon says, is being part of a culture where it’s acceptable to put down women.
“There seems to be a status that is given to males on campus when they belong to one of these teams and sometimes that translates into a sense of privilege or entitlement that they may have,” McMahon said.
Jarrod Chin, the director of training and curriculum at Northeastern University’s Sport in Society Center, oversees violence prevention programs directed at college student athletes and has worked with BU’s hockey team in the past. He says while there is no definitive research showing that athletes have a higher rate of sexual assault than the general student population, but there are plenty of studies showing college males are more violent.
“I think, unfairly, the BU hockey team is singled out for their hockey culture. For me, it isn’t about hockey or any sport. It’s about male culture,” Chin said.
In his letter, Brown said the “membership of the task force, its charge, and its work plan will be announced in the next several weeks.” He will ask the task force to produce a report “early in the summer.”
This report was updated Friday, Feb. 24 with WBUR Morning Edition content.
— Here’s a transcript of Brown’s letter:
February 23, 2012
Dear Colleagues and Students:
For decades the Boston University men’s ice hockey team has been a source of tremendous pride for the Boston University community, on and off the ice. Our student athletes have competed at the highest level of collegiate ice hockey and united generations of students, alumni, and friends who cheer for their success and admire their accomplishments.
Today we find ourselves at a crossroads for the men’s ice hockey program and the University. As has been extensively reported, two members of our team have been charged with assault this academic year. These charges, if ultimately substantiated, involve reprehensible acts. The Boston University community expects that our student athletes, as representatives of the University, 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.
The charges in these cases understandably lead to 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.
I am writing to let you know that I am forming a task force of University trustees, overseers, faculty, and staff which will be charged with studying the culture and climate of the men’s ice hockey team and its influence on the behavior of student athletes in our campus community. I stress that the constitution of the task force does not reflect a judgment about the specific facts in the two cases of alleged assault. The determination of both cases must be left to the judicial system.
The constitution of the task force does, however, reflect a University-level judgment that the two incidents indicate something systemic or habitual may foster a team climate that does not comport with the highest standards of conduct we seek to maintain for all members of our community.
I launch this task force with the full support of Head Coach Jack Parker, Athletic Director Mike Lynch, and Bob Knox, Chairman of our Board of Trustees. Coach Parker told The Boston Globe, “I hope it’s a horrible coincidence. I don’t want this to be the culture of our team, and if it is, we’ll change it.” Coach Parker’s comment is exactly right.
The membership of the task force, its charge, and its work plan will be announced in the next several weeks. The goal is for the task force to offer the University a thoughtful and impartial assessment of the culture and climate of our team, with a view to answering the question whether that culture and climate could have contributed to actions that, in turn, led to criminal charges. I will ask to have a report from the task force early in the summer so that we can begin to address any issues in the coming academic year.
Working together, we will do whatever is necessary to restore the Boston University community’s confidence in the men’s ice hockey program. I look forward to reporting to you on our progress.
Robert A. Brown