McGill University has drawn up a list of unacceptable initiation behaviour in an attempt to avoid a repeat of the damaging hazing incident that rocked the academic institution more than a year ago.
Calisthenics not related to a sport, simulated sexual acts and whipping are to be disallowed by the university. Final approval to ban such acts, already passed by the university senate, will be decided at a board of governors meeting, possibly as early as next month.
The decision to draw up a list of unacceptable behaviour was made after a former McGill student spoke out about a nude hazing ritual involving rookie football players, a story that made front-page news across the country and led to the suspension of veterans on the Redmen team.
D'Arcy McKeown, the then 18-year-old victim, said yesterday he was pleased to hear that the Montreal institution is taking action.
"I'm happy with anything that assures that no one else has to go through what the other rookies and I had to and I hope other universities are looking at similar policies," Mr. McKeown, now 20 and studying at the University of Toronto, said in an interview.
McGill cancelled its football season at the midway point and suspended six players in the past academic year after an internal investigation confirmed that rookies were gagged and anally prodded with a broomstick.
Mr. McKeown left the university shortly after the hazing took place in August, 2005. He plays on the University of Toronto's football team.
Morton Mendelson, McGill's deputy provost of student life and learning, said while the athletics department is trying to foster a positive approach to initiating rookies, a policy is needed to avoid a repetition.
"This was an attempt . . . to raise the issue to the university level and also to acknowledge that this is not just an athletics issue, this is an issue across the university," Prof. Mendelson said.
"We didn't want to have an exhaustive list . . . but we did want to alert students, staff, faculty [and]members of the university to the broad range of behaviour that may be problematic."
While the student government applauds the university senate's anti-hazing policy, Aaron Donny-Clark, president of the Students' Society of McGill University, said the appendix is too broad.
"There are things in there that seem a bit petty or that if you were to read them very literally, then an awful lot of people could get in trouble for things that are very much a part of our culture," Mr. Donny-Clark said.
He said some may question what "performing calisthenics not related to a sport" means, for example. "If you were to take that to its most ridiculous extreme, it could include the human knot," he said, referring to an ice-breaking game in which group members use each hand to connect to a different person and then try to unravel themselves by unthreading their bodies without letting go of each other's hands.
The senate policy proposal does not expand on what the ban on extracurricular calisthenics would include.
Prof. Mendelson, however, believes the proposed policy is not too wide-ranging. "We are going to use this policy in the same judicious way that we use all our policies that regulate students' behaviour, staff behaviour, faculty behaviour," he said.
"They are meant to serve an educational function, to alert the community to what the values of the university are, what is appropriate behaviour."
He added: "Regulations like these are meant to give us a handle on how to deal with individuals who violate the standards of the community."
Some of the forbidden practices in initiation activities, approved by McGill University's senate:
tattooing, head shaving, piercing, or branding
mocking or degrading any individual or social group
disrobing or appearing nude in a public or private place
engaging in, or simulating, sexual acts including or excluding others based on specific characteristics
providing personal service to senior members
making prank calls or harassing others
performing calisthenics not related to a sport
deprivation of sleep, or food, or hygiene
paddling, whipping, beating or kicking
serving alcohol to minors
consuming alcohol or illegal drugs
staging drinking games or competitions
destroying, defacing or stealing property