By Caroline Milliard
(OTTAWA, ON) – The University of Ottawa announced Wednesday that it has suspended its men’s varsity hockey program for the entire 2014-15 season. The University also announced that it is putting in place new policies, practices, and procedures to manage hockey and other varsity and competitive sports programs, including new behaviour guidelines for student-athletes.
These decisions were made following an internal review conducted by independent experts. The review was undertaken after the University itself reported to Thunder Bay police information it received in late February about allegations of misconduct on the part of some members of its men’s hockey team during a road trip to Thunder Bay January 30 to February 2, 2014. The police investigation continues.
As well, the head coach and program manager has been relieved of his duties. He was not involved in the alleged incidents, but his reaction to them did not meet University expectations. In particular, he failed to report the allegations to the University.
As part of the internal review, two independent experts in university sport management, ethics and student disciplinary processes assessed the University’s policies, practices and procedures. The evaluation by Dr. Lorne Adams, associate professor and former athletic director at Brock University, and Manon Vaillancourt, director, student life services, at the Université du Québec à Montréal, is being made public.
At the same time, independent investigator Steven Gaon conducted interviews related to the events in Thunder Bay, including allegations of excessive drinking and sexual misconduct. After reviewing Gaon’s findings, the University concluded that the suspension of the men’s varsity hockey program imposed in March should continue until the end of the 2014-2105 season.
Gaon’s findings reveal that while the events in Thunder Bay represented an isolated incident, the behaviour of some players was unacceptable, did not reflect the University’s values, and failed to meet the University’s expectations of its student-athletes. Gaon’s findings will not be published, to avoid any interference with the on-going police investigation and out of respect for the University’s privacy obligations. The University will work on rebuilding the men’s varsity hockey program over the coming year.
"We have taken this matter very seriously," said University of Ottawa President Allan Rock. "We have dealt with these troubling incidents and we have learned from them. Now we are looking to the future and putting in place new measures that include better training for all student-athletes and staff."
The University also created its Task Force on Respect and Equality to assess broader policies and practices related to all students. The task force is expected to report in the fall.
"It is an unfortunate situation at the University of Ottawa and Ontario University Athletics fully supports the decision made by the University Administration," said OUA President Jennifer Myers. As a result, the schedule for the upcoming 2014-2015 men’s hockey season will be adjusted accordingly to reflect these changes.