Secret hazing ritual at St. FX leads to court battle

Freshman allegedly beaten with tree branches, covered with food and told to smear Rub A535 on their testicles.

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Students enter and exit MacNeil House on the St. FX campus. Photo: Melissa Tobin

Upper-year students allegedly beat freshmen with tree branches, smeared their faces with fake feces and forced them to rub stinging lotion on their testicles as part of a hazing ritual at Saint Francis Xavier.

The initiation rite by the MacNeil Marauders was held in the woods off campus last fall, but was not reported publicly at the time. A court settlement reached last week will allow the hazing leaders to rejoin clubs and sport teams and once again drink at the campus bar.

The settlement ends a four-month legal battle over how to punish 10 students who pleaded guilty in an internal hearing at the university to staging a banned initiation ceremony for new residents of MacNeil House, a fraternity-like dormitory on the St. FX Campus. The students later challenged their punishment in court, saying the hearing was not fair.

The freshmen were led through a classic hazing of humiliation and violence, state documents filed with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. Second-year students told the freshmen to lie face down in the woods, then beat them with tree-branches, covered them with food, and forced them to eat things that made them vomit. The freshmen were told to smear Rub A535 on their testicles and had what they thought was human feces rubbed into their faces. They were then told to clean themselves in a nearby river.

The second-year students admitted to leading an unofficial orientation ritual banned under the rules of the university, but not to specifics of the abuse. The allegations have not been proven in court.

"This is a tradition"

David J. Ianetti is the father of one of the students accused of abuse. He is also the lawyer who represented the students in court. He said yesterday his son was a victim of a crackdown on hazing by St. FX administration.

"This is a tradition," he said of the initiation rite.

"They will call it an unapproved hazing, but this is an orientation ritual that has been going on for I don't know how many years and the university has decided they wanted to stop it. Unfortunately these boys were in the wrong place at the right time."

A spokesperson for St. FX declined to comment on specifics of the case.

"We definitely take these matters very seriously, but out of respect for the privacy of the students involved, we will not comment on any of the specific punishments," said communications director Kyler Bell. "But make no mistake, the university takes the welfare and the safety of our students very seriously."

Under the original punishment, the young men were kicked out of residence, banned from the campus bar, and asked not to participate in any student-sponsored social and sporting events until October, 2009.

They also were required to each pay a $50 fine, ordered to take bullying and harassment counselling at the school, as well as complete 50 hours community service. Two of the 10 already lived off campus. The remaining eight unsuccessfully challenged the punishment at the university. They then took the issue to court.

In the meantime, all eight of the students had moved off campus. One, according to Ianetti, dropped out of school.

According to Ianetti, the ban on joining student activities was dropped under the settlement.
"They are sanction-free as of this weekend," he said.

The eight students involved in the court case were Joshua Browning, Robert Craig, Matthew Gunn, Anthony Ianetti, Brayden Logel, Michael McNally-Soucie, Liam Snider and John Walsh. The other two students were Jordan MacDonald and Matthew Bates-Wilson.

The hazing complaint was made by a third party. None of the alleged victims filed a complaint and there was no police investigation into the matter.

 

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