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Union walks back claim that lewd 'scavenger hunt' emanated from women athletics

Union walks back claim that lewd 'scavenger hunt' emanated from women athletics

Sports teams fired back at college over generalization
Union walks back claim that lewd 'scavenger hunt' emanated from women athletics
Union College.
Photographer: MARC SCHULTZ

SCHENECTADY — Union College officials have concluded an investigation into a lewd "scavenger hunt" and walked back an initial claim that it originated from among female athletic teams. 

In wrapping up the investigation, the college concluded the Google document that listed activities that would score points in the challenge — including puking on someone and eating an entire weed brownie — "was created by a few individual students" and had not "originated with one of the women's athletic teams," as college officials suggested last month.

In a letter published in the student-run Concordiensis on May 10, "female members of the athletic community" wrote that it was "incredibly unfair" for administrators to pin blame solely on women's sports teams, pointing out that male athletes were also involved and that many female athletes and teams were not involved.

"Placing all blame on women's athletics isn't appropriate or factual," the letter's anonymous authors wrote. "Either the entire athletic community, men and women, is equally blamed for allowing this to happen, or the teams and class years of the individuals who created and participated in this are clarified so as to absolve anyone else of blame."

The letter writers argued the "sweeping" generalization that the scavenger hunt originated with "women's athletic teams" painted an unfair picture of female athletes and raised unanswered questions for current and former students and athletes about exactly what teams were involved. They said the characterization was "simultaneously too specific and not specific enough."

The scavenger hunt document was also widely shared among students outside the sports teams, officials said. And the week after the document came to the attention of school officials, Union athletic director Jim McLaughlin told The Daily Gazette the document's origins weren't of great concern to him. 

"The origin is not important. It's the substance that is concerning," McLaughlin told The Daily Gazette in April. "Where it comes from, I'm not concerned with. We're just dissapointed that anything like this is out there." 

Earlier this month, Union dean of students Stephen Leavitt sent out a campuswide letter that appeared to close the investigation. He said the document was created by "a few individual students" but didn't specify if those students were also athletes, how many were involved or what, if any, punishments resulted. He said the school would follow policies spelled out in its student code of conduct. 

"No evidence has been found that the document was initiated by any team or campus group and did not in any manner constitute hazing, Leavitt wrote in the letter.

Union spokesman Phil Wadja said the college would not comment further on whether administrators considered or responded directly to the complaints spelled out in the letter attributed to female athletes. 

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