Baseball team looking to appeal suspension
On Thursday Sept. 20, the Wilfrid Laurier University men’s baseball team was suspended four games following a hazing incident at a rookie party.
The team collectively put on a presentation for members of the Laurier community explaining reasons regarding why they should be allowed to continue their season.
Three weeks later, after finishing their season, the issue has been raised again — but this time, with an appeal.
Fran Symth, a professor at Seneca College and a mother of one of the WLU baseball players, helped draft a complaint to the university on Tuesday regarding the “procedural and substantive” issues in the process of the suspension in September.
“The purpose is to draw attention to the way in which procedures were handled,” she told The Cord.
”And we also want the university to examine how the athletic department conducted itself throughout the entire event and exactly what the athletic director Peter Baxter did.”
According to Smyth, the appeal will outline portions of the procedure the team felt were unfair, as well as issues the team had with Baxter and his alleged treatment toward the members of the baseball team.
“We think the university needs to know what he did.”
Baxter expressed Wednesday afternoon that the policy and procedure regarding the suspension were followed correctly.
“The director, under the policy, has the ability to impose a temporary suspension, which was done,” he said. “In terms of the athletes, they were given the ability to speak to it. They gave a pretty good case to continue their season. You know the story.”
Before Wednesday, Baxter had not heard anything regarding the appeal. The complaint was sent to WLU’s acting dean of students, Adam Lawrence.
“We’re waiting for [a hearing] to be scheduled,” Smyth said.
In a statement, Smyth added that the purpose of the appeal is not to overturn the four forfeited games.
“We can’t get those games back,” the statement read. “But the appeal is not about the lost season. The appeal is about restoring the reputation of the players and uncovering the real story.”
In the same statement Smyth claimed Baxter allegedly “bullied and threatened” the players during the process.
The statement mentioned a Toronto Star article published on Sept. 20 which had a quote from Baxter emphasizing that the hazing incident was humiliating, dehumanizing activity with alcohol involved, and later “declined to say if the hazing was sexual in nature.”
“When you say you’re declining to say, you might as well had said it happened,” Smyth said regarding the sexual comments.
Smyth also mentioned the connection between the “vague sexual innuendos” and Baxter’s mention of the activities that happened in previous years with other universities. McGill had a hazing issue with one of their teams where sexual activities had occurred and St. Thomas University had a player die after falling down a set of stairs following a rookie initiation party.
However, Baxter emphasized his continued support in the young students throughout media conferences. However, he stands behind his decision to suspend the team.
“When people sign off on things, there’s a consequence that has to be made,” he said. “But at the same time, and I’ve said it all along even before the Sunday night meeting, I have faith in the young people that they understand why.”
Baxter also mentioned that he attended the baseball team’s final game of the season in Kitchener on Saturday, where the team played crosstown rivals, the Waterloo Warriors.
“I was at the game Saturday. I cheered them on. Talked to a number of the players and thought they played really well. I was there to support them. No body talked to me there,” he said.
The hazing incident was investigated before the suspension was given out in mid September, however no details were released from the university or athletic department regarding the issue.
Smyth revealed the nature of the event, saying that it was “nothing horrible” and “typical drinking games.”
“The team had played a double header at McMaster that Sunday, so the party started late at about 9:45 [p.m.]. There were about 15 minutes of rookie drinking games (including an obstacle course) and then a normal party ensued with no more rookie features and some non-team members arrived,” Smyth wrote in her statement. “There was no sexual abuse, no nudity, and nobody was hurt. Rookies told me they had a great time.”
Smyth also claimed that players were bullied into media presence following the release that the team was cleared to continue their season. According to Smyth,, interuniversity sport coordinator Wally Gabler dismissed the issue while Baxter continued to criticize the team.
“That’s why we’re not going to roll over and play dead,” said Smyth.
After clearing the team from the possibility of a year-long suspension, Baxter said the team would move forward from the incident as better individuals. He also said he would take the appeal with open arms.
“Obviously in any kind of aspect of it, I’m open to scrutiny from anybody that wants to do it,” Baxter said. “I’ll cooperate with anyone. But as far as the process in which we conducted it, I’m fully within my rights to place a temporary suspension so we can deal with it.”
In an e-mail, Laurier head coach Scott Ballantyne declined to comment on the matter, saying it was too early in the appeal process.