Police investigating Humber rugby teams

by | Oct 9, 2015 | News

Mahnoor Yawar & Nick Westoll
Senior Reporters

An uncomfortable silence has overtaken the hallowed halls of Humber’s athletic centre.

The rugby team game schedule has been taken down, leaving a gap on the wall more starkly white than it has been in years. Team game calendars and rosters have been unpublished from the website. Some varsity trophies have been removed from the case.

A week after the shocking suspension of the Humber men’s and women’s varsity rugby teams due to alleged violations of the Varsity Code of Expectations, there are still no answers from Humber officials.

The silence is almost deafening.

Humber announced in a media release last Friday that the OCAA championship teams had been suspended owing to undisclosed violations of the code.

According to the vaguely-worded media release, “the alleged misconduct is not in keeping with our institutional values related to athletics and student life.”

Toronto Police confirmed they had launched an investigation between Oct. 1 and 2 into sexual assault allegations involving members of Humber’s men’s and women’s varsity rugby teams.

Const. Jenifferjit Sidhu said 23 Division officers were called to Humber’s North campus last week to investigate an incident that reportedly took place on Sept. 25.

“Someone became aware of the situation and relayed it to school security, who in turn called police,” Sidhu said Monday.

Officers determined through an investigation that members of both teams were allegedly involved, said Sidhu.

However, she added a victim has not come forward and there is no word on suspects.

The stunning revelations follow recent success on the field. The men’s team is a five-time OCAA champion and the women’s team won three OCAA titles in four years.

Andrew Leopold, director of communications for Humber College, said staff is conducting an internal investigation, headed by the department of Student Success and Engagement, but details have been limited.

“Ultimately, it’s going to be looking at what happened [and] who is involved,” Leopold said when asked for details on the scope of the inquiry. “That’s to happen and when we know more, we may or may not release a statement at that time.”

Leopold added he needed to seek approval before saying who is leading the investigation.

When asked if this might be construed as showing preferential treatment for athletes, Leopold referenced points from the original press release. But he added athletes aren’t treated differently.

“Athletes do not get any sort of preferential treatment,” Leopold said. “I think varsity sports are a privilege. All students are students first and we want to ensure that we have a campus and a college environment to ensure student success at every level.”

Leopold said it hasn’t been determined by those involved with the internal investigation if a campus-wide call for information on this incident is warranted.

Humber Student Federation President Ahmed Tahir said Tuesday that he was surprised when the suspensions were handed out and said he does not know what impact the investigation will have on the school’s reputation.

“I don’t know enough about what has happened, I don’t think it makes sense to comment at this point,” Tahir said.

Tahir said that the Humber Students Federation continues to push several safety campaigns across campus in dealing with sexual assault allegations.

“We have the student life line which runs 24-7 and tonnes of counsellors available,” he said. “There’s been a huge focus on sexual assault on campus this year,” Tahir said.

Humber College President Chris Whitaker told Humber News on Tuesday he was to be briefed on the investigation in the afternoon, a full four days after the suspension came into effect.

Humber News contacted more than a dozen varsity rugby players from both teams who declined to discuss the suspension as a cone of silence has fallen over players and officials.

According to Jim Bialek, OCAA Men’s Rugby Convenor, both teams defaulted on their games scheduled for Oct. 6 (women’s) and Oct. 7 (men’s) against Conestoga.

The Conestoga teams were awarded a win and bonus points in Humber’s absence.

The suspension sparked reaction among the OCAA community.

“I was shocked,” said Georgian College Coach John Daggett, whose team is one of 11 on the OCAA rugby circuit. “It will throw the league in turmoil and it will open up opportunities for other teams.”

Cara Coutts, a former Humber rugby player and current Humber cross-country athlete, said that she believes the code of conduct is in place for a reason.

“Athletes are role models. Guidelines are good for the school and for the athletics program,” she said.

“All they’ve done is default these games to further investigate,” Bialek said. “Both teams are scheduled to play their next games on Oct. 18. So they would have to make a decision (on the teams’ future) prior to the 18th.”

Leopold confirmed the college would not issue any statements on the matter before Thanksgiving weekend.

Additional reporting by Charlotte Morritt-Jacobs, Domenic Loschiavo, Mathew Hartley, Matthew Pariselli, Sam Juric, David Tuchman, Christina Romualdo, Tonia Venneri