National Championship-winning Towson U cheer team suspended for violating hazing policy

TOWSON, Md. - Towson University's national championship-winning cheerleaders have been suspended for the academic year for violating the school's hazing policies, a school official announced Thursday.

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The University launched an investigation in early August.

"An anonymous source called us and made the allegation. We followed up," Deb Moriarty,  Vice President for Student Affairs, said.

The investigation concluded last week with the decision to suspend the team for the academic year, which ends in May. Cheer team members were made aware of the decision Friday, Moriarty said.

"Really, the important part here is that there was an allegation of hazing. We investigated it. And the University is not going to tolerate hazing in any form on this campus," Moriarty told ABC2 News. "We hold our students to very high standards and their behavior both on and off campus. That's what we're working with right now. They will be held responsible together as a team."

The team has until next week to file an appeal against the suspension, which Towson administrators are anticipating,  as first reported by the University's student-run newspaper   The Towerlight   . A representative from the team did not return calls seeking comment.

Michael Hollis, a spokesman in the Department of Athletics who covers Cheerleading, deferred questions to Moriarty. 

Moriarty said she could not divulge the details of allegation or comment on the severity of the claim.  Towson defines hazing as "any action … having the potential to create mental of physical discomfort, embarrassment, harassment or ridicule, without the individual's consent," according to the University's policies and procedures.

"We have very strong hazing education programs in place for all of our Greek Life organizations, our student organizations, or recreation sports clubs … this is a very serious issue nationwide," Moriarty said.  "Even if it's a minor incident, we've seen from examples across the country that they can easily spin out of control. We want the strong message to be that no hazing [means] no hazing."

The cheer team is composed of about 25 members who are unable to practice or perform neither at competitions or University sporting events. 

"The Athletics Department is working with their fan development program to determine—if this sanction is upheld—what they will do in terms of maintaining spirit and that important part of the atmosphere at athletics programs," Moriarty said.  

Towson University Cheerleading took home  first place honors winning the National Cheerleaders Associations Collegiate Cheerleading Championship back in April . The win guarantees an automatic bid to this year's competition. It is un known how the suspension, if upheld, will affect the team's chances at repeat national success.

It has been a difficult few months for Towson athletics as the University announced the cuts of both the school's baseball and men's soccer programs. Now the University may go an entire year without its cheerleaders.

"I don't want to anticipate what's going to happen in the appeals process and what alternative if any might be proposed," Moriarty said. "For us, the important thing is that we continue to get a message across about what our expectations are for our students and their behavior." 

The University has scheduled a Hazing Prevention Week for September 23 to 27. The school-sponsored event will feature forums, education seminars, contents and a carnival, according to  the University website . The week is targeted toward the University's Greek Life Fraternity and Sorority organizations. 

Stay with ABC2 News as we continue to update this story.

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