Wheaton College is reviewing the effectiveness of its anti-hazing policy in light of five members of the school’s football team now facing criminal charges in connection with a hazing incident.
A spokesperson for the Christian college said that the school’s board of trustees has engaged outside experts to lead a campus-wide review of how effective the school’s anti-hazing policy is and the culture around how students treat one another in the campus communities, athletic teams and organizations in the wake of the incident.
“We are profoundly saddened that any member of our community could be mistreated in any way,” the college said in a statement. “… Wheaton remains committed to providing Christ-centered development programs and training to all our students.”
Five members of the school’s football team, including the son of a former National Football League player, face charges related to a hazing incident in which another Wheaton player was allegedly restrained with duct tape and left half-naked on a Wheaton elementary school baseball field in March 2016.
Police said the unidentified victim, left in a field at Hawthorne Elementary School, suffered severe injuries to both his shoulders as a result of the incident. The victim is reportedly no longer a student at Wheaton College.
The DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office issued arrest warrants for players James W. Cooksey, 22, of Jacksonville, Fla.; Noah Spielman, 21, of Columbus, Ohio; Kyler S. Kregel, 21, of Grand Rapids, Mich.; Benjamin W. Pettway, 21, of Lookout Mountain, Ga.; and Samuel J. TeBos, 22, of Allendale, Mich.
Each of the five players was charged with two counts of aggravated battery, two counts of mob action and one count of unlawful restraint. Each of the players had their bail set at $50,000. Both Spielman, the son of former NFL linebacker and current Fox Sports analyst Chris Spielman, and Kregel turned themselves in and were released on $5,000 bail late last week.
Pettway and TeBos turned themselves in on Thursday, according to reports, while Cooksey surrendered to authorities on Friday. All reportedly posted bond.
The five remained on the Wheaton College team entering last week, according to a roster posted on the college’s website. Spielman, Kregel and Pettway all played in a 37-14 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin home victory over Carthage College on Sept. 16, according to a posted box score and participation summary.
The five were reportedly suspended for last Saturday’s game at Elmhurst College after charges were announced.
Wheaton (3-0) was ranked fourth in the nation in a NCAA Division III football poll released last week.
Police did not go to the campus to arrest the players, noting that they all have been cooperative in their investigation and none was deemed a flight risk.
The college noted that all of its athletes are required to sign an anti-hazing policy every year.
“In 2014, we revised our anti-hazing policy and improved our training protocols to include a formal review of our anti-hazing policy with all student-athletes every year, with required student signatures; we also require annual training for residence assistants who are responsible for residence hall activities,” the college said in its statement. “Despite these deeply troubling charges, we have experienced positive changes on campus, including rapid response from campus leaders to reports of hazing and other inappropriate behavior and effective disciplinary review.”
The school’s anti-hazing policy states that the institution of higher education will not tolerate any hazing whatsoever.
“Wheaton College has a zero-tolerance policy on hazing and the consequences can be severe,” says the single-page anti-hazing form given to student-athletes annually. “Participation in hazing activities may lead to individual disciplinary action, team disciplinary action and/or termination of the team or student organization.”
College officials said the conduct that they discovered as a result of its internal investigation into the incident was “entirely unacceptable and inconsistent with the values we share as human beings and as members of an academic community that espouses to live according to our Community Covenant.”
That Community Covenant cites 1 Corinthians in its “call to treat our own bodies, and those of others, with the honor due the very temple of the Holy Spirit.”
Mark Sutter, the attorney representing Spielman said the student-athlete was shocked to hear of the charges after an investigation by Wheaton College exonerated him more than a year ago.
“There have been multiple investigations. The NCAA did an investigation,” Sutter said at a press conference last week. “Wheaton College did an investigation and he was exonerated in both arenas; and all these charges have somehow resurrected.”
Sutter said in spite of the confusing circumstances, Spielman continues to do the right thing.
“Regardless, Noah has willingly surrendered to law enforcement to face these allegations, and he will continue to cooperate with authorities moving forward,” Sutter said in a statement. “Mr. Spielman and his family have full faith and confidence in the legal process and the DuPage County criminal justice system.”
Sutter said that Spielman turned himself in ahead of schedule — going to the Wheaton Police Department one night last week when he was supposed to go the next morning — because he didn’t want to miss school.
—- Wheaton College reviewing anti-hazing policies following criminal charges —-