The University of Central Oklahoma announced on March 20 that their cheer team activities were suspended through the end of the 2020-2021 school year over a hazing incident.
President of the University of Central Oklahoma, Patti Neuhold-Ravikumar, shared her statement with students.
“Recently, the university was made aware of reports of hazing on the UCO cheer team,” Neuhold-Ravikumar said. “Reports of hazing are approached swiftly and with great concern for the safety and well-being of our students.”
Central Oklahoma’s cheer team is the 11th national champion in the United States, but they are no longer allowed to participate in national competitions for two years along with the suspension of their activities.
News 9 explained how the hazing incident was revealed.
“UCO said the incident, which occurred in August 2020, was reported as part of a team survey in late February,” News 9 said.
The Oklahoman described the incident.
“Members of the University of Central Oklahoma’s championship-winning cheer team were blindfolded, made to perform sexual dances, and underage members were given alcohol in an August incident of hazing,” the Oklahoman said.
As of now, Central Oklahoma has not announced any details besides Neuhold-Ravikumar’s statement. Specific names of involved members and additional details of the incident have not been released, but Neuhold-Ravikumar announced how the university will deal with all cheer team members.
“Individual team members found responsible for these unacceptable and abhorrent activities may face university sanctions, including removal from the team and suspension from the university,” Neuhold-Ravikumar said. “Individual team members found to not be involved in these activities will undergo a membership review process and may be giving the opportunity to try out for next year’s team.”
Training on hazing will be required for all members of the cheer team and the leaders of all student organizations.
Central Oklahoma conducted an investigation following the reported hazing. The investigation is ongoing and the university has not yet suspended any students.
Neuhold-Ravikumar spoke of how the cheer team should represent the university.
“The UCO cheer team should embody the spirit of our community – encouraging us to give our effort and to represent our university with pride and dignity,” Neuhold-Ravikumar said. “We consider our student organizations an extension of the university community and its values and we are committed to maintaining those standards.”
The governing body for cheering in the U.S., USA Cheer, tweeted about this incident and Central Oklahoma’s decision with the hashtag Cheer Safe.
“We applaud the UCO administration for taking swift action,” USA Cheer said. “Hazing, bullying, and other forms of abuse have no place in the cheer community.”
The captain of the Oklahoma Christian University cheer team, Avery Black, said she this incident is a serious issue.
“I know that certain teams have a lot of traditions that were once seen as OK in the past that are now seen as inappropriate,” Black said. “It’s a bummer that they have to lose a whole season over this, but it’s definitely a lesson learned for them and other organizations.”