BETHLEHEM, Pennsylvania, September 20. AS first reported here, Lehigh Swimming and Diving ran into trouble recently when 12 members of the 43-member team were charged with alcohol-related offenses last week.
Today, the school finally released several statements to get on the record with their response.
First, the dean of athletics Joe Sterrett stated the following:
On Thursday morning, September 13, shortly after midnight, the Bethlehem City Police responded to a complaint about noise in an off-campus student apartment. At the site of the complaint they found 19 Lehigh students engaged in a social gathering. All were underage and all were cited for alcohol violations. Among these students were 13 athletes, including 12 members of our swimming and diving team. Two of these students, both juniors and the hosts of the party, were arrested and arraigned on serious charges that included furnishing alcohol to minors (because two of the non-athlete Lehigh students at the party were 17 years old), reckless endangerment and corruption of minors and disorderly house violations. One of the students at the event was found to have a very high blood alcohol level and was transported to the hospital. She was released shortly thereafter in good health and it was later determined that prescribed medication may have contributed to the high bac reading.
This kind of activity is not unprecedented on a college campus, nor is the levying of alcohol sanctions when students that are underage are identified as having consumed alcohol. It is somewhat unusual for students to be arrested on the more serious charges, however, clearly these charges are among the potential consequences for hosts of alcohol based social activities. In this case, the charges were levied and the story became quite widespread and visible as is increasingly likely when student-athletes are involved.
We are certainly grateful that nobody was hurt. However, we also are disappointed that the group of student-athletes at this party did not make better decisions, and that other teammates who were not there did not take steps to help ensure the safety and moderation of a social event they knew was occurring. We teach in all our programs the principles of teamwork, interdependence, and trust so our athletes really should be better at this than they demonstrated. Our entire department looks at this episode as a failure to achieve our mission—we aim to develop leaders who can and will promote good decision making, responsibility and rationality in all they encounter.
On the other hand, this experience has presented a wonderful teaching opportunity. It has allowed all our coaches and all our teams to revisit their individual and collective convictions about professed aspirations. These moments beg for us to ask and answer the questions: How badly do our teams want to be good? And how good do we really want to be?
Choices have consequences, for better or for worse. In this case, the choices made by this group of students were not wise. One set of consequences is applied on an individual level to each of the athletes involved. Those consequences involve loss of participation privileges because we believe that participating in college sports is something that should never be taken for granted. Another set of consequences will be felt by all who are members of the swimming and diving team. At this point they have lost the opportunity of a team training trip at the semester break. It remains to be seen whether this privilege can be "earned back" by the team. In the end, our primary intention is not to be punitive but instead to ensure that important life lessons are learned. These are bright and talented young people whom we expect will become leaders in their chosen life paths. As was true for many of us, the lessons of college are likely to be quite relevant in the years to come, and most especially those lessons that are learned painfully.
We have much confidence in our coaching staff and we have faith in the resilience of our student-athletes. We worry a bit about the insecurities that may create the tendency to follow without being thoughtful and yet we are eager to celebrate the moments when students make the choice to lead in positive and constructive ways. In the end, we are humbled by the fragility of any given moment and we are inspired by the challenges of doing better in all that we do.
Head coach Rob Herb added the following:
Dear LU Swimming and Diving Team and Parents,
Now that the dust has settled a little, I want to express my thoughts about the events that occurred.
First and foremost, our swimmers and divers are good kids. They work hard in school and in the pool. They have represented Lehigh and Lehigh Athletics with dignity meet, after meet, after meet. I have and will always appreciate their dedication.
The events of last Wednesday evening can be summed up as a lack of responsible judgment by all. As Lehigh student athletes, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard. But it is always important to remember that our student-athletes are human and make mistakes. We must be there to pick them up, teach them to recognize the affects of their mistakes and offer opportunities to adjust their behaviors to a successful future.
As a team, we will continue to seek support from campus counselors. As a team, we will work through the consequences and we will learn from past behavior. As a team, we will model what we want for our program. As a team, we will move forward to a great season.
Several unidentified student-athletes were quoted in the release as well:
"We made a mistake. A huge mistake. A mistake that many other people and teams can learn from. We sure have learned from it. At a time like this, it would be very easy for us to fall apart. However, I think the unique thing about our team is that we are going to use this as fuel to make us stronger. We are using it as a reason to train harder, a reason to become closer, and a reason for all of us to step up and act as leaders. So although what happened was irresponsible and unfortunate on our behalf, it is time for us to look beyond our mistakes, learn from what happened, and look at what we can do to make us the best we can be."
"No matter the circumstances of a particular situation, when we bear the name of Lehigh swimming and diving, we must ALL be responsible for the consequences that result. Those involved and those who were not are united under the team, therefore, standing together to win a championship or when one of us trips and falls. Only at that moment, which we must pick ourselves up, do we become better people."
"As Lehigh student-athletes, we are called to live up to a higher standard as we visibly represent our institution, athletic department, and community as a whole. Above all, we are called to be held accountable for our own actions and those of our teammates, in and out of the pool. If a person falls short of these expectations, the responsibility lies not only on the individual at fault but on each one of us. That being said, together we will work toward developing better habits and decision making as a team so that ultimately we can move forward with our season and prepare ourselves for not only success in competitions but in our lives as well. As one of the captains this year, I speak on behalf of the team when I say we are truly humbled by the generous and continuous support shown from our peers, other athletes, and the administration as we all embark on a journey that will help improve the face of Lehigh Athletics."