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November 21, 2019

Cornell Mock Trial Team Suspended for Semester Over Hazing in Fall 2018

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The University placed the Mock Trial team on a temporary suspension for the fall 2019 semester for hazing that occurred during the fall 2018 semester. The investigation found the team had engaged in two events considered hazing, in violation of the Campus Code of Conduct.

As a tradition of the Mock Trial team, members were divided into three separate teams to compete in a “Gauntlet,” according to the report published to the University’s hazing website on Nov. 7. The challenge consisted of finishing a sheet of pizza, a 30 rack of beer, a fifth of liquor and a “mystery condiment” such as Nutella or frosting. The report noted that soda was available as a substitute.

While there was no time limit to the event according to the report, participants did have to finish a 500-piece puzzle within two hours.

At least one member who was in attendance at the event confirmed to the Office of the Judicial Administrator that marijuana was present during the challenge.

The team also made new members undergo a variety of auditions for the team, the report found. During the auditions, they were subjected to a number of situations such as being continually interrupted, having to pretend that a member of the judging panel was a current significant other and flirt with them or win them back after a break-up and completing a number of LSAT questions in under 15 minutes — tasks “unrelated to the purpose of the organization,” according to the report.

Mock Trial team leadership did not respond to The Sun’s requests for comment.

Judicial Administrator Michelle R. Horvath said in a statement to The Sun that the sanctions enforced by the University were designed to help the team “address the deficit of skills or information” that led to the behavior in order to reintegrate them into the Cornell community, and to address the “harm” caused to “others and the organization.”

As a result of the findings, the Mock Trial team was suspended at the beginning of the fall 2019 semester. The team petitioned the University Hearing Board for a review, and the hearing board upheld the suspension.

Instead of proceeding to a hearing, a Summary Decision Agreement was reached between the Mock Trial team and the University, wherein a “resolution of Responsible was entered” for the conduct prohibited by the Campus Code of Conduct, namely the possession and distribution of marijuana and alcohol to minors, as well as hazing. The report was published on Nov. 7.

The report also noted that “consistent with established practice,” the matter was referred to the Office of the Judicial Administrator.