Police in Vermont are investigating allegations of hazing involving the women’s rugby team at Norwich University, authorities said. Multiple law enforcement agencies went to a residence hall at the private military school in Northfield on Friday to collect evidence, The Barre Montpelier Times Argus reported.
Northfield police Chief John Helfant confirmed via email that the police activity was connected to the investigation into allegations of hazing involving «branding and waterboarding of and by NU students.»
Northfield Officer Karie Tucker said in an affidavit that she went to the school on March 20 for a report of someone being held at knifepoint. Tucker said she spoke to the woman two days later and that person reported that she had been «branded» using pliers and a lighter by other members of the rugby team.
The victim said she was too intoxicated to say no and would not have agreed to be branded had she been sober.
After getting permission, Tucker looked at the victim’s cellphone and saw what she described as a video of another woman with a washcloth, or something similar, held over her face while a third woman poured liquid onto the cloth, something Tucker described as «waterboarding,» according to court records.
Helfant said the investigation is ongoing.
The chief also said university officials denied access to students in their dorm rooms and would only allow police to talk to students in a conference room.
A spokesperson for the university said the school is cooperating with law enforcement.
«Norwich University is subject to federal student privacy laws and other restrictions on what it may disclose,» Daphne Larkin said in a statement to the newspaper. «Sometimes, law enforcement officials become confused about the extent to which we may respond to their requests. Norwich University has fully cooperated with the Northfield Police Department in their investigation of the allegations surrounding this incident while ensuring the constitutional rights of our students and employees.»
According to a 2017 research study conducted by YouGov, a public opinion research company, 55% of college students involved in clubs, teams and organizations experience hazing.
Norwich University has nearly 2,600 students on campus and more than 1,400 students online, according to the school’s website. The university says it is among the top 10 institutions in the nation for «preparing commissioned officers for service in the Department of Defense and Coast Guard.»
According to the school’s women’s rugby website, there are 25 players on the roster.