KU cheerleaders come forward with hazing allegations

Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kansas, on Nov. 28, 2015. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

Two University of Kansas cheerleaders have come forward with details about an alleged “initiation” hazing incident involving six first-year members of the cheer squad.

According to a letter written by Lance Watson, director of student conduct and community standards at KU, the incident occurred on July 25, 2017, during a camp for children in kindergarten through third grade.

Watson’s letter was written on July 28, three days after the incident had taken place.

Watson’s letter states: “With the information received regarding the alleged hazing, the university will conduct an investigation to determine what occurred and whether it is a violation of university policy.”

According to KU’s 2017-2018 organizational conduct status report, the cheer team is currently on probation for violating sections of the KU Student Code. These violations include organizational responsibility, harm to persons and hazing. Probation began September 21, 2017 and is set to end on September 26, 2018.

The two cheerleaders who have stepped forward wish to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions.

Reportedly, the hazing incident involved veteran members of the KU cheer team, as well as three KU alumni.

Both sources say that at the end of the event, the six first-year students were told by assistant coach Kaitlin Lugo to await further instructions for discussing the proper use of social media.

Later, Skinner sent a group message to the team’s new members, asking them to meet at the hill by the David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium with running shoes. When they arrived, only KU alumni were at the stadium.

“We ran the hill up and down twice,” one source said. “We got to the bottom and they told us to lay on the ground. They blindfolded us and took us one by one into different cars.”

Allegedly, the cars’ drivers drove erratically to a vacant house while music blasted through the speakers.

One of the cheerleaders said she was put inside of a washing machine.

“They put me in a cardboard box and were banging on the sides,” the other said.

Later, both sources said they were taken to a room where they were asked a series of questions, and if they answered a question incorrectly, they were told to remove an article of clothing.

“They questioned me, took off my clothes and put my blindfold back on,” one source said.

Then, all six of the team’s new members were led, naked, into another room, one of the sources said.

“I remember getting put into a big laundry basket,” one said. “I was shaken around and stuff.”

Later, the source said she was moved to another room in the house.

“I had taken my blindfold off along with another girl sitting next to me,” she said, “and two alumni guys walked in and saw us naked.”

The girls were eventually separated into two groups.

“After that, they took two girls downstairs, they had been initiated,” a source said. “And then they took me and two other girls, put us in a room together and told us we are ugly, we don’t deserve to be on the team and our skills weren’t good enough. They sat us down with all the alumni and all returning cheerleaders.”

One of the sources said this isn’t the first year the cheer team has participated in hazing. Both sources said they have been made aware of alleged initiation ceremonies that have occurred to previous first-year members of the team.

In addition, one source said that every new member who had complained or had a problem with the hazing did not try out for the team because of the incident or did not make the cut for the team next year.

The two cheerleaders said they wish head coach Lyndsay Marriott, spirit squad coordinator Cathy Jarzemkoski and Kansas Athletics had handled the situation differently.

“They victim blamed the whole time, made excuses for the older girls and didn’t care a single bit about the victims,” she said.

The coaches and coordinators made it seem as though the victims were taking the situation too harshly and should not have been affected in the way they were, said a member.

“In meetings we had with Lyndsay, she always skipped over anything about the hazing and turned it around to say that we do things that are bad too and that the older girls were not getting punished for it so we just needed to move on,” a source said. “They never call it the hazing either, they always say ‘the event’ or ‘what happened in the summer’ because they know it was wrong but didn’t want the older girls to be in trouble.”

Both sources said they feel lasting effects from the incident.

“It greatly decreased my confidence and performance ability,” one said.

The other member said she will not be returning to KU because of the events that took place.

“The reason why I’m leaving KU is solely because the university and the athletic department decided to treat me and my other teammates like we didn’t matter and were instead just pretty faces for the media,” one said.

This is not the first time KU has confronted allegations of hazing this year.

According to the Kansas City Star, the Delta Upsilon, Sigma Phi Epsilon and Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternities ceased operations in January due to allegations involving hazing and other safety violations.

“The frat SAE got shut down at KU for hazing, but the cheer team had no repercussions other than having to go through anti-hazing education programs,” one source said.

The university declined to comment on the event due to student privacy concerns.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it was originally published.