CHICAGO (CBS) -- Northwestern University officials say they are taking action after claims of hazing. The claims were largely supported by people involved in the Wildcats football program made at the end of the 2022 season.
An investigation was launched last December after a complainant alleged players engaged in hazing often in the locker room. They say it may have started at Camp Kenosha in Wisconsin where the team used to hold training camp.
More than 50 people affiliated with the football program were interviewed and thousands of emails and player survey data dating back to 2014 were also surveyed.
The results of the investigation, however, did not uncover the specific misconduct by any individual football player or coach, participation in or knowledge of the hazing activities was widespread among football players, the school said in an executive summary.
After receiving the results of an independent investigation, Northwestern issued head coach Pat Fitzgerald an unpaid two-week suspension.
Fitzgerald says he was not aware of the alleged hazing.
"I was very disappointed when I heard about the allegations of hazing on our football team," Fitzgerald said. "Although I was not aware of the alleged incidents, I have spoken to University officials, and they informed me of a two-week suspension, effective immediately.
"Northwestern football prides itself on producing not just athletes, but fine young men with character befitting the program and our University," he said. "We hold our student-athletes and our program to the highest standards; we will continue to work to exceed those standards moving forward."
"I think that the reason hazing goes on is that there's an assumption that it is increasing the bonding in the team, but it actually doesn't do that," said Dr. Susan Lipkins, a psychologist who studies hazing.
Still, she added, "I think what's not normal is the care that Northwestern took to really investigate this allegation and I am very happy with the kind of investigation that they did."
Lipkins said "under-supervised" places like camps, buses, and hotel rooms are where hazing often occurs."
In addition to the suspension, the university says football practices at Camp Kenosha in Wisconsin will be permanently discontinued. Other actions involving the program include:
• The University will require monitoring of the football locker room by someone who doesn't report to the football coaching staff.
• The University will create an online reporting tool specifically for student-athletes to anonymously report incidents of potential hazing or hazing-related concerns.
• The University will provide and require annual mandatory anti-hazing training for all coaches, staff members, and student-athletes, with an emphasis on reporting options, the duties to report, discipline for future violations, and the fact that hazing is not acceptable regardless of consent.
• The University will form an internal working group comprising Northwestern leaders across various disciplines to create a report on policy development, organizational culture, communication, training, and enforcement. The group will solicit input from external experts and will make their report open to the entire community.
• Northwestern Athletics will better utilize the annual student-athlete survey process to ensure coaches are aware of and act on student concerns.
• Northwestern Athletics will work with the NCAA and Big Ten Conference to ensure all processes and rules are followed.
"I think the most important thing is they recognized that hazing is part of a culture, so they're trying to change that culture," Lipkins said.
The Wildcats open the 2023 season on Sept. 3 at Rutgers.
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