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Friday, October 13, 2006
Hazing, booze, sex led to Wisconsin band probation

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. -- The University of Wisconsin put its marching band on probation because members routinely engaged in hazing and rowdiness involving alcohol and sexual acts, school officials said.

UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley said a band member was pressured into shaving his head in a hazing incident and other members danced seminude during the band's trip to the Sept. 23 University of Michigan football game.

"It has become increasingly clear that certain types of sexualized and hazing behavior are an ingrained part of the band's culture," Wiley said Thursday. "We will not provide an ongoing venue for this inappropriate and demeaning behavior."

The school said the band's behavior was so notorious that the athletic department sets aside money so that cheerleaders and the dance squad can travel in separate buses to avoid harassment.

In an Oct. 3 letter, released Wednesday after a public records request by The Associated Press, Wiley told band director Michael Leckrone to clean up the program, which he has led for 38 years.

Two days later, Wiley warned the band's 300 members that they risked losing travel and performance privileges. Band leaders could also be replaced, he said.

Most reports of misconduct during the Michigan trip involved one of seven buses returning home, said Casey Nagy, Wiley's executive assistant.

"We had multiple reports of highly sexualized banter taking place that made several women in particular feel quite uncomfortable," Nagy said. "We had dancing and disrobing taking place that made some people feel not only uncomfortable but unsafe."

He said the head-shaving incident was reported by a faculty member who believed "the individual would have preferred to keep his hair."

Separately, Nagy acknowledged that the university was investigating a sexual harassment complaint against a band staff member. He provided no other details.

Leckrone said no one had been disciplined for the Michigan trip because he only recently learned of the behavior. He said he was confident that conduct would improve.

"If it doesn't happen, I don't think I should be the director," Leckrone said.