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Towson shortens punishment for cheerleading team

WASHINGTON — Towson University has lessened the punishment of its cheerleading team after the squad was initially suspended for the entire academic year because of hazing allegations, the school announced Tuesday.

The Maryland university said the team will now be on social probation for the fall semester, which means it can practice but not participate in any university or off-campus events or make appearances as a squad.

The cheerleaders, who won a collegiate championship in April, also must complete 650 hours of community service by the end of the fall semester and participate in educational sessions about hazing. The team has until next week to appeal the probation to the university president.

The decision to modify the yearlong suspension came after the cheerleaders appealed to a committee comprising students, faculty and staff.

The committee made the change because it believed the cheerleading team hadn’t received the same level of anti-hazing education and training as other athletic programs on campus, said Deb Moriarty, Towson’s vice president for student affairs.

“While the appeals committee found that the behavior was very problematic and felt like the students should have known (better), they do feel like they were presented with evidence that they hadn’t as a team been given the educational information about hazing,” she said.

“It does not mean that we did not take the charges seriously,” Moriarty added. “In fact, the Student Appeals Committee really struggled with the decision.”

A statement from the university did not provide any new details about the nature of the hazing allegations, which the university says it learned about from an anonymous phone call last month. Moriarty said the alleged hazing occurred off campus and was not the subject of any police investigation, but she refused further comment while the appeals process is ongoing.

“The reality is that our threshold for hazing is pretty low,” she said.

Towson, located in Baltimore County, has about 3,115 undergraduate students.