AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas has suspended the Texas Cowboys for six years following an investigation into hazing at a retreat the night before a new member, Nicholas Cumberland, was injured in a wreck. Cumberland later died from his injuries.
Cumberland was a valedictorian at Spring Branch ISD's Memorial High School before heading to UT-Austin.
UT's Office of the Dean of Students handed down the suspension, along with a two-year probationary period after reinstatement, on Wednesday. According to a discipline report obtained by KVUE, UT said the Texas Cowboys violated rules that prohibit hazing, behavior threatening the health or safety of students, employees or visitors and alcohol misconduct.
The Office of the Dean of Students also decreed no sub-groups of the Cowboys will be allowed, the group must receive pre-approval by the organization's adviser for all future off-campus Cowboys events, an organizer must be present at all future off-campus events and chartered buses must be used for all off-campus events.
The group has the option to accept the sanction, appeal it or request a formal hearing. At the end of the six-year suspension, the Cowboys will be eligible to resume their status as a Registered Student Organization if they: create a Risk Management position on the Executive Committee; create a safety and risk management plan to be approved by their adviser and submitted to the Office of the Dean of Students; and create a presentation to be shared with all future new members detailing the suspensions the group has been handed. Additionally, all new members of the group will be required to read the book 'The Cowboy's Secret,' about Gabe Higgins, a UT Austin student who died at a Cowboys new member retreat in 1995. They will also be required to complete an alcohol education program organized through UT's Office of Health Promotion.
The full discipline report can be viewed below:
In November, Cumberland's family contact UT's Student Conduct and Academic Integrity to share concerns they had regarding the Cowboys and the new member retreat that occurred on September 29, 2018. The family told UT that members of the Cowboys told them that hazing occurred at the retreat. Based on that information, Student Conduct conducted an independent investigation into the hazing allegations.
During the investigation, Student Conduct found that new members of the Cowboys experienced such hazing as "physical brutality, physical activity, forced ingestion of unwanted substances, coerced consumption of alcohol and degradation," according to the discipline report.
In the early morning of September 30, 2018, en route back to Austin from the retreat, Cumberland and several other Cowboys members were involved in a car accident. On October 30, Cumberland died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident.
The Texas Cowboys have been suspended in the past for hazing. In 1995, UT canceled the group for five years after repeated instances of hazing resulted in the death of Gabe Higgins at an event the group referred to as "picnic." At the time of Higgins's death, the Cowboys were already on probation for engaging in hazing activities three times in so many years.
UT President Gregory L. Fenves released the following statement in regard to the Cowboys' suspension:
"The University of Texas at Austin lost a cherished student last year — Nicky Cumberland. For the last six months, our thoughts have remained with the Cumberland family. We mourn alongside them. And we wish them peace.
Let me make clear — there is no place for hazing at The University of Texas. The mission of this university — to educate, learn, discover and serve — can only be accomplished in an environment where we respect each other. Where we look after our neighbors, peers and friends.
The Dean of Students has conducted a thorough investigation. The appeals process is still underway, and each case is judged on its facts."