University of Texas suspends student group for hazing after student's death

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Thursday, March 28, 2019
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UT suspends Texas Cowboys for hazing after student's death

AUSTIN, Texas -- The University of Texas has suspended the Texas Cowboys for six years after evidence surfaced of hazing before a student's death.

Nicholas Cumberland died on Oct. 30, 2018 from injuries sustained in a rollover car crash after a weekend retreat.

According to disciplinary records, the student organization is accused of hazing new members during the retreat, even coaxing one person to bite the head off a live hamster.

Cumberland was paddled so hard, he had "significant, specific bruising on his buttocks nearly a month after the Retreat and car accident," records allege.

His family furnished chat records from Cumberland's GroupMe account showing a list of items new members were instructed to bring to the retreat, including:

  • A live chicken
  • A live hamster
  • Large quantities of hot dogs
  • Tobacco, and
  • Copious amounts of alcohol

A report by the UT-Austin Office of the Dean of Students reveals new members were deprived of sleep during the Sept. 29, 2018 retreat.

Cumberland was injured when the pickup truck he and other members were riding in crashed in Lampasas County.

Once reinstated, the Texas Cowboys will face a two-year probationary period, the university said Wednesday.

ABC13 reached out to the Texas Cowboys and received the following statement:

"The Texas Cowboys have served the UT and greater Austin community for nearly a century. For example, our members have volunteered tens of thousands of community service hours, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity, and contributed to campus learning through activities such as hosting a lectureship series featuring world leaders on campus. Consequently, we are disappointed by the University's decision today, and are saddened that it may prevent our organization from continuing this legacy of service. Throughout the investigation our entire organization has been completely transparent, engaged, and accessible. Indeed, the University has repeatedly complimented our members' cooperation during the investigation. As an organization, we are disappointed by the misconduct of certain student members. In fact, we have expelled and suspended from our organization the students who were connected to the hazing. Their actions violated University regulations and did not align with our organization's standards - and they do not represent the heart and soul of our organization.However, hazing did not cause the car accident that took Nicky Cumberland's life. The University's ruling expressly determined that sleep deprivation did not occur at the retreat. According to the University, "multiple members reported that they were able to go to sleep at various times of the night . . . as well, no one reported having been prevented from sleeping." The car accident was a tragic event that claimed the life of an exceptional person. We continue to mourn with Mr. Cumberland's family and loved ones. Our organization is committed to learning, growing, and using this tragedy to educate and prepare the next generation of leaders to do better - and to more effectively serve others. However, we cannot accomplish these goals if the Texas Cowboys are no longer permitted to operate as an official student organization. Our leaders are currently reviewing their options and will make a decision shortly on how to proceed."