The pivotal win against Virginia Tech was not contained in Blacksburg alone, as victory celebrations reached Coral Gables Saturday night. The Rat was alive and buzzing with students clustered around the few televisions with functioning cable on campus. It was in the midst of the victory that three students allegedly jumped into Lake Osceola to express their enthusiasm.
Shortly after, a Facebook group detailing the incident emerged. The group, titled “I’m a drunk idiot and went swimming in Lake Osceola,” featured “drunk lake swimmers” Nicholas Gonzalez, 21, Kellen Horney and Leo Swayze, 22, as well as “professional instigator” Josh Layton, 21.
The Facebook group included an officer position of photographer, held by Jacqueline Coleman, 20, whose profile displayed a photo album labeled “VT Game/Boys in the Lake.”
Captions under the pictures, which featured each member of the group soaked and standing near the lake, made statements such as “after the dive in” and named those involved as “the water boys.”
Under Section VII of the Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook, which lists disciplinary violations, “swimming in Lake Osceola or the adjacent waterways is prohibited.”
This incident comes almost four years to the day that freshman Chad Meredith drowned in Lake Osceola. Meredith, who was rushing for Kappa Sigma, went swimming in the lake with two fraternity members on Nov. 5, 2001, shortly after 5 a.m. Police later said Meredith’s blood alcohol level had been 0.13, almost twice the legal limit in Florida.
The dean of students’ office was notified of the incident Wednesday morning by a Resident Coordinator and could not comment on the situation, but Dean Gregory Singleton said it would be investigated.
The office of student affairs said Wednesday afternoon that it would be contacting the students involved in the alleged incident soon.
“The University is aware and we are investigating the situation. The University considers this a serious offense,” Pat Whitely, vice president for student affairs, said. “There are signs posted and this is not something we will tolerate.”
Swimming in the lake has been prohibited for more than 20 years, Whitely said.
The individuals in the Facebook group said they were unaware that discipline action would be involved in the situation until they were contacted by The Hurricane for comment.
“All my friends and I were joking around,” Horney, senior, said, referring to the group on the Facebook. “I wasn’t aware that it was a big deal, but we didn’t go into the lake.”
Horney also said the photos do not show students swimming in the lake.
“We just took our shirts off after the game,” he said.
Gonzalez, also a senior, said that being in a group on the Facebook didn’t imply any wrongdoing.
“I don’t know if I jumped in the lake,” he said.
The Hurricane attempted to contact Swayze and Layton, both seniors, leaving them voice messages Wednesday afternoon. The calls were not returned.
The Facebook group was removed shortly after 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Coleman’s photo album was also removed.
Possible sanctions on these students have not yet been detailed by the administration.
“It’s not fair to comment [on possible disciplinary action],” Whitely said. “We need to discuss with students first, but it will be very serious.”
According to the handbook, possible penalties listed for this violation are Final Disciplinary Probation, Strict Disciplinary Probation or a Disciplinary Warning. Final Disciplinary Probation, the worst penalty that could be received, lasts for the remainder of the student’s course of studies. If this probation is violated, the student could be sanctioned with suspension or expulsion.
Stacey Arnold can be contacted at email@example.com. Patricia Mazzei can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.