Is Ryerson’s student-athlete code of conduct too strict?

Last week, The Ryersonian broke the news that the Ryerson men’s hockey team was dealt a one week suspension.

Why the harsh suspension?

The team was penalized for doing something that many other Ryerson students did that weekend: drink.

On the weekend of Oct. 18 during a pre-season trip to New Jersey to play the Princeton Tigers, team members admitted to drinking some beers while in their hotel room.

The heavy-handed punishment that followed forced the team to forfeit two games on the road against Queen’s University and the University of Ontario of Technology.

Ryerson University athletics also fired assistant coach Lawrence Smith and suspended head coach Graham Wise for four games.

Drinking while on a road trip goes against the student-athlete code of conduct because Ryerson sees athletes as ambassadors for the school.

While schools like the Western University and Laurier have similar rules in their student-athlete handbooks, it’s worth noting that many other universities don’t.

Ryerson insists on sticking to this policy for its athletes drinking even though the school lets students consume beer while they watch hockey games in the stands at the MAC.

Why is there a double standard between “regular” students and student-athletes?

The issue lies in Ryerson’s view of our athletes not merely as players, but as students who represent the school not only on the ice, but off the ice.

With the combined responsibility of attending practice, home and away games as well as their academic commitments, how can Ryerson deny the team a couple of brews after a tough game?

It is safe to assume that many Ryerson students aren’t strangers to sharing a few drinks with fellow classmates after school and over the weekend.

Once in a blue moon you can even run into a “cool” professor who invites students out to the campus pub after their last class of the semester. Change those students into players and that cool prof into a coach and the same thing can’t be done, according to Ryerson.

With the Ryerson men’s hockey suspension reaching people across the country, National Post columnist Joe O’Connor took the issue of Ryerson suspending the team a step further.

He claimed the boys were punished for “acting like Canadians.”

While most of O’Connor’s arguments centre on beer and hockey going hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly, he raises some other valid points. Particularly around the strict environment that student-athletes find themselves in today.

Should this suspension trigger the conversation that the university is holding our student-athletes to too high of a standard?

Regardless of the controversy around the suspension, it is clear that Ryerson is robbing its student-athletes of a normal university experience.

A suspension like this is much too strict. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime.


This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on November 13, 2013.

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