University officials continue investigation into U.P. 500 incident

It is almost a month since the U.P. 500, whose running Jan. 27 was marred by injuries and controversy. The unsanctioned event has been held almost every year since at least 1998, and in years before that as well.
Every year, on a night where an exceptionally large amount of snow is expected, the sophomore (previously freshman) class in the Norwich University Corps of Cadets participates in the rambunctious and spirited event.
In the U.P. 500, cadets run laps around the Upper Parade Ground (U.P.), often while wearing little to no clothing. Meanwhile, upperclassmen who have participated in the event in years past traditionally throw snow or water at the runners.

This year, however, the event turned violent as some upperclassmen took things too far. Allegedly, some threw ice chunks, beer bottles, powdered bleach, and even a printer at the runners. There were a significant amount of injuries, and an unknown number of cadets had to be taken to receive emergency care.
According to the Commandant of Cadets, Russell Holden, his office is still conducting an investigation into the matter. Leading the investigation is Assistant Commandant Alan Lane, who pointed out that he is far from the sole investigator. The entire staff of the Office of the Commandant is involved.
As the investigation is ongoing, Lane declined to give information such as the number of injuries reported, citing FERPA and HIPA laws which protect privacy of student records and the privacy of medical records, respectively. “It’s far from being complete,” I can’t be very specific about anything,” Lane explained.
“We certainly would like to discover who is injured, the extent of their injuries, even their attitude towards it, whether it was good, bad, or indifferent,” Lane said.
Lane and the administration urge any students to come forward with any information, including anything relating to illegal or disorderly behavior, or injuries sustained by participants. “The President is certainly looking for information from the student body,” he added.
“I don’t know if anyone can assemble the whole picture and that’s why we’re looking for help. I think until we interview as many as we possibly can that will step up and say here’s what I observed, it’s a tough call. I don’t know that any one person’s got the whole picture yet,” Lane said.
Senior Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Vanecek released a statement to the Norwich community on Jan. 31 about the running of the event. In his message, he condemned this year’s conduct as “disgraceful due to the actions of a small number of students.”
Vanecek went on to specifying the administration’s commitment to a thorough investigation, stating that “those found in violation of Norwich University Rules and Regulations, or worse, will be prosecuted to the full extent of our regulations, and state law if applicable.”
Pres. Richard Schneider was asked about the U.P. 500 at a NU campus-wide faculty and staff meeting Feb. 18 and said the actions were “absolutely unacceptable.” He added that making it a sanctioned event was one possible avenue to provide better control.
Lane expressed disappointment in regards to some cadets’ willingness to hurt other cadets.
“From my standpoint, and I believe I speak for the other commandants as well, we want you (students) to be safe, we want you protected,” said Lane. “When we have an event like this, that tends to diminish the opportunity for some people (to achieve),” he added, referring to the injuries that some sustained in past years which delayed or even halted their path to a commission.
Senior Enlisted Advisor Larry Rooney echoed Lane’s disappointment saying “You guys took a good tradition and you trashed it.
The U.P. 500 has been a concern for the administration in past years as well, though many alumni have fond memories of it in a 2004 Alumni poll (www.norwich.edu/about/news/2004/memories.html.)
According to Heath A. Kelly, NU ‘98, “The U.P. 500 is the most memorable. It was the one event that brought the entire campus together. Though the administration tried to stop it my senior year (1998) it persisted. It may not be socially acceptable to many but what a great stress reliever for freshmen and upperclassmen alike.”
“The NU Upper Parade Ground (UP) 500 always stands out in my mind as one of the best and most esprit de corps traditions the Corps of Cadets has! It was quite the experience as a freshman to run around the upper parade ground in the middle of the night in the dead of winter with nothing on but a jock strap and “Bucky’s ski boots” as the upperclassmen pelted you with snow/ice balls while trying not to fall and bust your butt on the ice,” wrote James J. Lucowitz Jr. ‘99.

Comments

  1. Jason S. Balgos, NU '99 says:

    I am a Graduate of the Corps and Former member of the Guidon Staff. Professor Ken Bush was one of my Professors while I was a student in the Communications Department, and MAJ Passalacqua was one of my Commandants while I was in the Corps. I was disheartened to read about the behavior of a small number of Upperclassmen during this year’s UP 500. It is unfortunate that a small number of less disciplined individuals turned a great Tradition into a potentially harmful situation.
    In your article you cited quotes by two Alums that I knew/know personally. When “Lucky” Lucowitz and I ran our UP 500 as ROOKS it was most definitely an Unforgettable event that we all remember to this day. I clearly remember looking out the Barracks window of Gerard, watching “Rookie TV” as it was known, and wondering out loud with my roommate whether or not tonight was the night. We quickly learned that it was and everyone hastily ran out of the Barracks in various attire and began our Sprint. Most of us just had on our “Bucky Speed Skates” Boots with Pistol Belts and Canteens, and maybe a Jock Strap. It was a long cold run and we encountered a lot of snow balls and the occasional trash can of water, but there wasn’t any malicious behavior that I recall.
    What I do clearly remember is that when some Civilian Students tried to get in on the snow ball throwing that was QUICKLY stopped by a group of upperclassmen, as this was a strictly Corps event. That’s when I realized, as I was running by Goodyear Hall, that this was a tradition and bonding experience amongst the Corps that united all of us wearing the ring. Those of us from “The Hill” that chose to march and hike the Hills in grey frigid temps all shared similar experiences of a truly unique institution that has literally shaped this country’s history.
    Unfortunately those individuals that failed to exercise situational discipline this past January have risked not only the well-being of their fellow Cadets, but also the future of a spirited tradition. I deliberately refer to them as Individuals because that is how they acted, as individuals, and not members of a Team, also known as The Corps. These Individuals have once again displayed the lack of understanding that comes with immaturity.
    The greatest threat to the Corps and its Tradition is not the Commandant’s Office, it’s the Cadets themselves. When Individuals like these fail to exercise discipline, and that lapse of judgment brings bodily harm to another Cadet, it is only natural that the Commandants will step in. They are obligated to act because other Cadets and the Cadet Chain of Command obviously did not, and therefore there was a potentially harmful situation. What else are they to do? For the UP 500, or any other tradition, to continue it is up to the Cadets to Secure their future. They must act in a spirited fashion celebrating the Institution known as “The Hill”, but they must also act as what they are, future Leaders of this great Nation.

    v/r,

    Jason S. Balgos, NU ’99
    Ft. Bragg, NC 28310

  2. Matthew Kaye says:

    I agree sir, the biggest threat is in fact the cadets themselves. However, the school’s failure to teach discipline, leadership, resilience, as well as personal and unit accountability has lead to a moral and ethical decline in the student population over the years. This, coupled with the seemingly indifferent filter process for admissions has developed a Corps tainted by morally bankrupt individuals. I’ve witnessed this sharp decline over my time as cadet, especially after returning from a 2010 deployment. In short, there’s a serious problem with excessive commandant oversight in disciplinary acts, and the school just keeps letting in (and keeping in) bad people. It’s a shame. Some really good leaders come out of this school. I’ve had the distinct privilege of being lead by some of the best platoon leaders from this school. Four to be exact. The first leading my platoon in Afghanistan. The good ones go on to do really well. The not so good ones, well, my heart goes out to their subordinates.
    Respectfully,

    Matthew D. Kaye, NU’13

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