Fallout continues from UP 500 controversy

After decades of Corps tradition, the infamous, semi-nude race known as the UP 500, will no longer be part of the university’s future.

That is the word from Norwich’s Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, Frank Vanecek.

“The UP 500 is an unsanctioned event that has gone on at the University for many decades, primarily it happens around the first snow,” explained Vanecek. The “traditional” UP 500 races before the 1970s, involved “the participants running into town and back.” Since then it has been changed to several laps around the Upper Parade Ground (UP).

Vanecek said that “the race was meant to be a celebration in the mind of the students for the first major snowfall.” But in recent years the rambunctious celebration, in which sophomores run around the UP while upperclassmen traditionally throw snow or water, turned into something with an edge and last year it became a violent and out-of-control free-for-all.

That conflicts with the school’s insurance policy, said Vanecek. After last year’s UP 500 on Jan. 27, in which “over 20” people were injured, the insurance carriers were not pleased with “the ramifications of the event” Vanecek said.

“They came to us asking what we are going to do to stop this from ever happening again, which is why we made the change,” he said.

That change may have cost Norwich an old tradition, but its removal ensures the continuation of the school’s essential insurance policy.

Robert Kuckuk, the commanding officer of the Naval ROTC Detachment at Norwich, said “what was worse about the situation was that these acts were planned, there was an effort that went into planning to injure their brothers and sisters.”

Not all cadets view the removal of this tradition as tragic or unpopular. “It was a stupid tradition, probably should’ve been gone a long time ago,” said Pete Dippolito, 21, a junior criminal justice major from Harrington Park, N.J.

Dippolito participated in last year’s UP 500, and suffered “bleach burns and bruises after being tossed around” as a result. He said “there was a printer and other various things” that were also used to throw at participants in the race.

Dippolito said that the scene of the race looked like some kind of horror flick. He witnessed “razor wire cutting into people, and baseball bats.”

“Robert Kuckuk, the commanding officer of the Naval ROTC Detachment at Norwich, said “what was worse about the situation was that these acts were planned, there was an effort that went into planning to injure their brothers and sisters.”
The personnel responsible for maintaining order during the race were present but failed to act.

“I saw a commandant on my third lap while running, there was security and an ambulance present, just hanging out on the hood waiting for someone to get hurt,” said Dippolito.

There is also a side of the Corps that regrets the removal of the tradition,

However, with the school’s new changes set in place, he acknowledges that “we would get suspended if we even attempted without their authorization”.

Other students are reflective by adding that “the race was disappointing and looking back its something the Corp of Cadets are embarrassed about it,”
said Dippolito.

Although it has been nearly 9 months since the last UP 500, “the investigation is still ongoing” said Wicks, adding that “16 (students) lost their military contracts.”

Vanecek and Wicks failed to mention any lawsuits against the school.

Dippolito knew of “three cases” that resulted in “each kid getting kicked out.” A major concern following the race was maintaining Norwich’s prestigious identity, especially in the face of parents and incoming freshman. “Parents were not pleased” said Vanecek, adding that “one mother told the school she will send her son to Virginia Military Institute instead.”

Regardless of necessity to be dissolved, the UP 500 was not a tradition easily let go. To some cadets the tradition runs deep in the family. “My father is an alumni, and he ran the race when he was here” said Maurice Bolduc, 20, a business management major, from Tampa, Fla.

“The Army department conducted a PT test the next day” said Bolduc, and “the majority of sophomore

s didn’t show up, those that did come had cuts, bruises and chemical burns.”

Bolduc said that the Army department began conducting “counseling sessions” with individuals to piece together the story, after realizing they were dealing with a severe situation.

“The event, even with things not being thrown, is a questionable event, (since) students can easily slip and hurt themselves on their own”, said Vanecek. “Thus, after several meetings, the school agreed that there would be no safe way to have the race even with supervision, and that is why the race will no longer continue as Norwich tradition.”

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