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Trinity society says 'no bullying or humiliation' took place at alleged hazing event

The Knights of the Campanile are at the centre of a bugging controversy.

File photo of Trinity College Dublin
File photo of Trinity College Dublin
Image: Shutterstock/Rob Wilson

THE COLLEGE SOCIETY at the centre of a bugging controversy has denied any bullying or humiliation took place at an alleged ‘hazing’ event.

Last month it emerged that Trinity College Dublin had launched two separate investigations after reporters from one of the university’s student newspapers planted a recording device outside a student’s on-campus apartment.

On 15 March, the University Times published a story about an initiation ceremony held by the Knights of the Campanile in February.

“Raised voices could be heard from outside the building as members were taunted, jeered at, and instructed to “bend over”, “get in the shower” and “start whispering insults in each other’s ears”,” the article claimed.

Reporters from the newspaper left a recording device, which was later discovered, outside the apartment of the society’s president.

TCD previously confirmed to TheJournal.ie that it was carrying out investigations into the alleged bugging and hazing incidents.

In a statement released yesterday, the Knights of the Campanile described the relevant articles in the University Times as “somewhat misleading and improper”.

It has been alleged that ‘hazing’ – a term denoting bullying and/or humiliation at initiation ceremonies occurred at a private party, given in his private rooms, hosted by the Knights’ President to welcome new Knights in College.

“I am assured by the President that bullying and/or humiliation played no part in the evening’s proceedings,” Peter Ledbetter, the society’s master, said in a statement to members.

‘We take our work seriously’ 

Ledbetter described the covert recording of proceedings by the University Times as “disturbing” and “an invasion of privacy”.

The newspaper is standing over its actions, saying they were carried out in the public interest.

Editor Eleanor O’Mahony previously told TheJournal.ie that on the night in question the student journalists had not planned on using the recording device but did so because “one of our reporters had it on hand”.

O’Mahony added that those involved in the report have no intention of stepping down and continue to stand over their work.

“We take our work seriously. We’re happy to stand over our reporting,” she said.

As a result of the incident, a petition has been launched to cut the newspaper’s funding as well as remove funding for the editor’s salary and accommodation from the TCD Students’ Union constitution.

O’Mahony described the petition as “personally very disappointing”.

The aftermath of controversy like this is not the time to make decisions about the long-term future of the paper.

Trinity News - a separate college publication - called for the students involved in the story to face consequences as it claims their actions have “breached any code of journalistic ethics worth the name”.

The NUJ Ethics Council released a statement in relation to the situation. It noted: “Ritual initiation ceremonies and degrading humiliation of novitiates are a danger to the general public… 

“It is right that the media should expose such groups for what they are and right that a student newspaper should expose a student society of this sort.”

‘Elite, but not sexist’ 

In the statement, Ledbetter denied the society was behind the petition, noting: “I am assured that the petition was not, contrary to what some have suggested, instigated by the Knights in College.”

He also denied that the all-male group is a so-called “secret society” or sexist, stating that the Knights have an all-female sister society called the Heraeans.

Ledbetter added that the Knights are “elitist” but not in a “pejorative sense”.

Knights are an elite in the same sense that scholars can be described as an elite. Both are appellations earned through excellence.

“As ever, the criteria for election to the Knights remain: active high-level involvement in sport in College; participation in administration in the College Club promoting a specific sport; social skills to welcome sporting visitors to College,” the statement notes. 

With reporting by Adam Daly

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