AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Cowboys, a University of Texas all-male student group, has been temporarily banned from operation after the organization chose to forego an appeal and accept the findings and punishment related to the fall 2018 death of a member alleged to be the result of hazing.
The decision comes after months of extensions by the organization to officially answer the university’s requests for a response on the findings of the investigation into the death of Nicky Cumberland. The student was killed after being ejected from a vehicle when the driver fell asleep on the way back from an off-campus Cowboys retreat.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Family asks UT for anti-hazing reforms after student’s death
At that time, the University gave the Cowboys three options to respond to their sanctions, which included a temporary ban of the organization. The Cowboys’ options for response were:
- Acknowledge the university’s decision and accept the findings
- Choose to appeal the decision
- Choose to request a formal hearing before a university hearing officer to contest the disciplinary decision
The Cowboys ultimately decided the first option, resulting in a six-year ban.
Sanctions now placed on the group include:
- Suspension for six years (from February 2019- May 2025).
- Removal from Game Day activities Cowboys previously played a role in.
- Moratorium on representing the university as official ambassadors.
- Probation for two additional years after reinstatement.
- Additional requirements to maintain eligibility after the six-year suspension has elapsed.
Additionally, the following sanctions against the Cowboys will be in place permanently, even when their suspension expires:
- Prohibition of separate student subgroups within the Cowboys.
- Prohibiting the Cowboys from using the cannon’s trailer to transport any members.
- Prohibiting the Cowboys use of live animals for events or other purposes.
- Pre-approval is required by the Cowboys’ advisor for all future Cowboys events that take place on campus. This pre-approval must be in writing and maintained by the organization internally.
- An organization advisor must be present at all future retreats or off-campus events.
- The Cowboys are required to use chartered buses for all members and people attending during any future off-campus events.
- The Cowboys are prohibited from taking away members’ ability to use various types of communication, including cell phones, smart watches, and computers during retreats, unless for purposes approved by the organization’s advisor.
In an email to the University of Texas, a Texas Cowboys representative said:
“With regard to the pending disciplinary case, I hereby certify that my organization understands the violation for which we are responsible.”
In the immediate aftermath of the Cumberland death, a Cowboys member who requested to remain anonymous said that he hoped the organization would be allowed to continue with the new-found focus of improving its practices.
The school says it will evaluate, starting in 2022, whether the organization can be reinstated before the six years are up. The university stated:
The university is committed to ending hazing. For this reason, we are willing to continue working with you and the Texas Cowboy alumni on identifying ways to disrupt hazing in our campus community. Additionally, the President of The University of Texas at Austin agrees to hold a meeting in January and August of each year, beginning in 2022, to evaluate whether the Texas Cowboys student organization may be reinstated at a point in time prior to the completion of the sanctioned suspension. The President will consider the Texas Cowboys alumni efforts to help the university eliminate hazing, the proposed future benefits to the university’s efforts to eliminate hazing arising from a newly constituted Texas Cowboys student organization, and the merits of proposed reforms to the Texas Cowboys student organization and alumni association.
In the email to UT Vice President Soncia Reagins-Lilly, the Cowboys representative signed off the groups’ decision by saying: “Thank you and Hook ’em Horns.”
KXAN’s Alyssa Goard contributed to this story.