Politics

Harvard Punishes Athletes for Years-Old ‘Crude’ Comments

Current cross-country team sanctioned for 'sexualized' document put together by 2014 team

Harvard’s Athletics Department has decided to punish the members of its current men’s cross-country team and place them on “athletic probation” for the “crude and sexualized statements” made by former members of the team over two years ago.

The current students under “athletic probation” had nothing to do with the comments made by members of the 2014 men’s team, and yet they are suffering the consequences for the former team’s recently revealed spreadsheets in which male athletes commented on their female counterparts’ physicality. In the spreadsheets, the men also theorized over which women would ask them to a Sadie Hawkins dance. Although the comments were “crude” and “sexualized,” the Office of General Counsel found they did not “denigrate or objectify particular women.”

“It is a careful line to walk when the University tries to police its students’ values, beliefs, or speech, rather than their actual actions.”

“The probation and training, it means that they’re going to keep a close watch on us and have us go through some training seminars with some Title IX coordinators, and also talk with an outside consultant about just working on our team culture,” men’s cross-country team captain Brandon E. Price told The Harvard Crimson.

The men’s cross-country team reportedly discovered the previous team’s spreadsheets and raised their concerns over the content to the Athletics Department in November. And for their forthrightness, there were consequences.

“We believe the accountability shown by these students, their taking responsibility for past actions and bringing them to our attention, positively contributes to Harvard Athletics’ ability to learn, assess, and improve our culture,” Robert L. Scalise, the athletics director, wrote in an email, The Crimson reported Friday.

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Although the 2014 spreadsheets were involved in the 2016 team’s athletic probation, Harvard alumni also expressed their concerns over similar spreadsheets from 2012, which reportedly included “specific comments about girls’ weight or appearance,” according to The College Fix.

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Although some students and athletes are commending Harvard for its disciplinary actions taken against the 2016 team, others believe the Athletics Department’s course of action was inappropriate and unfair.

“It is a careful line to walk when the University tries to police its students’ values, beliefs, or speech, rather than their actual actions,” Harvard student Emily Hall told The Fix in an email. “The administration has shown that it believes it has the authority to monitor students’ personal and private lives … I hope that this attitude will not expand to other areas of students’ private lives.”

Harvard student Vladimir Vartanian added, “There should be no punishment … why should individuals from a team entering the year 2017 be penalized?” according to The Fix.

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