Sunday, November 06, 2016

Harvard Scores By Stepping Off the Pitch

Harvard men's soccer cancelled for the rest of 2016 
If you enjoy sports, like me you might have found yourself watching at least some portion of a college football game on television yesterday.

Now if college soccer just happens to be your thing and you were checking out the scores on the screen crawl at the bottom of the television screen yesterday, you may have noticed there was no score for Harvard's men's soccer.

That's because administrators voluntarily cancelled the rest of their 2016 season after student journalist C. Ramsey Fahs published an article back on October 25th in the campus newspaper The Harvard Crimson about the discovery of a troubling "scouting report" written by and shared amongst the members of men's soccer team that rated the physical and sexual attributes of the members of the Harvard's women's soccer team.

As Fahs reported, the nine-page document was first shared amongst members of the 2012 mens soccer team back in July of 2012 via email.

Known informally as a "scouting report", not only did the document contain photos of each member of the women's soccer team, the photos were accompanied by at least a paragraph of text describing the author's perspective of each woman's bodily characteristics and attractiveness, as well as hypothetical speculation on their preferred sexual position and other lurid details.

It also rated women numerically - like Trump frequently does.

Click the link above to read more details, but it basically objectifies the women in demeaning and disrespectful ways that calls into question the behavior and attitudes of the members of the men's soccer team who shared it and responded to it with enthusiasm and humor.

Members of Harvard's 2012 men's soccer team 
In the wake of Fah's article, an investigation by Harvard's Office of General Counsel discovered that the men's soccer team had continued the practice up through this year.

As Athletics Director Robert Scalise wrote in an email to Harvard Student-Athletes: "The team will forfeit any remaining games and decline any opportunity to achieve an Ivy League championship or to participate in the NCAA Championship this year."

To Harvard's credit it should be noted that at the time of the cancellation of the rest of the season, the men's soccer team was tied for first in the Ivy League and on track to earn a spot in the NCAA men's soccer tournament.

Having played Division I football in college as well as in the NFL, I've spent quite a lot of time in locker rooms over the years, by nature it can be a pretty testosterone-rich / aggressive environment.

And yes, a lot of kidding around and joking does take place in there; some of which can be rather risque´ at times.

But I've certainly never heard anything like Donald Trump discussing in vulgar detail the types of physical things he feels entitled to do to women without their consent because of his celebrity and fame - things he and his top campaign members dismissed as "locker room talk".  

When I first read about the Harvard story in an article in the New York Times on Friday, like most people I found the idea of guys drafting a detailed document "rating" women for their sexual characteristics to be disturbing, juvenile and crude.

Harvard students protest in support of
University of Missouri students in 2015
Some of the women interviewed in the NY Times article expressed dismay, but sadly not surprise over the scouting report given Harvard's efforts to openly deal with the issue of sexual assault on campus.

Like a number of American universities in recent years, Harvard has found itself forced to deal with protests by both students and faculty over the presence of racism, sexism and discrimination on campus.

As well as what students from across the country identify as a pervasive environment of intolerance that exists on the campuses of institutions of higher learning.

Just about this time last year I blogged about members of the University of Missouri's football team forcing administrative changes to deal with racism on campus after they threatened to sit out SEC football games.

As you probably recall, last fall protests over different aspects of racism on campus took place on a number of American college campuses including the University of Missouri, Yale, and Princeton.

There's no question that the disturbing rhetoric of Donald Trump's primary campaign last fall and the widespread protests over the high-profile shootings of a number of unarmed African-Americans around the country were influential factors in students at various colleges using protests as an outlet for their frustration and anger over the state of the racial climate in America.

It's fair to say that Trump's numerous headline-making degrading comments about women, as well as the many female accusers who came forward with allegations of his inappropriate behavior, have inadvertently contributed to an expansion of the national dialog on rape, sexual assault and some men's behavior towards women.

The revelation of the Harvard men's soccer team's "scouting report" offers valuable, if troubling, insight into how disrespect towards, and objectification of women becomes ingrained in the minds of some men in this country - even at a place like Harvard.

But true to its reputation as one of the top institutions of higher learning in the world, Harvard's administrators quickly and decisively demonstrated that respect for students, regardless of sex, race or ethnicity, is more important than athletic prestige - the fallout from the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State University had to have played a factor in the rapid response from Harvard as well.

So kudos to the leadership at Harvard for taking taking a firm stand on the importance of ensuring a safe and respectful campus environment for female students.

In taking a stance Harvard scored a much larger and more meaningful victory for the school, its students and reputation by taking it's men's soccer team off the pitch.

No comments: