Harvard University canceled its men’s soccer season after learning that sexually explicit ‘scouting reports’ about the women’s soccer recruits continued through 2016.
The ‘reports’ — explicit descriptions of female student-athletes gauging their attractiveness and speculating on sexual preferences — were made public by the student newspaper at a time when the culture around sexual assault and consent are issues of intense interest at Harvard and many other campuses nationally.
Harvard’s general counsel, directed by the university President Drew Faust to investigate the behavior of the men’s soccer team after the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, reported that a member of the 2012 men’s team had ranked the attractiveness of female players and assigned them sexual positions as well as their soccer positions, determined that it was tradition and that current players were “not forthcoming” about their involvement.
Robert Scalise, the director of athletics, sent a message to student-athletes Thursday evening explaining that given the findings, saying, “we have decided to cancel the remainder of the 2016 men’s soccer season.
“The team will forfeit its remaining games and will decline any opportunity to achieve an Ivy League championship or to participate in the NCAA Tournament this year. I have notified President Faust, Dean Smith, and Dean Khurana, and they are fully supportive of our decision. We strongly believe that this immediate and significant action is absolutely necessary if we are to create an environment of mutual support, respect, and trust among our students and our teams.
“As we move forward, Harvard Athletics will partner with the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and other Harvard College resources to take additional steps to further educate the members of our men’s soccer team, and all of our student-athletes, about the seriousness of these behaviors and the general standard of respect and conduct that is expected. Harvard Athletics has zero tolerance for this type of behavior.
“I hope you will work to model a culture within your teams that is reflective of Harvard’s high values.”
Men’s soccer head coach Pieter Lehrer said in a statement: “We are beyond disappointed that our season has ended in this way, but we respect the decision made by our administration. Actions have consequences, and character counts. We accept responsibility for our actions, and I know that we will use the experience of this terribly unfortunate situation to be better.”
Harvard’s president Drew Faust said in a statement Thursday evening:
“I was deeply distressed to learn that the appalling actions of the 2012 men’s soccer team were not isolated to one year or the actions of a few individuals, but appear to have been more widespread across the team and have continued beyond 2012, including in the current season.
“Given this information, I fully support the clear and unequivocal decision made by the Director of Athletics today to cancel the remainder of the team’s season, including post-season play. I also agree with the Director’s desire to engage the team in a systematic program of training and to use this experience to reinforce core institutional values across the entire Department of Athletics.
“The decision to cancel a season is serious and consequential, and reflects Harvard’s view that both the team’s behavior and the failure to be forthcoming when initially questioned are completely unacceptable, have no place at Harvard, and run counter to the mutual respect that is a core value of our community.”
After the Crimson reported what a member of the men’s team in 2012 had written about them, women from the recruiting class in question responded with a signed, evocative response. “We are these women,” they wrote, and,
“We feel hopeless because men who are supposed to be our brothers degrade us like this. We are appalled that female athletes who are told to feel empowered and proud of their abilities are so regularly reduced to a physical appearance. We are distraught that mothers having daughters almost a half century after getting equal rights have to worry about men’s entitlement to bodies that aren’t theirs. We are concerned for the future, because we know that the only way we can truly move past this culture is for the very men who perpetrate it to stop it in its tracks.”
On Thursday, Harvard’s dean of the college, Rakesh Khurana, said in a statement: “I was saddened and disappointed to learn that the extremely offensive ‘scouting report’ produced by the 2012 men’s soccer team continued through the current season. As I have stated, such behavior is antithetical to Harvard’s fundamental values. It is clear that as individuals, as members of groups, and as a community, we need to do more to ensure that relationships on this campus are built on respect and dignity in all contexts. We cannot be a great College unless we are a good community.”