Harvard right to discipline men’s soccer team for sexism

Since the discovery of a Google Doc shared with Harvard soccer team members the administration has stepped in to cancel the teams participation in postseason play. (Chensiyuan/Wikimedia Commons)

On October 25th, the Harvard Crimson, the undergraduate student newspaper at Harvard University, reported the existence of a 2012 document in which members of the Harvard men’s soccer team objectified and rated incoming women soccer recruits, making lewd comments and sexually graphic descriptions. The document was publicly available in Google Docs and shared with team members, called the “scouting report.” Since then, an internal investigation done by the university has found the practice has continued annually until today. 

As a result, the administration at Harvard cancelled the men’s team participation in postseason play. Harvard hopes to keep disciplinary action as an internal matter, according to the original Crimson report, likely in hopes to preempt NCAA action. Members of the current team published a letter admitting to what they did and apologizing.

Harvard was right to quickly and seriously discipline the men’s soccer team, and should explore additional penalties. University officials have since met with the team to educate them on issues of sexism and misogyny, and also to employ them in starting constructive dialogues about these issues with others. However, this still remains a deeply troubling event and reflective of larger, systemic issues of rape culture and derogatory attitudes towards women on college campuses. As young adults at arguably the top university in the world, lack of “education” or discussion of these issues are not the problem. It’s sexism and a deep-seated culture, which must be harshly punished and condemned.

This was not a “mistake” or “serious lapse of judgment” as written by the team in their apology letter. This is more than just an example of immaturity; it is the blatant targeting and belittlement of their female counterparts, whom they then had the audacity to say they respect as “friends” and “incredible women.” It shows the danger of the “boys will be boys” and “locker room talk” mindset. As written by the Harvard Crimson editorial board, “This reprehensible practice reflects a culture of male sexual entitlement… and this behavior has significant consequences, as it drives sexual assault and violence against women.” Since, reports and evidence has emerged that the Harvard cross country team engaged in similar practices.

Objectifying women was not just being silently condoned, but actively promoted as a “boys’ team tradition,” in a college environment that prides itself on cultivating the next generation of national and world leaders. It must continue to be disciplined and monitored, and University of Connecticut officials should investigate for similar practices. Overall, it is a solemn but important reminder of the prevalence of this culture of sexism both in college campuses, carrying into the workplace and world after graduation.