New York, United States | AFP |
Harvard University, one of the most prestigious and expensive colleges in the United States, cancelled its men’s soccer season after discovering that the team rated women for their sexual appeal.
The move comes as American universities grapple with problems of rape and sexual assault on college campuses, criticized for being too lax in handling such cases and fueling a climate of impunity.
Athletics Director Robert Scalise said the team would forfeit the remaining games in the 2016 season and not compete in either the Ivy League championship or the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.
It comes after student newspaper The Harvard Crimson reported that the 2012 men’s soccer team created a “scouting report” of women soccer recruits, rating them on their appearance and assigning each of them a sexual position.
The article prompted a university review, in which university authorities said members of the soccer team were not initially forthcoming.
Scalise said the practice continued beyond 2012 into 2016 and appeared to be “more widespread” across the team.
Harvard University President Drew Faust said she 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.”
“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,” she added.
Men’s soccer coach Pieter Lehrer said the team was “beyond disappointed” that the season had ended “but we respect the decision.”
The six women recruits objectified in the “report” wrote an op-ed in the student newspaper saying “the sad reality is that we have come to expect this kind of behavior from so many men.”
“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.”
Harvard Athletics will work with the university’s Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response to educate all student athletes on “the general standard of respect and conduct that is expected,” Scalise said.