November 7, 2016

LINSEY | The Harvard Men’s Soccer Scandal: A Blemish on the Ivy League’s Record

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On Oct. 25, the Harvard Crimson broke a story that will have lasting effects on Ivy League sports for years to come. The student newspaper at Cornell’s Ivy peer reported that Harvard’s men’s soccer team compiled a grossly inappropriate “scouting report” of their fellow athletes on Harvard’s women’s soccer team, judging the women on their perceived attractiveness.

Simply put, these actions have no place in the world of college athletics. Harvard has suspended the team for the remainder of its season, and the team has published a formal apology. That said, Harvard and the Ivy League should work together to ensure incidents like this never happen again on any Ivy sports team.

The details of the team’s conduct further show it to be simply unacceptable. The Crimson has noted that this nine-page “report” was written every year from 2012 to 2016, which means it has occurred under the team’s current coaching staff. The report made a number of sexually offensive remarks about each female athlete, including assigning them sex positions and crude nicknames. There is evidence that the entire team was involved in creating this atrocity of a document. The team has since apologized, writing last week in an editorial in the Harvard Crimson, “No woman deserves to be treated in this manner; not our mothers, our sisters, nor our peers. We apologize to them, and to all those who trusted us, supported us and believed in us.”

While this apology is necessary and seemingly sincere, this conduct is still unacceptable on any athletic team and extremely out of place on an Ivy League squad. The Ivy League sets the academic and moral standards for the rest of the college athletic world. While scandals are sadly still present in college sports — look at Joe Paterno’s downfall at Penn State or North Carolina players’ phony exams for examples — one would not expect this sort of behavior at an Ivy League institution. The behavior of Harvard’s men’s soccer team in such a sexually explicit manner has tarnished the Ivy League athletic brand as a whole.

It is highly unlikely that this inappropriate “report” is the only element of a worrisome culture at Harvard men’s soccer. Since this story is so recent, surely more information will be leaked in the coming weeks. Harvard’s initial punishment — suspending them for the season — is an excellent start. Yet, because the team’s culture is also likely a problem, this suspension alone will not fix the behavior. Harvard and the Ivy League need to implement a program to fix the culture at Harvard men’s soccer. It needs to start with education, about how conduct of this sort will never be tolerated. Once the program is established, every Ivy sports team needs to participate, because if it has happened on one Ivy team, it might be happening elsewhere. The Ivy League needs to take a strong stance on Harvard men’s soccer’s misconduct to ensure that Ivy League athletics remain a hallmark of academic and moral excellence.