With one Harvard team’s season cancelled and another team under investigation for creating lewd documents about female athletes, questions have emerged about athletic culture at Harvard and across the Ivy League.
Though Yale varsity teams have not violated University sexual misconduct policy at the same scale as Harvard’s two teams, the Athletics Department has taken concrete steps in recent years to improve the campus climate.
“Our mission is to incentivize our teams to know each other and work well together since this promotes respect for one another,” Director of Athletics Tom Beckett said. “Many teams share the same competition and practice venues. … We strive to ensure that the men and women on our teams do not simply respect each other but forge friendships.”
On Oct. 25, The Harvard Crimson reported that the Harvard men’s soccer team produced yearly “scouting reports,” sexually explicit documents about the women’s soccer recruits that included numerical ratings and an assigned sexual position.
The Harvard Office of General Counsel confirmed the document’s existence, including a 2016 iteration, and the team cancelled its remaining two games on Nov. 3. Two days later, The Crimson reported that the men’s cross country team had a similar practice of creating spreadsheets before an annual dance, which also included explicit descriptions of the women’s physical appearances and sexual preferences. Director of Athletics Bob Scalise has asked the Office of General Counsel to investigate the team’s tradition.
The revelation of the practices of the men’s soccer and cross country teams come at a time when single-gender organizations have come under fire at Harvard. The University announced last May that it would bar members of Harvard’s single-gender Final Clubs and Greek organizations from holding leadership positions in recognized student organizations, serving as captains of athletic teams and getting sponsored by the University for top fellowships.
Harvard officials made the decision after a March report by the University Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention indicated high rates of sexual assault at the all-male final clubs. The ban will start with Harvard’s class of 2021.
Harvard is not alone in facing issues with single-gender groups: Yale has had similar problems in the last decade. Delta Kappa Epsilon, a fraternity whose membership was composed of many athletes, was banned from using Yale’s name and holding on-campus events after the fraternity’s pledges walked around Old Campus in October 2010 chanting “no means yes, yes means anal.” DKE’s five year suspension ended last May.
In February, Yale basketball captain Jack Montague was expelled for sexual misconduct. The team faced criticism for wearing warm-up t-shirts before a Feb. 26 game in support of its captain, sparking discussion about the role of athletic teams in promoting rape culture on campus.
There have been no public allegations of Yale athletic teams engaging in behavior similar to that of the Harvard men’s soccer team. According to Dean of Yale College Jonathan Holloway, the athletic department “take[s] these kinds of issues really seriously, and they’re committed to seeing that their athletes are being good citizens.”
Yet in the wake of increasing sexual misconduct complaints, the Athletics Department has worked to address sexual assault, holding a meeting with all varsity athletes when they first arrive at Yale as freshmen.
In Yale’s latest semi-annual Report of Complaints of Sexual Misconduct, the University saw a record 88 complaints between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2016. The University began publishing the reports in 2011.
“In conjunction with freshmen orientation meetings and required sophomore meetings run by consent educators, this initial meeting sets and reinforces the expectations for culture which the department leadership and coaches aim to reinforce through four years,” Beckett said.
Yale Assistant Athletic Director of Student Services Brian Tompkins served as the men’s soccer coach for 19 years before moving to the administrative side of Yale athletics in January of 2015. From his experience, he believes that coaches must stress the right values to their team and recruit the right players.
“The underpinnings of any effective and respectful Yale team culture begins with outstanding and thoughtful coaches who recruit people of good character who understand and value their team and the broader community,” Tompkins said.
The Harvard men’s soccer team was leading the Ivy League with an undefeated record in the conference before the University cancelled its season.
David Yaffe-Bellany contributed reporting.