The Harvard men's soccer team has been suspended for the remainder of the season after the school discovered the team had repeatedly written and circulated vulgar, sexually explicit "scouting reports" about new recruits on the women's team, in a practice that continued up to this year.
"The decision to cancel a season is serious and consequential," Harvard President Drew Faust said in a statement Thursday. She wrote 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."
Men's soccer coach Pieter Lehrer said the team was "beyond disappointed" to see the season end this way, but would respect the decision.
"Actions have consequences, and character counts," Lehrer said in a statement. "We accept responsibility for our actions, and I know that we will use the experience of this terribly unfortunate situation to be better."
The suspension follows a story by The Harvard Crimson, the university's student newspaper, revealing that in 2012, the soccer team had circulated a "scouting report" on the new freshman recruits for the women's soccer team.
The document — which appeared to be part of an annual tradition — described the female players in graphic, frequently degrading terms. It ranked their attractiveness with numerical values, assigned them sexual positions, theorized about their sexual behavior and described their physical attributes in terms that were variously crude and insulting.
After that story, Harvard ordered a review of the team's behavior. The review found that the "scouting report" was, indeed, a tradition.
"I understand that this practice appears to be more widespread across the team and has continued beyond 2012, including in 2016, and that current students who participated were not immediately forthcoming about their involvement," Athletics Director Bob Scalise wrote in an email to the student body on Thursday.
He said that "immediate and significant action is absolutely necessary."
The university has "zero tolerance" for such behavior, he wrote, and the team will be forfeiting its remaining games this season and will not participate in the Ivy League championship or the NCAA tournament.
"The decision brings to a sudden halt the season of a team that had a record of 10 wins, three losses and two ties, and was likely to win a championship berth if it won a scheduled Saturday game against Columbia University," Reuters reports.
We'll give the last word on this story to those players from the women's team who were described so graphically in the 2012 document uncovered by the Crimson.
Brooke Dickens, Kelsey Clayman, Alika Keene, Emily Mosbacher, Lauren Varela and Haley Washburn, the incoming recruits that year, wrote a response to the story that ran in the newspaper a few days later. It read in part:
"We do not pity ourselves. More than anything, we are frustrated that this is a reality that all women have faced in the past and will continue to face throughout their lives. We feel hopeless because men who are supposed to be our brothers degrade us like this. ...
"Having considered members of this team our close friends for the past four years, we are beyond hurt to realize these individuals could encourage, silently observe, or participate in this kind of behavior, and for more than four years have neglected to apologize until this week."
The women said they read their classmates' lewd and mocking words in their entirety and were "deeply hurt," but that they hoped this story would catalyze a change in culture. They concluded:
"Finally, to the men of Harvard Soccer and any future men who may lay claim to our bodies and choose to objectify us as sexual objects, in the words of one of us, we say together: 'I can offer you my forgiveness, which is — and forever will be — the only part of me that you can ever claim as yours.' "