At what is notably one of the most elite, liberal, forward-thinking institutions in the world, a disturbing, objectifying tradition has finally caught up with a few of the school’s athletic teams.
As first reported by the Harvard Crimson on Oct. 24, a member of the 2012 Harvard’s men soccer team created a document that rated women’s soccer freshman recruits by their perceived physical and sexual appearance.
This document was considered a “scouting report” and on it, each female freshman recruit was given numerical rankings and a paragraph-long assessment, along with a nickname and a hypothetical preferred sexual “position.” Photos of each women, taken off of websites such as Facebook, were included.
The emergence of the “scouting reports” resulted in the termination of the men’s soccer team’s season on Nov. 3. Harvard Athletics Director Robert L. Scalsie wrote that the decision was made after further evidence suggested that the tradition had been continued since 2012.
At the time of their suspension, the Crimson were seeded at first place in the Ivy League, and vying for a spot in the NCAA tournament
New reports, published Nov. 6, now show the trend is not limited to just men’s soccer. The Crimson reported that Harvard’s men’s cross country kept a yearly spreadsheet in which the team wrote “sexually explicit” comments about the women’s team. However, as of now, no disciplinary action has been taken against the cross country team.
The comments were publicly available through Google, and only taken down recently. Such comments included, “She seems relatively simple and probably inexperienced sexually, so I decided missionary would be her preferred position,” and “She seems to be very strong, tall and manly so I gave her a 3 because I felt bad. Not much needs to be said on this one folks.”
In a statement to the Boston Globe, Harvard President Drew Faust wrote, “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, have no place at Harvard and run counter to the mutual respect that is a core value of our community.”
The six members of Harvard women’s soccer’s 2012 recruiting class, seniors Brooke Dickens, Kelsey Clayman, Alika Keene, Emily Mosbacher, Lauren Varela and Haley Washburn ’16, who have read the “scouting reports” in their entirety, also responded in an op-ed for the Harvard Crimson on Oct. 29.
“We are these women, we are not anonymous, and rather than having our comments taken, spun, and published behind the guise of a fake anonymity offered to us by numerous news outlets, we have decided to speak for ourselves,” they wrote. “The sad reality is that we have come to expect this kind of behavior from so many men, that it is so ‘normal’ to us we often decide it is not worth our time or effort to dwell on… This document attempts to pit us against one another, as if the judgment of a few men is sufficient to determine our worth. But, men, we know better than that. ”
The emergence of scouting report has reignited the growing debate on “locker room talk.” “‘Locker room talk’ is not an excuse because this is not limited to athletic teams. The whole world is the locker room,” the women wrote in their op-ed. “Yet in it we feel blessed to know many men who do not and would never participate in this behavior out of respect for us—out of respect for women. To them we are grateful, and with them we strive to share a mutual respect through our own actions and words.”