Two members of sexual assault prevention and gender and sexuality-based student groups said they were disgusted but not shocked that Harvard’s 2012 men’s soccer team produced a sexually explicit “scouting report” evaluating female recruits in lewd terms.
The document, which appeared to be part of a yearly team tradition in which members rated female recruits on their perceived attractiveness with numerical scores and descriptions, was first reported by The Crimson Monday and sparked concern for the demeaning attitude it revealed.
“[The 'report'] was pretty horrible. I think it was really disturbing to see the sorts of comments that were made,” said Jessica R. Fournier ’17, a co-organizer for anti-sexual assault advocacy group Our Harvard Can Do Better, speaking personally.
No gender-based identity groups or sexual assault prevention organizations have issued official statements. Several student members of such groups declined or did not respond to request for comment.
However, after The Crimson first published its story, several undergraduates published statuses on social media criticizing the behavior described in the article, and a couple of students speaking in their own capacity said they were distressed over the report.
“When I saw the article, I was disgusted but honestly not as surprised as I'd like to have been,” said Megan E. Sims ’18, an intern at the Office of LGBTQ Student Life. “I wish it were completely shocking that a group of men brought together by a performatively masculinity activity made degrading comments among themselves about women, but I know it's not a new phenomenon.”
Both Sims and Fournier agreed that while they found the report obscene, they were not surprised by the behavior it revealed, with Fournier adding that the fact the comments were made over email suggested students did not feel that there would be repercussions for their words.
“This isn’t just about a soccer team, not just about a sports team, this isn’t about final clubs, this goes way deeper to the culture of this University, and the way this University responds to sexual violence,” Fournier said.
Responding to the document Monday, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana wrote in a statement that he is “always profoundly disturbed and upset by allegations of sexism, because I feel it is wrong and antithetical to this institution’s fundamental values.” Director of Athletics Robert L. Scalise also voiced concern, saying it was something the administration should look into and “not a media thing.”
Sims was skeptical of Scalise’s response and insistence that the issue should now be looked into by administrators.
“In reading the original article breaking this story, I was deeply troubled by the comments that this shouldn't be a media thing and should be handled internally,” Sims said. “This of course comes out of a long history of brushing sexual-and gender-based violence under the rug particularly when athletes are involved.”
Also responding to the report, women’s soccer coach Christopher P. Hamblin said that the culture of the men’s soccer program had shifted since a coaching change in 2013. Fournier questioned how much undergraduate culture had shifted within that timespan.
“It was four short years ago.” Fournier said. “From what I hear in most of the conversation on campus about this issue... I would not be surprised at all if there were still groups on this campus that still continued to do the same kinds of things that were pulled in this particular stunt.”
Both Fournier and Sims said they saw this particular incident as proof that increased training and efforts in sexual assault prevention were still necessary at Harvard.
The “report” surfaces during a time when Harvard is grappling with the issue of sexual assault on campus. Two years ago, Our Harvard Can Do Better filed a complaint with the Department of Education alleging that Harvard’s handling of sexual assault cases violated Title IX. The case is still ongoing.
—Staff writer Graham W. Bishai can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Curtailing Rape Culture at HarvardThis reprehensible practice reflects a culture of male sexual entitlement, where certain norms and expectations lead some to believe that women’s bodies are for their consumption.