Harvard's rape culture: Men's cross-country team also made lewd rankings

Harvard's men's cross-country team and its men's soccer team created sexually explicit documents evaluating freshman recruits for the women's teams.

Steven Senne/AP/File
People walk near Memorial Church on the campus of Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., in March 2016.

Less than a month after sexually explicit comments made by members of the Harvard University men's soccer team about members of the women's soccer team in 2012 went public, the Harvard Crimson reports that past members of the men's cross-country team made similar comments in yearly spreadsheets. 

In the spreadsheets, members of the men's cross-country team commented on the physical appearances of members of the women's cross-country team, sometimes in a "sexually explicit" way, according to the Crimson. The spreadsheets have been compared to the 2012 "scouting report" created by the men's soccer team, and obtained and published by the Crimson last month, in which players rated female soccer players by attractiveness and made explicit comments about their physical appearance. 

In an interview Saturday with the Crimson, the current captain of the men's cross-country team said the team was "particularly ashamed of" the 2014 spreadsheet, and that the team culture has changed for the better since. The cross-country team had voluntarily turned in their spreadsheets in an apparent effort to be transparent. But critics say the comments reflect larger issues that extend far beyond Harvard, as universities across the country grapple with how to deal with sexual assault on campus. 

The director of athletics at Harvard, Robert Scalise, called the comments made by the cross-country team "disappointing and disturbing," adding that the issues were not unique to the Harvard athletics department. 

"We’re not insulated from these types of things," he told the Crimson. "These things exist in our society. Society hasn't figured out a way to stop these things from happening." 

Members of the women's soccer team, who as new recruits were the targets of the men's soccer team comments in 2012, responded to the news last month with an op-ed in the Crimson, writing: 

In all, we do not pity ourselves, nor do we ache most because of the personal nature of this attack. 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. We are appalled that female athletes who are told to feel empowered and proud of their abilities are so regularly reduced to a physical appearance. We are distraught that mothers having daughters almost a half century after getting equal rights have to worry about men's entitlement to bodies that aren't theirs. We are concerned for the future, because we know that the only way we can truly move past this culture is for the very men who perpetrate it to stop it in its tracks.

Last week, the university announced that it had canceled its men's soccer season after an internal investigation on the "scouting report." On Friday, the men's soccer team issued an apology, vowing to "confront the issues of sexism and misogyny within our own locker room, so that we can take up the call issued by the women of the Harvard Women's Soccer Class of 2016 to join them in combatting this sort of behavior." 

"Starting with ourselves, all players on this team now commit our efforts to spur a cultural change that goes beyond the scope of our own team," they added. 

This report contains material from the Associated Press. 

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