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Men’s lacrosse players benched for harassment

Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013 08:01

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Oliver Porter / The Tufts Daily

27 players on the men’s lacrosse team face a two-game suspension and other disciplinary consequences after an Office of Equal Opportunity investigation revealed the players were guilty of harassing Smith College volleyball players at a Sept. 21 match in Cousens Gymnasium.

Twenty−seven members of the men’s lacrosse team have been penalized with a two−game suspension after an external investigation found that the athletes were guilty of “unacceptable behavior” at a women’s volleyball home game against Smith College last semester, according to Dean of Undergraduate and Graduate Students John Barker and Director of Athletics Bill Gehling.

The Office of Equal Opportunity hired an attorney in September to conduct an external investigation after a Tufts student alleged that the athletes harassed Smith volleyball players at the Sept. 21 game from the stands in Cousens Gymnasium. The student accused the players of calling out sexist and racist insults that disparagingly referenced the Smith players by name and threatened them during the game.

The investigation, according to a Letter to the Editor from Barker and Gehling first posted on the Daily’s JumboSlice blog, revealed through interviews with other spectators, players and coaches from both volleyball teams that players on the men’s lacrosse team were the ones who exhibited inappropriate behavior at the match.

“The investigation confirmed that some Tufts students behaved highly inappropriately and in a manner not consistent with the values of good sportsmanship held by Tufts or NESCAC,” Barker told the Daily in an email. “Specifically, Tufts found that a group of students from the men’s lacrosse team repeatedly made offensive and demeaning comments about players in the game and/or encouraged other team members in such misconduct.”

Barker explained that some of the lacrosse players in attendance were also guilty of abusing alcohol.

“They also engaged in inappropriate behaviors involving alcohol, such as underage drinking, providing alcohol to minors, attending a sports event while intoxicated and consuming alcohol at the volleyball match,” he said.

In light of the incident, Barker said that University President Anthony Monaco and Gehling went to Smith yesterday to apologize directly and explain the investigation’s result to the Northampton, Mass. college’s president, athletic director and volleyball coach.

“The meeting was very positive and they were very appreciative of the visit as well as the Tufts response to the incident, which they felt was appropriate,” Barker said.

All members of the team present at the game will be benched for two games in the upcoming season and have been asked to write letters of apology to the Tufts and Smith volleyball coaches and the two teams, Barker and Gehling explained in the letter.

According to Barker the Department of Athletics and the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs and Judicial Affairs will both be involved in determining potential additional punishments for the students involved.

“The Judicial Affairs Officer or Dean of Student Affairs will meet with each student individually to discuss their conduct,” Barker explained. “Judicial consequences could range from a non−disciplinary warning to suspension, depending on the nature of the offense and a student’s prior history.”

Men’s Lacrosse Coach Mike Daly said the team is working on evolving in the aftermath of the investigation.

“Clearly, this is a regrettable event and situation,” Daly told the Daily in an email. “Our team is moving forward at this point, using this unfortunate event as a learning and growing experience,” he said.

Daly did not comment on how benching 27 players for the first two games would affect the team’s upcoming season.

Junior Rose Barrett, whose Sept. 25 op−ed in the Daily detailed the harassment, said that she is more concerned with a developing aggressive culture on campus and not just the single volleyball game.

“I had hoped that the response to the outcome of the investigation would include a plan for discussion and education—definitely of those individuals involved, and ideally of the entire student body,” Barrett, a junior, told the Daily in an email. “I hope the apologies given by those involved are sincere and come from a place of understanding why the comments they made were hurtful and offensive,” she said.

— Lizz Grainger contributed reporting.

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