Evidently all of these athletic teams had some sort of listserv where the athletes could make comments. The Harvard men's soccer team, the first to be suspended, had a "scouting report" on the freshman women players, assigning them numerical values and assigning imaginary sexual positions to them.
The other teams did similar things. One of the Amherst College cross country runners referred to a female runner as a "walking STD," and reportedly racist and homophobic comments were made as well.
So far, these suspensions have happened only in the Ivy League and at Amherst. Are the male athletes at these schools so much coarser than their counterparts at big state schools? Are, say, the Ohio State football players that much more refined than the Amherst cross country runners?
Cross-country runners tend to be quiet, introverted, masochistic personalities. They are far less boisterous, and rank far lower on the athletic/social totem pole, than their counterparts on the lacrosse, football, and basketball teams. (This isn't true of every last person, of course; but as a general rule, it holds.)
Swimmers and soccer players also tend to be less socially aggressive, though wrestlers are often a bit more truculent. (Knowing you can beat the other guy up if it comes down to that tends to have that effect.)
I spoke to a friend whose daughter goes to Amherst yesterday; she evidently told him that at least three or four guys on the cross country team there are gay. Why are they being penalized? And why are the straight guys who didn't make rude comments being punished alongside those who did?
In fact, at the University of Minnesota, the opposite happened recently: the football players themselves threatened to boycott their bowl game because ten players accused of sexual assault were suspended from the team. (In fairness to those players, criminal charges were not brought against them; but there's also no question that all ten gang banged a drunk female student.)
Of course, football is a revenue-producer. Cross country, by contrast, brings in no revenue to a school, so it provides an easy sacrificial lamb for any athletic director or university president looking to score political correctness points.
You can say the Ivy athletes were stupid: these guys should have known that anything said on a public mailing list could be made public. Just because it was used mostly by them didn't mean that it wasn't accessible to others. They had no more right to privacy on a university-sponsored listserv than I have with this blog.
You can also say they were rude. Bad manners aren't welcome anywhere, and rating incoming 18-year-old girls on their looks in a public forum is mean. (At least, if they're low numbers -- I doubt any girl would be disheartened by being told she's a nine or a ten.)
What this matter really boils down to is whether bad manners should be punishable by having one's athletic privileges revoked. Of course, that depends in large part on how you define bad manners.
The BLM protesters who rampaged through that Dartmouth Library last fall, yelling and cursing at white students simply because they were white, were unquestionably rude, yet they lost no privileges. In fact, the upshot of their bad manners was that the university administration met with them to hear their concerns.
Another comparison: if a female team had made catty comments about their male counterparts, would they have had their season suspended? Or, what if, for example, some of the writers at a liberal student newspaper had exchanged group emails saying insulting things about conservatives: would the university administrators suspend publication of that newspaper for the rest of the year?
Here's Amherst President Carolyn "Biddy" Martin, who called the comments from the cross country team "vulgar, cruel, and hateful:"
Their comments were definitely vulgar and, at times, cruel. But hateful? Not really. The Left always insists on attributing that emotion to anything they disagree with, but it probably does not describe the emotional state of the runners as they joked with one another. The comments were off-color, no question, and insensitive, to be sure. But were they written in a frenzy of bitterness and antipathy? That's highly doubtful.
This type of hypocrisy is most apparent when it comes to the media, which also condemns any such displays of sexism, when they themselves are the worst offenders in that regard. Female newscasters are almost always required to be attractive, and TV stations make their money by running commercials (or ads) featuring, for the most part, beautiful women as models.
(Coincidentally, I just happened to be chatting yesterday with a woman who used to work as a reporter at ultra liberal NBC. She volunteered, unprompted, that looks have a great deal to do with whether females get ahead at that station.)
To some extent, those students who made sexist, homophobic, and racist comments were probably doing so partly out of a sense of rebelliousness against the narrowly pc mentality that the universities -- and the media -- enforce these days.
Having your athletic season canceled is far less draconian than being expelled from school. But to a 19- or 20-year-old, an athletic season can be something on which the sun rises and sets. (This is not to say that it should be, but as a former college athlete, I can testify that it can be.)
In the current climate, no AD or college president will ever get fired for suspending a team, whereas if he lets rude comments slide, he could later be said to have been tacitly condoning and even encouraging the bad behavior, and his job could be jeopardized. So they take no chances, student-athletes be damned.
The question that remains is, what is the proper punishment for these rude and uncouth young men?
The proper punishment should be what it has always been for the rude and uncouth: to be disliked. All those who dislike these boors should feel perfectly free to shun them socially, and speak ill of them, or even mockingly rate their looks if they so choose. That's exactly what those rude student-athletes deserve.
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a comment for a comment.
Social relations are a vast, interconnected, complicated matter, with a host of different reasons why people think and speak and react the way they do. And, there are an infinite number of ways to be unpleasant, of which jokey references to women's attractiveness is just one.
For university administrators to try to insert themselves into the social fabric of their students' lives is simply meddlesome overkill.
It's the latest in a movement towards ever more stifling social engineering against which these young male students were rebelling.
And it will spark even more rebellion.