Search Box

Sunday, December 18, 2016

On suspending college teams for bad manners

There's been a fair amount of publicity recently about how various college men's athletic teams have had their seasons canceled or suspended for having made rude comments in their group emails. So far it's happened to Harvard soccer, Columbia wrestling, Amherst cross country, and now, Princeton swimming.

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?

Contrast this to what goes on at a big time football school. When a couple of the players are accused of rape, nobody ever thinks to suspend the entire team.

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?

The fact that only one set of bad manners are now punished with actual penalties seems to be an extension of the safe spaces mentality that is pervading academia right now: it's okay to attack one group, but not another.

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.


Anonymous said...

A few comments:

- Oh how I wished these teams blamed Russian hacking on their emails being exposed?!

- I'm sure this sort of thing takes place in any sort of close-knit group above average testosterone place you'd find. It is an easy way to build up camaraderie(I mean you have to be pretty comfortable with people to be willing to make those sort of comments) and acts as a release valve during the stressful parts of the season.

- I'm also willing to bet the women's teams at many places is just as coarse or even worse than many of the men's teams. The womens bball players at my uni were rather unpleasant based on some of my minimal interactions.

- I guess the secondary moral of these situations is keep any sexual banter off uni sponsored email accounts. Plus, the less cerebral players from state schools are less inclined to bantz on email and just keep it to the locker room (sometimes Twitter which usually doesn't end up well).

- As you noted social stigma should be enof to handle these situations after exposure, but I'm sure the leftist admins love dishin' out punishment to dem white boys. And like you noted, Im more then certain 'hate' wasn't involved in any of the comments. Tho the walking STD comment was pretty harsh >_<

John Craig said...

Jean-Luc Cougar --
Ha, yes, of course it was the Russians!

You're absolutely right, men have always talked this way, long before the Amherst cross country team did, long before Trump confided the perks of being a celeb to Billy Bush.

My guess is that most women's teams are less coarse, on average, just because that's not most women's nature. They're probably just as negative in their own way, but it would likely be a more passive-aggressive, subtle way, not the straightforward criticism of the men's teams.

Jokah Macpherson said...

Regarding assessing the female players, I've always found it a weird aspect of human psychology that we take offense at someone calling attention to our flaws. Like a women getting upset if someone calls her ugly; most people probably think she is and behave accordingly even if they don't say anything so why does she direct her anger at the person who's honest?

I suppose it's our keen sensitivity to social suggestion. We worry that if someone says it, everyone else will start believing it. Which is actually true for a lot of things but female beauty is probably an exception. On the other hand, the power of social suggestion could possibly lower a woman's status among other women, who don't have the same reasons men do to be objective about this sort of thing.

I wasn't in a fraternity in college but I know one year one of my friend's fraternities made a powerpoint of the hottest incoming freshman girls with made up bios that included the girls' respective power animals. I guess it would be flattering to be on that list if it had been outed. On the other hand, my grad program had a large number of fat girls and the guys had a benign-sounding code word that joked about this. It sounds pretty cruel and harsh but these girls were none the wiser so were they objectively any worse off?

John Craig said...

Jokah --
I completely understand being insulted about having one's flaws pointed out. I know I react that way.

I agree, though, about how flattering it would be to be on a list of hotties.

True, what you don't know doesn't hurt you, and everybody got away with it at your grad school, but giving ratings online is pretty rude. I wasn't trying to argue that the guys weren't ill mannered, merely that the college administrators are only penalizing one form of bad manners on campus when in fact many exist.

Gilbert Ratchet said...

A minor quibble - it was the University of Minnesota's team that threatened to go on strike, not the University of Missouri's. (Mizzou's strike happened last year, in protest against the president not doing enough about the poop swastika.)

Anonymous said...

The way I look at these cases or incidents is that there is no right or wrong to them...Men and women are natural enemies, men victimize women, women victimize men, both groups are basically pieces of shit who don't merit mourning and get what they deserve...Thus, the men DID NOTHING BAD and I would have zero sympathy for punishing them in this fashion, and the people who are offended by all of this are the opposite sort of people from me (and thus due for bad results, heehee)...At the same time, every blight and disaster and unjust punishment that might happen to these men on the teams is actually a blessing to them if they would only tighten up and pay attention to the worthlessness of the people around them... SUFFERING SCHOOLS THE HEART and in many respects a ruined life has more longterm overall upside potential than does a brittle successful smooth one...

In other words, I can't get too excited about either party in these contretemps...Everybody has to work out the cards they were dealt, whatever they are, and I do operationally try to believe the (kinda false) rule: THERE AIN'T NO BAD CARDS, JUST BAD PLAYERS...

====Fake Baba

John Craig said...

Gilbert --
Ah, thank you, you're right, I'll correct that.

John Craig said...

Fake Baba --
If 'm interpreting correctly, you're basically taking a step back and saying, philosophically, that all humans are miserable creatures undeserving of sympathy, and that in the war of the sexes each side does whatever it can to win. And also that a little bit of adversity is good for personal development.

Well, at that level, I can't disagree, but this post wasn't written at quite that deep a level; all I was trying to convey was that it's ridiculous for university administrators to insert themselves into what is, effectively, a battle in the war of the sexes, by placing a foot on the scales and enforcing the oppressive atmosphere of censorship that now hangs over so many campuses.

Charles Phillips said...

I am a 74 year old retired emergency physician who taught for about 45 -50 years. And I am a member the Amherst Class of 1964 wherein we have had a few discussions of this huge reaction to the track team by Biddy Martin, the President. I will speak to my opinion only which may be in the minority.

I think the most important thing in all this is that the bad material seemed to stop by the Summer of 2015 - so probably 16 months ago or more. So, for some reason the same young men grew up and became more civil. Thus it seems impossible that a College President would try to make an international incident about all this except to promote herself. I keep hoping to try to get a copy
of her original PhD - "The Death of God ..." in the U of W in Madison.

Bringing in a top lawyer (we guess for about $75,000) to dig into all this - AFTER THE APOLOGY - is an overreach on Perfect Speech that I find a bit disgusting. The students are encouraged to talk without realizing that they are being pulled into a situation whereby it
would be more fair to read them their Miranda Rights. I have suggested that the Shut the Flubber Up until a lawyer joins them.

I have suggested that the President of Amherst College and the Chairman of the Board might both resign having over-feminized the college perhaps to also help sell their own, feminist books. I once authored a book Adam and Ms. Eve and read deeply about the
gender wars and the academics who can spin off fame and fortune within that rather natural area of conflict. It is also reasonable to consider whether or not Dr. Martin's openly gay life style gives her unusual views about men in general.

As the students involved seem to be the friends of the girls, I am not sure that there was really a clear victim. Perhaps the girls were
writing back their own sarcasm trying to embarrass the men - which I think Amherst College will (if they find such) both ignore and
suppress. I do not think a fair process is being initiated but rather a probe to hurt some young men's careers.

As the comments had already stopped, the correct action would be to more privately do the research first before putting the story out to 30,000 alumni and probably a long list of press sources that seem to like this kind of alleged expose. i found this blog author herein to give a more balanced story than I have read elsewhere.

I wish I could contact the students most focused upon to try to make sure their self esteem does not bottom out in to some self
destructive act. Amherst has already has a suicide wherein the suicide note left criticized the leaders in the college for not having
student empathy. I have had student empathy for all of my years of teaching.

Charles Phillips, MD -

John Craig said...

Dr. Phillips -
Thank you for your informative comment. I hadn't known that all of the negative comments had stopped by the summer of '15. That makes this punishment seem even more capricious and arbitrary.

I hadn't realized that Martin was selling feminist books, nor that she was openly lesbian. Now it all makes more sense. I don't know anything about Martin other than this incident and what you've just told me, but it does seem that a fair number of lesbians' basic attitude towards all men is one of dislike and resentment -- because they're men. And then they accuse men of disliking all women, assuming that men have similar attitudes to their own.

Mark Caplan said...

A federal law known as Title IX requires educational institutions to investigate and punish sexual harassers or anyone perceived as creating an environment hostile to women, even if no female "victim" actually comes forward to complain. If school administrators don't comply with Title IX, the feds can cut the school off from receiving federal funds, including money for scholarships and research grants.

In deciding to convict an alleged harasser, only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) is required.

My understanding is that Title IX specifically prohibits an alleged perpetrator from directly cross-examining or challenging his accuser. Maybe a reader can confirm that.

It'll be fun to see whom Trump appoints to enforce the nation's anti-sexual harassment laws. I do know that Billy Bush happens to be between gigs.

"Title IX Prohibits Sexual Harassment at Schools and Colleges"

John Craig said...

Nark --
I hadn't known that Title IX specifically called for the establishment of kangaroo courts. Amazing.

I'm all for women participating in sports, but the injustices that have been done in the name of sports justice are numerous.

Dave Moriarty said...

i was thinking about this and realize that the ranking of the opposite gender ( the well known 1-10 scale) is part of what anthropologists would classify as the mate selection process. Ever n since the movie Arthur everyone has been aware of 10's and other rankings. On some level we all ranking ourselves ( usually with too high a number) and trying to find a match. Now we have also learned that matches are more likely to have staying power when the "classification" of the pair is consistent. 4's don't belong with 8's (unless the 4 is very wealthy then the appearance rank loses relevance). So it seems people are better with a partner with a ranking within one standard deviation of oneself and thus ranking is a means of defining the pool of candidates for the selection process. But the mate selection process has become very complicated and fraught with error (see : divorce rate;50%) and the mate selection process is constantly evolving and bringing with it anxiety among the players . this anxiety brings "humor" to the process even as many don't see the humor(see: Biddy, investigations) as players try to ease their anxiety over the process and address it with humor. But the colleges should not assume the role of arbiters of the complex mate selection process even as some presidents play on different teams and have their own selection rituals. if anything the coaches should give a speech to the players/runners/swimmers and say don't put anything in writing that you would not want to see on the front page of the paper with your byline. Being guilty of being stupid is one thing but Biddy is way off thinking this is hateful.

Anonymous said...


I had a discussion about this very subject a few weeks ago with an older woman friend who is/was a big Sanders supporter. This has happened at a bunch of other places, Harvard included. At Harvard the soccer team was suspended. She exploded in rage. She was totally outraged at the abridgement of freedom of speech. I've found that a lot of Bernie supporters, at least older ones, were more concerned about the death of free speech, than Hillary supporters. The latter are completely in favor of suppressing free speech. Another reason to be thankful Trump won. Imagine what would be happening if the Sea Hag won.

I didn't know about "Biddy" before this. But it's relevant to bring up her lesbianism, as she wrote this:

Parents be forewarned: send your kid off to a fancy private school and watch his masculinity criminalized by an out dyke. All for $80K per year! Wouldn't it be cheaper just to pay for the transition out of pocket?

I do find it strange that women who themselves are not feminine have an obsession with creating hyper-feminized environments.

Overcompensating much?


John Craig said...

Puzzled --
It did seem to me that the Bernie supporters -- on average -- actually thought a little bit more than the Hillary supporters did. Hillary's entire campaign consisted of, Vote-for-me-I-have-a-vagina, and Isn't-Trump-horrible. I knew some Bernie supporters who, while I disagreed with them, at last realized that Bernie stood for something, unlike Hillary, and they recognized her corruption. The diehard Hillary supporters, on the other hand, really seemed to have drank the Kool Aid. They tended to be more all about political correctness, which is basically just willful blindness. So, it's not surprising that a Bernie supporter would object to the sports team suspensions. Most Hillary supporters would have been just fine with it.

Yes, a lot of these lesbian feminists seem to be just playing out their own personal psychodramas and working out their own issues on a larger stage. I think at a certain level they hate men because men are their main competition for women, and men almost always get the prettier ones. Most lesbians have to settle for women who look like them, and they don't like it.