Tufts’ President Apologizes for Harassment of Smith Volleyball Players
Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 20:01
Last Wednesday, Tufts University President Anthony Monaco traveled to Smith to apologize in person for the harassment of Smith volleyball players by some Tufts students. Monaco was joined by Bill Gehling, director of athletics at the university.
The apology came following an investigation into accusations of harassment in September. The Tufts students investigated, all members of the men’s lacrosse team, were confirmed to have used sexist and racist remarks at a Smith-Tufts volleyball game on Sept. 21. The students were reported by a fellow Tufts student for allegedly calling players by name and threatening them. Following the accusation, the university launched both an internal and an external investigation, the latter from an attorney hired by the Office of Equal Opportunity.
“The President of Tufts got in touch with me immediately after the incident both to apologize and to tell me that Tufts was conducting an investigation,” said President Christ in an e-mail. “I believe they wanted to convey, both to Smiths and to Tufts, how seriously they took the incident.”
Tufts Dean of Undergraduate and Graduate Students John Barker said, “[The] Tufts students behaved inappropriately and in a manner not consistent with the values of good sportsmanship held by Tufts of the NESCAC.” He referred to their comments as “offensive and demeaning.”
“I know the players were very upset with their treatment at Tufts,” said Christ.
Some members of the Tufts lacrosse team were also found guilty of abusing alcohol and providing alcohol to minors.
In order to explain the investigation’s findings to the Smith campus, Monaco and Gehling held a meeting with President Christ, as well as Athletic Director Lynn Oberbillig and Fran Vandermeer, the volleyball team’s head 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,” said Barker.
“I was very impressed that President Monaco and Athletic Director Gehling came to Smith to apologize,” said Christ. “It showed both integrity and a sense of institutional responsibility.”
27 members of the Tufts men’s lacrosse team were sentenced with a two-game suspension, and were required to write letters of apology to both the Tufts and Smith coaches, as well as the two teams. Additional punishments may follow; students will be meeting individually with the Department of Athletics, the Judicial Affairs Officer, and the Dean of Students to determine further actions.
“Judicial consequences could range from a non-disciplinary warning to suspension, depending on the nature of the offense and a student’s prior history,” said Barker.
“I do think suspension is a substantial penalty; as I understand it, suspension may mean the team cedes the games since they may not have enough players,” said Christ. “I don’t know enough about the details to offer an opinion about whether other sanctions would be appropriate.” Much of the investigation’s details were kept private in order to protect the privacy of Smith students, employees and others involved in the case.
“I do not think this kind of behavior is in any way common or typical of Smith athletes’ experience in competition,” Christ continued.
“Clearly, this is a regrettable event and situation,” said Tufts’ men’s lacrosse coach Mike Daly in an email to the Tufts Daily. “Our team is moving forward at this point, using the unfortunate event as a learning and growing experience.”