In a letter to the men’s crew team posted on the Office of the President website, University President Anthony Monaco announced that, upon his request, the team is no longer suspended and will be allowed to compete in this weekend’s New England Rowing Championships. Monaco shared the letter on his Facebook page just after 5:30 pm Thursday evening.
As the Daily originally reported, the team was suspended earlier this week in response to shirts they wore at Spring Fling on April 28, which had “look at our cox” printed on them as well as an image of four rowers and a coxswain in a boat. In his letter, Monaco states that “the large majority of the team had broken team policy and disobeyed explicit instructions by Coach [Jay] Britt by producing, purchasing, and wearing as a group unauthorized tee-shirts last Saturday.”
The suspension also may have been in response to a bias incident report which, according to several people who saw the report and wished to remain anonymous, stated that the shirts were offensive toward women and promoted a culture of rape and sexual aggression. The report was filed anonymously and has not yet been made public on the Tufts Webcenter.
In his letter, Monaco said he reviewed the matter “with the coaches, Athletics Director Bill Gehling, and the deans” before requesting that they overturn the suspension. Monaco explained that, although team policy was violated, “we must balance the internal question of team discipline with the university’s commitment to an environment that supports free expression.” Monaco also offered his support to the coaches — who, according to Dean of Student Affairs Bruce Reitman, were responsible for suspending the rowers — saying he knows the coaches support free speech and that they acted “not in a spirit of censorship but in the interests of team-building,” but that “the issues…have become inextricably intertwined in this case.”
The letter did not address the status of the team’s four ex-captains — two from the varsity squad and two from the novice squad — who were asked to surrender their captain positions in light of the recent incident.
Now that the team has been reinstated, it will compete in the New England Championships on Saturday at Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass. at 8 a.m.
See the full text of President Monaco’s letter below.
May 3, 2012
Dear Members of the Men’s Crew Team:
I know that this has been a challenging week following the determination by the coaches that the large majority of the team had broken team policy and disobeyed explicit instructions by Coach Britt by producing, purchasing, and wearing as a group unauthorized tee-shirts at Spring Fling last Saturday. I have now had a chance to review the circumstances and the consequences with the coaches, Athletics Director Bill Gehling, and the deans. At my request, they have agreed to reinstate the team, ending the suspension that was announced Tuesday.
I share the coaches’ concern for the importance of adherence to team policy, which was clearly violated. Infractions of policy should and do carry consequences. In this case, however, we must balance the internal question of team discipline with the university’s commitment to an environment that supports free expression.
I know that the coaches themselves strongly support free speech, and that they acted not in a spirit of censorship but in the interests of team-building. The issues, however, have become inextricably intertwined in this case. Under the circumstances, I believe that your suspension to date, and the written apologies you have offered for breaking team rules and for any unintentional offense your tee-shirts caused, constitute sufficient consequence.
Coach Caldwell is informing the organizers of New England Rowing Championships that you will compete there this weekend, and you and your colleagues on the women’s team have my very best wishes for success.