Tufts University suspended 27 members of its men’s lacrosse team for two games in the upcoming season, after an investigation found that the players behaved inappropriately during a women’s volleyball game last semester, according to a letter that university officials published in The Tufts Daily.
John Barker, dean for undergraduate and graduate students of the schools of arts and sciences and of engineering, and Bill Gehling, director of athletics, wrote that the conduct occurred during a game between Tufts and Smith College in September. Spectators, players, and coaches from Tufts and Smith were interviewed, they wrote.
“The investigation concluded that unacceptable behavior did occur, and members of our men’s lacrosse team were responsible for that behavior,” the letter said.
Kimberly Thurler, a spokeswoman for Tufts, said in an e-mailed statement that the university took the incident seriously, and conducted a thorough investigation.
"Those students who were involved in misbehavior made a significant mistake and are being held accountable for that mistake," she said in the statement. "This will be an important learning experience for them. We continue to encourage students and others in our community to support our athletic teams in an enthusiastic, respectful and positive manner."
Thurler said that some of the lacrosse players were also guilty of abusing alcohol.
In September, The Tufts Daily published an op-ed by a student Rose Barrett, who attended the Smith vs. Tufts women’s volleyball game. She wrote that the players were “subjected to sexist and racist heckling from male fans.”
She said that partway through the second set a group of more than 20 men, many of whom were wearing Tufts lacrosse apparel, showed up at the game. They screamed insults directed at players on both teams.
In a phone interview Thursday evening, Barrett said that during the game she was sitting directly behind the hecklers with two of her female friends.
"They were drunk and loud," she said of the lacrosse players. "And all were us scared, because the comments were so explicit."
Barrett said she reported the incident to the university, and was later questioned by a private investigator about the game.
In addition to being benched for two games, members of the men’s lacrosse team who were at the game are being asked to write letters of apology to the Tufts and Smith coaches and teams. Students who violated the Tufts Student Code of Conduct will be punished by the Office of Student Affairs, Gehling and Barker wrote.
Barrett said she thinks the punishment is appropriate, but that the Tufts community needs to reflect on why the incident occurred.
"We need to think about why no one stood up to them at the time, and what sort of culture we create that makes this sort of behavior acceptable," she said.
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