This is the thick of high-worry season for high school seniors and their parents. Those college admissions letters arrive in the mail, full of acceptances, denials, and deferrals, and the anxiety is palpable.
It’s a bear. We went through it in our family a couple of years ago, and all along the way I kept thinking there had to be a better, more sensible, relaxed, dare I say humane, way to go about it.
Not that I had the answer, of course, and even if I did, big deal, because the process made clear to me that academia had all the answers.
The best schools, it seemed, only took the best and brightest, leaving me to wonder, if the best schools only accepted perfect kids, why did the world still have so many problems? Shouldn’t perfect colleges, stocked anew with genius kids every year, wipe out war, disease, aging, and all forms of suffering in, you know, a couple of semesters?
Heck, the best schools charge upward of $70,000 for all the fixin’s these days. So many sharp kids paying so much money at such perfect institutions. I mean, c’mon, and my cable connection still goes down too often, my car battery dies on cold mornings, and my flu shot does the job, oh, maybe three out of every five years?
Where, exactly, is the progress?
I’ve dwelled on progress quite a bit these last eight weeks or so because of sports and what’s happened in that time at a handful of fine schools: Harvard, Columbia, Amherst, Princeton, and Washington University in St. Louis.
In case you missed it, all of those schools, whose average acceptance rate is about 9.5 percent, recently shut down various men’s athletic teams because of their alleged vulgar, misogynistic, and often racist attitudes and/or behaviors.
Some allegedly very bright male athletes, proficient in an array of sports and academics, acted like total morons, particularly in regard to women on campus, resulting in each school shutting down those teams for the season and issuing the standard boilerplate statements of how they won’t tolerate sexism or racism or whateverelseism on their campuses.
Harvard men’s soccer was first, with its now-infamous “scouting report” dating to 2012 that, among other things, had the Crimson men rating the looks of their counterparts on the school’s women’s soccer team. Beyond their oh-so-novel 1-10 ratings, these bright guys also posted their musings over what sexual positions the women likely preferred.
All of this was posted, by the way, on a Google document that remained searchable for more than four years, until the Harvard Crimson, the student-run newspaper, broke the story at the end of October.
If Objectification 101 were a course, straight A’s for these adult dolts of Harvard men’s soccer.
Days later, it was Columbia’s turn, its wrestling team suspended for similar sexually explicit and racist texts written by team members.
Not even two weeks ago, Amherst dinged its men’s cross-country team for, yep, misogynistic and racist comments contained in a team-wide e-mail chain over a period of years.
On Dec. 15, Princeton closed down its men’s swimming and diving squad when it was made privy to material it deemed vulgar, offensive, misogynistic, and racist.
Finally (but please, hold your tickets), Washington University in St. Louis shut down its men’s soccer team after finding its guys took the chosen Harvard route, targeting the WU women’s team with degrading, sexually explicit comments.
Five pretty good schools there, which isn’t to say I think for a second that elite schools have a monopoly on misogyny or stupidity or worse. A New York Times story in November about the Harvard incident noted that the Association of American Universities surveyed 27 campuses and found that more than 1 in 5 (23 percent) female students reported being victims of nonconsensual sexual contact by force, threats of force or incapacitation.
In the Times story, Mary Waters, chairwoman of Harvard’s sociology department, referred to the existing “rape culture” on US campuses.
“Even at a college with very smart and generally very politically progressive students,” added Dr. Waters, “you can still have this kind of really unexamined male entitlement.”
Unexamined male entitlement. Bingo. Or, as Washington Post columnist Sally Jenkins labeled it in light of the Columbia (wrestling team) findings, “Perfect examples of entitled club-thuggery.”
When does it stop? Perhaps never, because male physical dominance and objectification of females no doubt goes back to the cave-dwellers, which says a lot about these particular male student-athletes all these millennia later, doesn’t it?
But a good place to start would be with the presidents, chancellors, and deans who run these colleges and universities. They need to stop with their knee-jerk “zero tolerance” malarkey when such episodes occur and deal consequences beyond the wrist slap of terminating a team’s season. Oh, the humanity, a schedule cut short by two or three games, a potential postseason scrubbed.
If these school administrators, some of whom are women, truly wanted to stop this kind of misogyny, they would identify the guilty, name them publicly, and then toss them out of school. That’s zero tolerance. That’s protecting women. That’s creating a culture of honor and trust and decency that frankly should have been stitched into the tweed of these schools decades, if not centuries, ago. Why suffer these fools any longer?
There are a lot of good, eager, qualified young men out there who can take their place. Some of them, no doubt, are excellent athletes who don’t have to be socially reprogrammed to figure out “locker room” talk, body-shaming, and vulgar sexual objectification isn’t some collegiate rite of passage or, help us, a steppingstone to adulthood.
Lost in the Harvard story was an op-ed piece in the Crimson, written by six members of the women’s soccer team who were freshmen in 2012, the year the men originated the scouting report. The women, class of 2016, should be commended for their eloquence, and for their courage in speaking out. Their names are: Brooke Dickens, Kelsey Clayman, Alika Keene, Emily Mosbacher, Lauren Varela, and Haley Washburn.
“Finally, to the men of Harvard Soccer,” they wrote, “and any future men who may lay claim to our bodies and choose to objectify us as sexual objects, in the words of one of us, we say together, ‘I can offer you my forgiveness, which is — and forever will be — the only part of me that you can ever claim as yours.’ ”
Kids, young men, and women alike, athete or non-athlete, may you open your college admissions letters with their courage, their forgiveness, and their conviction.
Kevin Paul Dupont’s “On Second Thought” appears regularly in the Sunday sports section.