Members of Tufts University's men's crew team have been suspended for wearing what some are calling an inappropriate T-shirts to an annual school function, Spring Fling, an end of year school wide concert.
"The tank tops in question have the phrase 'check out our cox' written across the middle, a reference to the 'coxswain' (pronounced coxun) in crew who sits at the front of the boat and gives instructions to the other rowers," the Tufts Daily reports. "Below the words is an image depicting four rowers in a boat and a coxswain in front of them who appears to be shouting directions." (An image of the picture can be viewed here.)
This year's Spring Fling lineup included Lupe Fiasco, White Panda, and Guster.
It was not the school that suspended the rowers, however; it was the coach, who reportedly made the decision after a so-called "bias incident" report was anonymously received by the Massachusetts school. "[T]he report stated that the shirts were offensive toward women and promoted a culture of rape and sexual aggression."
Not all members of the crew team wore the T-shirts, and only those who did were suspended.
But the suspension "will only affect the rowers’ participation in this weekend’s New England Championships, not their university standing," the Tufts Daily reports. "Neither the novice nor the varsity squad will have enough eligible rowers to fill a boat, and therefore neither team will compete this weekend. In addition, the team’s co-captains were asked to surrender their captain positions."
Members of the crew team have written letters of apology.
UPDATE: Tufts president Anthony Monaco has reinstated the shirt-wearing members of the crew team:
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.