The president of Tufts University Thursday lifted a suspension from competition levied against the men's rowing team that was handed out after members printed sexually suggestive T-shirts the rowers wore to an annual campus event.
The reinstatement, requested by university President Anthony P. Monaco, comes in time for this weekend's New England Rowing Championships held outside Shrewsbury, in which the team's 31 rowers may now compete, the university said.
"Most decisions regarding our athletic teams are appropriately made at the programmatic level, and that was originally the case in this instance," Tufts spokeswoman Kimberly M. Thurler said in a statement. "However, given the larger issues involved, including issues of freedom of expression, President Monaco felt it was appropriate to review the entire matter with the coaches and our athletics director."
The fluorescent yellow tank-tops were printed for the annual schoolwide celebration called Spring Fling held last Friday on the president's lawn, and were emblazoned with a profile of a boat full of cartoon rowers complete with a coxswain, who sits at the head of the boat to direct the rowers during competition.
The caption drew the ire of at least one Tufts community member,
who complained in writing that a sexually suggestive slogan that played off a common abbreviation of the coxswain's title was offensive toward women,
and promoted a culture of rape and sexually aggressive behavior,
according to Tufts Daily, the campus newspaper that first reported the
suspensions, citing several people who read or have direct knowledge of the complaint.
The apparel violated team policy against "producing, purchasing, and wearing as a group unauthorized tee-shirts," Thurler said in an e-mail. The infraction was the "fundamental issue, not the one complaint that was received."
"In this case ... we must balance the internal question of team discipline with the university's commitment to an environment that supports free expression," Thurler said.
Messages left for Tufts rowing team members, and Director of Rowing Gary Caldwell, were not immediately returned.