Since we released a series of leaked messages from the Columbia University Wrestling Team’s GroupMe, our campus has seen both protests against the team’s behavior and an apology letter, released last night, from the wrestling team as a whole. This afternoon, the Athletics department announced that their investigation of the team is complete and the team members’ consequences decided.
According to the statement, the Athletics department has identified that only a specific subset of the team participated in the malicious texts seen in the GroupMe. Those identified members will face suspension from competition for the rest of the 2016-2017 academic year, costing them the opportunity to compete in sixteen events. Other members who were found somewhat involved in the texts will also face suspension, but only for the rest of the fall semester. A third subset of the team, found uninvolved in the offensive texts altogether, have been cleared for competition and will be able to participate in the New York State Championships this weekend. Athletics has not released the names of which members have received which consequences.
Bwog is curious to see how these punishments impact the culture of the wrestling team, and we are glad that specific team members are being held accountable for their words and actions. We look forward to a change in the kind of culture that lead to the offensive texts sent by the team.
Columbia Athletics Department Statement Regarding Wrestling Program:
Columbia’s Department of Athletics has completed its investigation of the school’s varsity wrestling team, working together with the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards. Over the past week we made it clear that the team would not compete while the investigation was pending. It has now been determined that the deeply offensive group messaging and texts were written, sent and viewed by a distinct group within the wrestling team. While all team members feel a sense of collective responsibility and regret for what was said and done by some, the investigation found that the individual student-athletes who participated in the group chat acted on their own.
Those responsible for the offensive statements in the group chat have lost the privilege to represent Columbia University in intercollegiate athletics competition and have been immediately suspended from the wrestling squad through the rest of the season and 2016-17 academic year. Other individuals have been suspended until the beginning of the spring 2017 semester.
We recognize that free speech is a core value both of the University community and of our nation. Our students and faculty have the right to express themselves and their views, whether through their public or private communications. However, the group text messages that have been brought to light do not meet the standard of behavior we expect from our student-athletes at Columbia. Prior to the start of each competition season, Columbia Athletics shares with its teams a code of conduct, outlining our expectations for individual and team behavior. The messages are appalling and violate team guidelines.
Moving forward, members of the wrestling team who were found to be uninvolved in the offensive group messages are cleared for competition and will be able to wrestle at this weekend’s New York State Championships in Ithaca, N.Y.
The wrestling team is collectively committed to making amends and will do more than simply apologize to individuals and groups rightly offended by the words or actions of some team members.
In response to this incident Columbia Athletics has recommitted itself to promoting a culture of respect and inclusivity. For the wrestling team, this will include working with leaders like Hudson Taylor, who as Founder and Executive Director of Athlete Ally, has become an admired advocate of ending discrimination in sports.
We sincerely hope these disciplinary actions and ongoing commitments will help Columbia wrestling and all of Columbia’s athletics programs set an example that makes our University proud.
Following the statement above, Deans James J. Valentini and Mary C. Boyce sent out an email, addressing the importance of engaging in “important conversations and difficult questions” while treating classmates in a respectful way:
As you may have seen, after an investigation with the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards, the Columbia Athletics Department released a statement today regarding the offensive group messaging and texts sent by several students on the varsity wrestling team. The wrestling team also wrote a letter of apology to the community, which was posted on Bwog.
Like many of you, we were extremely disappointed to see the offensive messages sent by members of the wrestling team. These messages go against the fundamental values of our undergraduate schools and the University. We respect Columbia Athletics’ decision to suspend the students who were directly responsible from competing on the wrestling team. We also affirm Athletics’ decision to allow those who were not involved in the offensive group messages to continue to compete.
We understand that all members of the team feel regret and responsibility regarding these messages, and that in response to this incident Columbia Athletics has recommitted itself to promoting a culture of respect and inclusivity moving forward. We sincerely hope these disciplinary actions and ongoing commitments will help all of us move forward as a community.
Your different backgrounds, interests and passions create one of the most dynamic and inclusive campus communities in the nation, allowing you to engage with perspectives and ideas that are different from your own, and challenging you to learn more about yourselves and others and to grow as human beings and citizens. We invited each of you into this community because of the unique ways you would contribute to it.
We also realize that the diversity of perspectives and opinions on our campus can sometimes create division. As an intellectual community, we encourage you to continue to engage in discourse with your classmates, to have important conversations, to ask difficult questions, and to consider issues of local, national and global importance. But, as your deans, we also urge you to do so in a civil, respectful, and open-minded way. In your words and actions, treat your fellow students with consideration and respect. Learn from one another and continue to make a difference in our communities and the world.
Mary C. Boyce
Dean of The Fu Foundation School
of Engineering and Applied Science
James J. Valentini
Dean of Columbia College and
Vice President for Undergraduate Education