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Tufts Reverses Suspension Over 'Check Out Our Cox' T-Shirts

Posted: 05/04/2012 12:15 pm Updated: 05/07/2012 4:57 pm

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After a brief suspension over an offending shirt, the Tufts crew team's punishment was overturned on Thursday by the president of the university.

"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 T-shirts caused, constitute sufficient consequence," Anthony Monaco, the president of Tufts, said in a letter.

Tufts University crew members were briefly suspended over a "unauthorized" shirt that some on the team wore to the "Spring Fling" dance at the school. The shirt said 'Check out our cox," a reference to the coxswain position on a rowboat.

A bias complaint was allegedly lodged against the crew team for the shirt, and the dean of the university stated that the shirt was "too phallic and promoted aggression and rape." In response, the coach of the crew team suspended some of the members from competition, prompting criticism from some free speech groups such as thefire.org.

See full text of the letter below.

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.

Sincerely,
Tony Monaco

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Filed by Rebecca Harrington  |