Tufts President Overturns Suspension of Crew Team Over Controversal T-Shirts

Anthony Monaco overturned the suspension because of free speech issues.

Controversial team t-shirts earned men's crew members at Tufts University a suspension from the athletic department, but it was overturned by the school's president Thursday.

In a letter posted on his website, Anthony Monaco said he did not want to infringe on free expression. The team members went against team policy when they purchased and wore the shirts, but they have since apologized, Monaco wrote.

"Infractions of policy should and do carry consequences," he wrote. "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."

The bright yellow, sleeveless shirts had red writing reading "check out our cox," with an image of rowers below it. Crew members wore the shirts to the school's Spring Fling in late April and were subsequently suspended, according to a report from Tufts Daily. Cox is an abbreviation for coxswain, a position on crew that steers the boat.

The following is Monaco's full letter:

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.


Tony Monaco


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