University dismisses rugby club for explicit misogynistic chant
- Members of the University of Mary Washington's men's rugby club team took part in an explicit misogynistic chant last fall at an off-campus, non-team sponsored party.
- The majority of the team was in a different state at a game.
- The players are now required to attend sexual assault training.
The University of Mary Washington has disbanded its men’s club rugby team months after a recording emerged of several players chanting misogynistic lyrics.
The chant was reportedly initiated during a small party at an off-campus house on a Sunday afternoon in November of 2014. Of the Mother’s Rugby team’s 46 members, only eight are said to have been in attendance. The remaining 38 players were in Maryland for a game.
Though the incident occurred in late November, the school did not announce disciplinary actions against the club, which has been named club of the year three times, until March 18. The team was dissolved indefinitely and all members are required to attend sexual assault training.
Lyrics to the song included explicit references to necrophilia and violence against women. Erin Gloria Ryan of Jezebel transcribed a section of the lyrics:
“Finally found a whore (Finally found a whore!)
She was right and dead. (She was right and dead!)
Well god damn son of a bitch we're gonna get it in! (God damn son of a bitch we're gonna get it in!)
Finally got it in (Finally got it in!)
Wiggle it all about (Wiggle it all about!)
God damn son of a bitch I couldn't get it out (God damn son of a bitch we couldn't get it out!)
Finally got it out (Finally got it out!)
It was red and sore (It was red and sore!)
Moral of the story is never fuck a whore!”
“No student on this campus should feel unsafe, ostracized, or threatened,” UMW President Richard V. Hurley said in a statement. “Understanding that the offensive chant is antithetical to UMW values, and will not be tolerated, the University pursued action against the men's rugby club. At the beginning of the current semester, sanctions were imposed on the rugby club for willful violations of UMW's code of conduct for club sports.”
But in the immediate aftermath of the recording’s publication, a senior team member sent a message to the university’s administration explaining that, “as a longstanding member of this club, this kind of conduct does not reflect our usual behavior in any way.”
The message provided a report of the students who had been present at the party, writing, “to the best of my knowledge there were about nine female and four male varsity athletes, six female and two male club athletes, ten male rugby players, and ten female and six male non-sport affiliated students[,] so I would not consider this a rugby party, as more of the team would have been there if it were.”
“As far as the singing is concerned, I am told about eight to rugby players participated and about twenty other students including both men and women participated in singing the songs in question,” the email continued.
“What was said was inappropriate, but I sure wouldn't want the school becoming involved in what I say or do when I'm not on campus,” Nicole Tardif, president of the College Republicans at UMW, told Campus Reform. “It's not fair to blame the collective for a mistake made by individuals.”
UMW psychology professor Chris Kilmartin thinks that the conduct was representative of the rugby club.
“This was eight rugby players acting in concert—I think that reflects on the team,” Kilmartin said in an interview with Campus Reform.
Considering the chant was “a rugby team song,” Kilmartin explained he believes the players “probably learned it from the coaches or the rest of the team.”
Kilmartin, who offered to lead the team’s required sexual assault and violence training sessions, told Campus Reform the classes would “teach about rape culture [and] how it’s perpetuated and reinforced.” Kilmartin believes the majority of men don’t like sexism but that they’re not properly equipped to speak up when they experience it.
“The university kind of failed these men because we didn’t help them learn how to intervene and speak up,” he said.
Kilmartin explained that the classes wouldn’t involve him shaking his finger at the team but are intended to “amplify the healthy voices” in the group.
A source close to the rugby team that spoke to Campus Reform on the condition of anonymity said that while Ryan’s piece was “dead on,” Kilmartin simply has been “grandstanding.”
“This guy just slanders us all the time, why would we go to training with him?” the source said. “He’s going to throw us under the bus."
The source told Campus Reform that UMW is a “happy place” and members of the rugby club are required to log a number of hours of community service.
“Name one instance when one of [the] players in the last five years has done anything sexually violent,” the source said.
Students in the university’s Feminist United on Campus (FUC) organization have pressured the university to take action against parties involved in the incident. Since then, campus feminists have been subject to aggressive attacks on Yik Yak ranging from students threatening to “tie [them] to a radiator and grape them in the mouth,” to claims that they would “literally eat [the rugby players’] dicks.”
Still, after being approached in a dining hall by a group of rugby players who assured her they were “open to chat whenever you want to,” Paige McKinsey, the president of FUC, turned the players down and reported the incident to the university’s Title IX coordinator.
"An entire group of men approached me… It made me feel very unsafe,” she told Jezebel.
Tardif told Campus Reform that FUC is mainly just “upset about their image on campus” and have been “bitter” towards UMW for a while.
“They’re less about equal rights and more about causing a scene on campus,” Tardif said. “As a female on campus, I feel completely safe. If an individual does not feel safe, it would not be because of a campus organization. We have endless resources to help with safety.”
When asked whether UMW has a problem with misogyny, Professor Kilmartin responded, “Yes, we have a problem with misogyny.” He said that “probably most, if not all, campuses do.”
“The University of Mary Washington is a public institution and is therefore legally bound to respect the First Amendment rights of its students and faculty members,” Will Creeley, an attorney at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), told Jezebel.
"Exceptions to the First Amendment are limited to a narrow subset of precisely defined categories, and the Supreme Court has made clear that there's no First Amendment exception for speech that is simply offensive, even if it repels many, most, or even all who encounter it,” Creeley said.
“The dissolution of the rugby team was definitely a violation of freedom of speech, but it is more of an issue of the schools overreaching in non-UMW sanctioned places,” Tardif said. “The chant could make people feel uncomfortable, in which freedom of speech would no longer apply just like yelling "fire" in a movie theater. But, that doesn't give the University the right to police the actions of students when they're not on campus. It's inappropriate and frankly scary to see the school getting involved in such an environment.”
“The entire team should not be punished because of a few bad apples,” she said. “Sure the classes may be appropriate for members of the team that participated, but it undermines the whole idea of a punishment to punish those that were not involved.”
A source close to the team told Campus Reform that over spring break, members of the rugby team took time to compete against a group of disabled athletes while they were in Dublin, Ireland. The source emphasized the team's commitment to community service and strong moral character.
The source also said, “The university is working with us. I think if they could do it again they would. They've been inundated with feedback on the team in a positive light.”
When asked whether they believed the team would be reinstated, the source said yes.
McKinsey did not return a request to comment by the time of publication.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @emilyjashinksy