CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Reuters) - Harvard University canceled its men's soccer season after discovering that its players had for years maintained lewd rankings of incoming women players.
The Ivy League university said an investigation that began when it discovered a 2012 online "scouting report," in which male players ranked female players by attractiveness and suspected sexual preferences, determined that the practice had continued into this year.
"The decision to cancel a season is serious and consequential, and reflects Harvard's view that both the team's behavior and the failure to be forthcoming when initially questioned are completely unacceptable, have no place at Harvard, and run counter to the mutual respect that is a core value of our community," Drew Faust, the university's president, said in a statement.
The decision comes as universities across the United States struggle to fight sex assaults and sexism on campus. Some reports estimate that as many as one in five female students will be subjected to unwanted sexual contact during their college years.
It follows a decision earlier this year to try to crack down on the so-called "final clubs" and other single-sex organizations on campus, which university officials said can serve a discriminatory function.
The Harvard Crimson student newspaper first reported last week that it had unearthed a 2012 ranking of female Harvard soccer players compiled by members of the men's team.
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The decision brings to a sudden halt the season of a team that had a record of 10 wins, three losses and two ties, and was likely to win a championship berth if it won a scheduled Saturday game against Columbia University.
"The team will forfeit its remaining games and will decline any opportunity to achieve an Ivy League championship or to participate in the NCAA Tournament this year," said Robert Scalise, the school's athletic director, in a letter to students. "This immediate and significant action is absolutely necessary if we are to create an environment of mutual support, respect, and trust among our students and our teams."
Concerns over sexual assault are high throughout the United States, extending all the way to the race for the White House, which pits Democrat Hillary Clinton, who would be the nation's first female president, against Republican Donald Trump, who has faced accusations of sex assault.
Trump has repeatedly denied accusations from more than 10 women who said he had grabbed them without their permission.
(Reporting by Scott Malone; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York)