The Yale University Men’s Basketball Team has been the center of a lot of controversy recently. The most widely known in the past month is their disheartening, bracket-busting upset win over Baylor in the first round of the NCAA March Madness tournament. The less talked-about, more problematic issue surrounding the team this year, however, is the recent expulsion of former team captain Jack Montague.
Montague, a senior, was expelled on February 10th on the charge of sexual misconduct. The case against him is that, in the fall of 2014, he had a non-consensual sexual encounter with an unnamed female student. Yale has not released official information regarding Montague’s case, but it is clear that the alleged victim’s story is very different from that of Montague, who says that he and the woman had consensual sex, she left, and then returned later that night and spent the night in his room. Montague is planning to sue Yale for wrongful expulsion. His legal counsel, led by Max Stern, stated that “We strongly believe that the decision to expel Jack Montague was wrong, unfairly determined, arbitrary, and excessive by any rational measure… Yale has been oblivious to the catastrophic and irreparable damage resulting from these allegations and determinations. The expulsion not only deprives Jack of the degree which he was only three months short of earning, but has simultaneously destroyed both his educational and basketball careers.” Montague’s lawyers are pushing the angle that, if she had been raped, why would the woman have returned to the room later that night? However, the only person who has said that she went back to Montague’s room that night is Montague himself.
Shortly after Montague’s expulsion, the Yale Men’s Basketball Team openly expressed their support for their former captain. This sparked outrage on the university’s campus against the team, with many claiming that their support for Montague meant that they supported sexual assault. The team released a statement that said “Yale Men’s Basketball fully supports a healthy, safe and respectful campus climate where all students can flourish… Our recent actions to show our support for one of our former teammates were not intended to suggest otherwise, but we understand that to many students they did. We apologize for the hurt we have caused and we look forward to learning and growing from these recent incidents.” While this statement helped assuage the frustration the team caused by supporting Montague, it by no means solved the issue. A flurry of signs and chalk messages appeared around campus. One such message read, “Imagine if Yale men cared as much about ending rape culture as they cared about sports.”
While there is an extensive controversy over whether or not Montague should have been expelled, it is encouraging that schools are actually taking action against sexual assault on college campuses. Thomas Conroy, a spokesperson for Yale, commented that “only about one out of 10 cases ends in expulsion, and the decision to expel a student is made only after the most careful consideration, based on the facts and, when appropriate, disciplinary history.” Yale has a history of ignoring similar sexual assault cases. The university has recently been investigated by the U.S. Department of Education and the Association of American Universities, and has been found to leave many sexual assault cases untouched. As a woman who will be attending college in the near future, I find it reassuring that more universities are taking concrete action against sexual assault. Hopefully, Yale’s action against Jack Montague will set an example for other universities and students. Being a high profile student, like the captain of a Division 1 athletic team, did not make Montague invincible against expulsion. Yale’s action legitimized the issue of sexual assault on college campuses, and let everyone know that rape is inexcusable and will be taken very seriously.