Columbia University has suspended its wrestling program, while it investigates GroupMe messages posted on the independent student news site BWOG. The posted messages show derogatory racial, sexist, and homophobic commentary, including the explicit use of the “n-word.”
The decision comes after Harvard canceled the rest of its men’s soccer season after the discovery the team had produced sexual “scouting reports” of the women’s soccer recruits.
Harvard’s decision was a bit more clear-cut. Individual students were crudely victimized. The document was available on a public, searchable database. It’s incumbent on the university to take action.
Columbia’s decision is more complex. The text messages are objectionable. They don’t meet any reasonable standard of propriety. One cannot condone them. But, these were also private messages, by private individuals, not intended for public consumption and not available until screengrabbed. Should private discourse be held to the same standards as public discourse?