Boston University Hockey Players' Attitudes Sound Too Familiar

The Globe is reporting more details found by the committee put in place to investigate the Boston University hockey team, and while they are “salacious,” as The Globe‘s headline notes, they probably don’t strike anyone who has recently attended an American university as surprising. The familiarity of the anecdotes underscores our sense that this is a scandal that shouldn’t be confined to the hockey team. The committee released its public report and recommendations Wednesday, but several subcommittee reports have fresh details on the misconduct of the hockey players, who came under investigation when two of their teammates were charged with sexual assault last year. The Globe‘s Mary Carmichael leads with the account of a post-victory party on the ice:

In the documents, which were obtained by the Globe on Thursday, were tales of a late-night 2009 NCAA championship party at Agganis Arena where dozens of guests drank from kegs in the locker room showers and took to the ice naked to shoot pucks.

That is “salacious,” but you can see why they didn’t cite it in the main report. It doesn’t make the hockey program look good, but it doesn’t exactly pertain to sexual assault. Some of the details do, though:

The subcommittee documents make clear that at least some BU hockey players, surrounded by adoring fans, had “the perception that they need not seek consent for sexual contact.”

One player came close to admitting that. “You don’t ask [permission for sex] when you are drunk,” he told the task force, adding that he did not see how the actions of the two players charged last year constituted sexual assault.

The tricky task of teaching freshmen whether and when one can obtain consent when drinking (which is, let’s be honest, when a lot of campus sexual activity goes on) is a huge, thorny issue for universities. It’s hard to say from that player’s statement how much of his attitude comes from a sense of campus celebrity, and how much comes from general confusion with the rules of sexual assault. Impressing upon new students that consent given while intoxicated isn’t consent, as many, many colleges (including BU) rightly do, doesn’t typically result in a culture of Saturday night chastity. A recent Chronicle of Higher Education op-ed summarizes the response confused students often give to this rule: “If sexual intimacy under the influence of alcohol is by definition assault, then a significant percentage of sexual intercourse throughout the world and down the ages qualifies as crime.” This player’s statement that “you don’t ask when you are drunk,” sounds less like he’s stating a personal mantra and more like he’s describing a culture, one not confined to the hockey team.

Another detail reported by the Globe:

Another player used two slurs to describe women who “hook up with multiple guys,” then wondered, “What other word for them is there?”

We can fill in the blanks here to make guesses at the slurs he used and conclude that this guy sounds pretty disgusting. But again, the double standard that sexually active women get branded with slurs and sexually active men get patted on the back is not new or confined to Boston University’s hockey team. As Christina Aguilera, who probably doesn’t have much interaction with BU hockey players, once sang, “It’s a common double standard of society. The guy gets all the glory, the more he can score. While the girl can do the same and yet you call her a whore.” Yes, we did just cite a pop song. The point is, this guy isn’t necessarily an outlier.

The committee found attitudes specific to the hockey team that should be addressed. But these details also show problems that most college campuses encounter regularly. The committee’s 14 recommendations, which the university said it would quickly implement, mostly pertain to the hockey team and to athletics. But they should make sure the campus as a whole gets on the same page regarding rules of consent and sexist attitudes, too.