Tufts had already been ranked as one of the worst colleges for free speech. And now, more fuel has been added to the FIRE. Members of the men’s crew team have not only been suspended from racing at a championship event scheduled for this weekend, but two of the captains have also been demoted, all because of this T-shirt:

The crew team had designed the shirts for the University’s Spring Fling, according to Tufts Daily. When one student got offended, however, he or she anonymously reported the team’s gear as “a bias incident” to the Dean of Student Affairs Office. And although Dean Bruce Reitman says the decision to suspend players was made on behalf of the team’s coaches, not the university, an email to Barstool Sports suggests he said “the picture was too phallic and promoted aggression and rape.”

The word “cox” is short for “coxswain,” a term used in reference to the person who sits at the front of the boat and delivers instructions to the rest of the rowers. The shirt depicts a similar scene, showing a coxswain shouting out directions. So, really, the shirt is a play on words — some immature, presumably innocent college humor.

Because neither the novice nor varsity squad will have enough eligible rowers to fill a boat, they won’t be able to compete this weekend. Tufts Daily reports the “suspensions will be lifted before next weekend’s ECAC Championships, the last scheduled competition of the season.”

The members have written letters of apology, and all the Tufts Director of Rowing Gary Caldwell has said is that “it’s an internal team issue.” Students have already rebelled, though, creating a “We Support Free Speech at Tufts” Facebook group to spread the message and “promote freedom of expression, freedom of speech and the rights of the individual at Tufts.”

What’s your take? Is this shirt worth the suspensions? 

Photo Courtesy of Barstool Sports