Proudly Detailing Sexual Assaults

Silly antediluvian me.  Until my early teens, when daydreaming about what college was like, I’d envision guys wearing elbow-patched tweed jackets and smoking pipes.  I imagined them dressed up at fraternity parties along with coifed-up coeds.  And my mind’s eye saw the young men – who seemed quite old – playing football.

While I couldn’t replay conversations they might be having, I did have a sense college men enjoyed talking about Great Books and Big Ideas, at least when they weren’t talking about Big Games and Big Dances.  What can I say?  For a lazy and incompetent junior high school student, and then a lazy and incompetent high school student, I had delusions of academic grandeur.  Those fantasies were eventually extinguished when I finally got to college in the mid-1960s, as I spotted not a male tweed anywhere, though strangely shaped pipes were another matter.

My long-ago imaginings of college student conversations were fantastical child’s play in both senses of the term.  They were innocent beyond words.  But what might you say about the following, much more recent exchanges by some of the ten University of Minnesota football players who were suspended from the team for very real, albeit not prosecutable sex crimes in October?  Keep in mind the quotes below are word-for-word verbatim, as the young scholar-athletes expressed themselves, proudly detailing their assaults, on hard-to-extinguish social media.

I’ve read a fair amount about the case, but I’ve never seen this actual (and annotated) language relayed in any newspaper or other publication.  It can be found on p. 17 of the 80-page report issued by the U of M’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.  Each player is identified in the passages below, as well as in the full document, by the letter “A” and a number, as in “A1,” “A2,” “A3,” etc.

The Empire group messages obtained by EOAA from that night primarily discuss the locations of parties and the group members’ attempts to engage in sexual contact with women.  [The Empire group is/was composed of first-year football players.]  For example, numerous messages discuss finding “hoes” and bringing them to parties.  For example:

  • One Empire group member wrote, “Party at my crib 331 invite hoes!!
  • A2 wrote, “I got four hoes where the party at” and “Go to the rail hella hoes.”
  • A11 wrote, “I just told some hoes.”

Other messages discuss potential or actual sexual encounters with unidentified women.  For example:

  • Accused student A11 sent a message about an unidentified woman stating, “if she aint tryna fck imma be pissed.”
  • A11 later sent a joking message about an unidentified woman, stating, “run her?” – which generally refers to more than one man having sex with the same woman.
  • A2 sent a message stating, “I’m sliding in some pussy rn lol” about an unidentified woman at 1:35am.  (“Rn is an abbreviation for “right now.”  “Lol” is an abbreviation for “laughing out loud.”)

Other messages refer to RS [“RS” is the victim]:

  • At 3:17am, A2 sent a message referring to RS that stated, “Me and the recruit [a high school football player visiting campus] finna double team this bitch.” (“Finna generally means “going to.”)
  • At 3:25am, A2 sent another message stating, “Lol we forreal going brazy lol.” (“Brazy” generally means crazy.”)
  • A2 later messaged, “I took good videos.”
  • Finally, at 4:17am, A2 messaged, “Damn A10 all three of them n***s a hitting rn.”  (“Hitting generally means “having sex with.”  A2 used a racial epithet in this message that we do not reproduce in full.”)

Athletic Director Mark Coyle, in firing head football coach Tracy Claeys and much of his staff on Tuesday, rightly talked about the need to change the football program’s “culture.”  He likewise said he had “committed to everyone” that the university would have an overall athletic program that competed at the highest level academically, athletically, and socially.  And he called for more “integrity and class.”

Words and concepts such as “culture,” “socially,” “integrity,” and “class” can be elusive and hard to grab hold of.  They also can be tough to grasp when they’re absent.  But that is decisively not the case in this hideous episode.

Mitch Pearlstein, who moved to Minnesota in 1974 to work at the University of Minnesota, is Founder of Center of the American Experiment.