Columbia University is investigating its wrestling team following the discovery of lewd and racist messages sent between team members.
“The Department of Athletics has decided that Columbia wrestlers will not compete until we have a full understanding of the facts on which to base the official response to this disturbing matter,” the university wrote in a statement.
An independent student-run website called Bwog broke the news last week, showing screengrabs of the messages exchanged between members of the wrestling team over the last three years.
A tipster who had access to the screenshots of conversations came to Bwog because the person “felt that the conversation had become more hateful and detrimental than it was entertaining,” James Fast, a sophomore and publisher of the site, told the NewsHour.
The conversations, in the app GroupMe for the Class of 2017, showed homophobic, racist and misogynistic comments going back as far as 2014, Bwog reported.
The wrestlers regularly used the N-word and referred to derogatory words to describe women.
In a statement, the university wrote it has “zero tolerance” for the contents of messages sent by wrestling team members.
“They are appalling, at odds with the core values of the University, and violate team guidelines,” the statement read.
On Monday night, students protested in front of the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity, an athletics fraternity whose members include wrestlers, the student newspaper Columbia Spectator reported.
Students around campus are split on how severe they believe the punishment should be, Fast said. Some think that suspending the season is enough. Last week, a change.org petition garnered about 1,000 signatures calling for the wrestling team to be expelled.
Columbia cancelled last weekend’s match at the Binghamton University Open. A university spokesperson said Columbia has not made a decision on whether it will allow the team’s season to go forward, but as long as the investigation continues, the team will not compete.
Both the team and the athletic department have not commented on the matter.
Columbia is the latest Ivy League school where a men’s team has faced discipline after demeaning classmates in private communication.
Last month, Harvard cancelled its men’s soccer season after learning of a team “scouting report” that objectified the women’s soccer players in sexually explicit language.
Harvard is also investigating its men’s cross country team, which made spreadsheets about their female counterparts that contained degrading language.