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The Blue & Gray Press | August 24, 2019

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Letter: Suspension of rugby team ignores issue, prevents ‘teachable moment’

Letter: Suspension of rugby team ignores issue, prevents ‘teachable moment’

I am writing today, as a recent alumna, to share my thoughts on the recent disbanding of the Mother’s Rugby team. It is important that I make myself clear when I say I am not for or against either “side,” but rather I am for the proper treatment of the situation, which I believe was severely mishandled. Following the release of the video, featuring some rugby players, along with other members of the University of Mary Washington community, chanting a rather uncivil song, I believe the administration should have recognized that it was a great opportunity for a teaching moment. Don’t get me wrong; I understand the pressure universities – and administrators in particular – are under in regards to sexual assault, but the need to quickly make a ruling, rather than take the time to see the cold hard facts, is what baffles me.

President Hurley wrote in his statement that what occurred went against the Code of Conduct we have at UMW, but look what the code actually says: “Disorderly or Obscene Conduct: No student shall be involved in disorderly or obscene conduct. Such conduct includes, but is not limited to: fighting, creating a disturbance, obscene language, verbal or physical harassment, making excessive noise. Disorderly or obscene conduct on campus, at any UMW-sponsored event, or while operating or traveling in any Mary Washington or state-owned vehicle, should be reported to the Office of Judicial Affairs and Community Responsibility, or, in urgent situations, to University Police.” It is clear that what occurred would not qualify for any penalty under this code. The party was, first of all, not on campus and, second, was not a university-sponsored event. In the Student Handbook, however, there is a section on “Off-Campus Misconduct,” which is where this incident would fall. It states, “violations of civil or criminal law are subject to University adjudication in cases where the interests of the University may be affected.” Again, no law was broken during the night in question.

It concerns me deeply that a group of students cannot sing or say what they want at a private party (even if what they say or sing is disturbing), yet we will hire people such as Mac Miller for a concert on campus, where he raps about drugs, sex and other various vulgar topics. Where do we, not only as members of the UMW community, but also simply as people, draw the line?

I pride myself on being a feminist, yet at UMW I find myself ashamed to call myself one today. Instead of fighting for equality and unifying the UMW community, the group on campus, “Feminists United on Campus,” has divided the university community by not contributing to a teaching opportunity. They have the opportunity to show leadership in this situation, and as a feminist I hope it is not too late for them to do so. It is true, we do unfortunately live in a world where sexual assaults happen every day, and a woman in the college setting has a one in four chance of being assaulted, but that does not mean people should be punished for something they did not do. Given that most of the players were out of state at the time of the incident, I question the administration’s decision to punish them as a group.

From where I am standing, I see two possible outcomes: one, Mother’s Rugby remains disbanded, the school continues down the road it is on and loses the perfect opportunity to have an open discussion and educate the members of the community; or, two, the school can take a good look at the facts and seize the opportunity to have this teachable moment.

I used to look at my diploma and feel a sense of pride in the school I called home throughout my college career, but now I feel a little ashamed. Mary Washington prides itself on honesty and justice, so to be honest with the administration, I feel like there was an act of displaced blame when they took the easy and fast way out by punishing a group of individuals (where more than 80 percent of the players were out of state representing the UMW community in a game) instead of bringing the community together and addressing the issue in a proper manner. I used to be excited about coming back in May to walk at graduation, but now I find myself questioning whether I want to come back and walk across the stage.

It would have been easy for me to not let my opinion be heard, but I thought the administration should, and want to, be aware what people in the UMW community have to say.

Sara Akbari

Sara Akbari is an alumna of the University of Mary Washington.


  1. Class of 1994 and 1996

    God bless you Sarah. Finally, a voice of reason in this paper. We are a “MWC couple” with no relation to either group but we have been waiting to see common sense prevail.

    This FUC group cannot be allowed to dictate what can be done in private homes. However much he tells himself it is true, Prof K did not sign the constitution.

    What an amazing university we have – cherish it and don’t let radicals steal your karma.

  2. 2013 Alumna

    Thank you Sara for clearly stating the issues many alumna and current students feel about this situation. I have friends from my time at UMW that were on Mother’s Rugby and also friends who were members of FUC, and like you said, I am not “taking a side”, but the actions of FUC following this incident have made me ashamed to call myself a feminist who attended UMW.

    You put my thoughts into words and I hope the administration takes a hard look at how poorly they handled this situation. Eagle Nation deserves better.

  3. 2014 Alum

    Thank you Sara for articulating this very well. I hope the divisive rhetoric that is plaguing the campus today goes away soon.

  4. Anonymous

    What you seem to forget is YES, “80% of the team” may not have been present during the chant, this is true. But….only 20% were CAUGHT singing the song. Key word, CAUGHT. Unless of course only those 20% that knew the song HAPPENED not to attend the game and HAPPENED to be the only whos to know all of the lyrics to this song AND just so HAPPENED to perfectly executes the song that one time it was sang (the audio makes it sound like the song had been rehearsed many many times). Don’t BS me when Rugby claims no one else knew the song.

    While I am glad Rugby was suspended because as a male, I’ve been to a few of their parties and they are really…lets just say uncomfortable and sketchy…it is kind of BS that they cant SAY whatever they want at the privacy of their homes.

  5. Jay

    “Anonymous” seems to be suggesting that all of the men on the rugby team sign this song on a daily basis. That is an illogical argument. I agree with this editorial and am sad that the school has dug this giant hole from which they will have a hard time recovering 🙁

  6. 2012 Alum

    Thank you Sara!! Glad to hear a different viewpoint on this issue. and thanks to the Bullet for publishing it!

  7. Lorenza Amico

    I am a proud alumna of Mary Washington College and remember my time there fondly. I am, however, disturbed by the actions taken by the administration regarding the Rugby club. In full disclosure, I think I should begin by mentioning that I am a rugby aunt and a feminist. I am also a proud alumna of Mary Washington College and find myself disturbed by recent events. I agree that the song the students were singing is distasteful, but one need only turn on the radio these days to hear lyrics that are equally distasteful. However, we live in a society in which free speech is allowed, nay encouraged, even if it offends someone. The students were in their own home, at a private party, and clearly not representing The College while the majority of the club was out of town actually representing The College. To punish the entire club for the private actions of the few is hardly consistent with the values we hold.

  8. Anonymous

    Jay…Im glad you read my post with a very unique interpretation. I suggested that it is not probable that the only 8 people to EVER sing that song all happened to be at that party at the same time. Very unprobable. These were the only ones caught on camera. Also, I never mentioned anything about daily basis…try reading slower next time. next time bud!

  9. Bob

    Anonymous seems to believe its ok to punish people based on information or thoughts that they may have had at one time.

  10. Concerned Parent

    There have been times in history that have demonstrated that if you create a story big enough, and tell it enough times, it will be accepted as fact. The latest two campus controversies seem to perpetuate that, on a relatively smaller scale, the same is happening at UMW. Whether it involves branding an entire group of young men as pro-rapist, or promoting the notion that a full divestment from an integral part of the economy, with no reasonable phasing or plan of action associated, the propaganda seems to override the facts. Get caught up in the furor, and suddenly a “crisis” is created. Self-promotion and misplaced activism end up overriding personal rights and institutional stability. Somehow, it wouldn’t be surprising if some of the same people are involved in these latest crises. These latest actions seem less about the long-term good of UMW, but more about a few misguided folks enjoying chaos and disorder, all the while using a few loud voices as if they represent the entire population.

  11. Concerned Parent

    By the logic presented by Anonymous, if the outspoken leader of a prominent feminist group on campus requests on her (public) twitter feed (like say, on or around March 6th), a song that involves racist language, and mentions beating a woman’s genitals, sticking “it straight in her belly” and uses a derogatory word to tell a woman to “sit down,” she should probably be sanctioned, and the group that she represents possibly dissolved, because after all, that entire group she represents MUST know and love that song? What’s good for the gander would seem to be good for the goose, right? ….right?

  12. Anonymous

    You guys do know the song is sung at like every party right?

  13. here is the thing...


  14. Anonymous

    You guys do know anonymous is the default name if you do not submit a name right?

    Cant fix stupid.