Next week, Yale goes to the NCAA tournament for the first time in more than 50 years. Not since 1962 has the men’s basketball team had such a successful season.
But the team goes without its captain, who left the Ivy League university last month. And instead of uniting behind the team, the campus is caught up in a tense debate.
A spokesman for the university declined to comment on Montague, citing federal privacy laws and university policy. “The governing principle is that all student educational matters, including disciplinary matters, are a private educational concern between the student and Yale; the university therefore does not disclose the details of a student’s status,” he wrote.
Montague and his family could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday. The New Haven Register quoted Jim Montague, Jack’s father, as saying, “We have strict orders from our lawyers. Soon enough, I’d love to tell the other side of the story. It’s ridiculous, why he’s expelled. It’s probably going to set some sort of precedent. We’re trying to do things the gentleman’s way, so we’re keeping things close-knit. But you guys will get a story.”
Sexual assault has been one of the most talked-about issues on many campuses in recent years, as some students mobilize to prevent what they say are alarming numbers of assaults and to push universities to change the way they handle such cases. Because of confidentiality rules, the investigations are often opaque, leading to complaints from both accusers and the accused, in some cases, that it’s difficult to get a fair hearing — and the majority of students on campus are left sifting through rumors.
The team has publicly shown support for Montague, such as wearing T-shirts with his number, 4, and nickname, “Gucci,” for a game against Harvard last month.
After that, posters went up around campus with pictures of the shirts and a stark message: “Stop supporting a rapist.”
Jonathan Holloway, the dean of Yale College, sent this message to students last Friday:
“As the weekend begins, I want you to know that I have been following the public reactions to this week’s events involving the men’s basketball team’s symbolic t-shirts and the posters that appeared on campus in response to them. I know that many of you are upset and angry, and that you are sharing deeply conflicting views. As you engage with each other, I ask that you also treat each other civilly.
“I am committed to providing a safe campus for all of you, protecting your privacy, preventing harassment of all kinds, and ensuring that you can make your voices heard. I know that I can count on you to join me in this effort by treating each other with respect – especially when you disagree.”
On Wednesday, hundreds of students chalked messages in support of sexual assault survivors, in an event organized by two groups, Unite Against Sexual Assault Yale and the Yale Black Women’s Coalition. Students from the groups did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday, but they told the Yale Daily News that although some messages were directed at athletes, the message was broader than the controversy around the basketball team: “Rape culture didn’t just suddenly emerge in the last month.”
That same day, the team issued a statement apologizing to the campus community.
“Yale Men’s Basketball fully supports a healthy, safe and respectful campus climate where all students can flourish. Our recent actions to show our support for one of our former teammates were not intended to suggest otherwise, but we understand that to many students they did.
“We apologize for the hurt we have caused and we look forward to learning and growing from these recent incidents. As student representatives of Yale we hope to use our positions on and off the court in a way that can make everyone proud.”
Yale sophomore Helen Price, of Unite Against Sexual Assault Yale, explained Wednesday’s event. “We wanted the chalk-in to be a show of solidarity and support for survivors, and a stand against rape culture. We wanted it to be a very positive and empowering experience, which it definitely was,” she wrote in an email.
“Students are upset at the basketball team’s very public and provocative support of their captain, Jack Montague, who was expelled from Yale for sexual misconduct. This support implicitly dismisses the experiences of survivors and sends the message that they do not care about sexual assault. However, students had felt angry and frustrated at Yale’s sexual climate for a long time, and this event was just a catalyst for those feelings.
“The administration is very limited in what they can say in this case. Jonathan Holloway did send an email requesting civility, which is valid, but many people felt he should also have affirmed his support for survivors of sexual assault.
“The basketball team did issue a statement of apology, which I hope is a step in the right direction, but of course they also need to take active and consistent steps to help build a healthier sexual climate.”
On social media, Jack Montague’s only public post is a photo of a legendary shot from the 2014-2015 season – the one that won the game for Yale against the University of Connecticut, then the defending national champion.