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Student kicked off UP tennis roster after 'violent, misogynistic' speech at award banquet

Goutham Sundaram (LinkedIn profile)

A University of Portland tennis player has been kicked off the team's roster as university officials investigate controversial statements made by the student at an athletics banquet last weekend.

Goutham Sundaram, a senior at the school and Lincoln High School graduate, made the comments at the Athletic Department's Wally Awards, a banquet celebrating the school's student athletes.

Sundaram was emceeing the event Sunday night, and made various misogynistic and sexually-explicit comments, according to attendees. One of the women in the crowd was Olivia Sanchez, also a senior at the school and a student-athlete.

She wrote an article for the school paper, The Beacon, about what was allegedly said.

"His main goal throughout college was not academic or even athletic, but sexual: to get white women to sleep with brown men," Sanchez wrote. "'Go brown and turn your frown upside down,' Sundaram said repeatedly ... Sundaram continued on, explaining that his teammates have had more luck in engaging in sexual intercourse than he has. 'Go French and your panties get drenched,' he said of his French teammates."

Sanchez went on to write, "He weaved in the story of how his parents met in India, his father’s pursuit of his mother and their immigration to the United States. He suggested that his parents’ 'immigration would be worth it if he could 'hook up with a white girl.'"

Sanchez noted she was so disgusted by Sundaram, that she walked out of the banquet. She added men's basketball coach Terry Porter walked out as well.

Several other athletes walked out, Sanchez wrote, after the tennis-player said, "Gandhi didn’t fast for twenty days so that I could get to America and not sleep with white women.”

Students who read the opinion article said they were appalled at the language.

"It was repulsive to read what his comments were," said Dylan Shuler, a senior at UP. "I just think that was incredibly misogynistic and derogatory. That was just really uncalled for if the article was stating what he said."

"I found it really disturbing that nobody caught the caught the speech was happening before it was presented at a student award ceremony," said Janelle Guldahl, a junior. "I think it's really alienating to let that happen. It's really not okay. I just can't believe that's happening here. I can't believe people still think like that."

Sanchez, along with other students, wondered why no one stopped Sundaram during the speech.

University of Portland President Rev. Mark Poorman was in attendance Sunday night. He sent a statement to the school, saying Sundaram has been removed from the tennis team roster, and adding he "expects additional steps will be taken to address the conduct and any impact."

Sundaram sent an apology to fellow student-athletes Monday. He wrote: "I would like to address what happened at the Wally’s last night. I want to apologize for taking away from the focus of the night. The night is meant to celebrate the excellence of student athletes and I would like to apologize if I made any people uncomfortable."

According to a university spokesperson, "Additional steps will be taken to address the conduct and any impact."

Here's Pres. Poorman's full message:

Dear Members of the UP Community,

Last night I attended the “Wally’s,” an awards banquet organized and run by student members of an advisory committee to athletics.

Unfortunately, the celebration was marred by shocking and offensive comments made by a student who was emceeing the event. Along with many others, I am appalled by the student’s actions. These offensive statements do not reflect us, and they do not reflect our mission. As president of the University, I remained at the event to honor those who gathered to celebrate student athletes, teams, and Athletics staff for their many accomplishments in the past year. This important tradition was the purpose of the evening, and I did not want what happened on stage to take away from the recognition of others in attendance.

I apologize to all of you that this occurred. Clearly we have continuing work to do to educate and raise consciousness. I spoke with Athletics this morning. They have already taken steps to hold this student accountable, including removing him from the roster. I expect additional steps will be taken to address the conduct and any impact.

There is no place at the University of Portland for what was said. It wasn’t funny, and it is completely inconsistent with the important dialogues that continue on our campus. Verbal or physical, it is still abuse.

Sincerely,

Fr. Mark


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