Last week, the Harvard men’s soccer team was sidelined over the creation of a spreadsheet that ranked members of the women’s soccer team by attractiveness and contained sexual “summaries” of each player. The team members’ actions were widely denounced across Harvard’s campus and the broader country. Today, we explore the necessity of Harvard’s strict punishment, put the issue in broad context and examine what needs to be done further—at Harvard and at other institutions, including Duke.

Few question the necessity of a strong administrative punishment for the men’s team’s actions. Although the line between offensive and inoffensive content is occasionally murky, it was remarkably clear here. The graphic language used in the spreadsheets dehumanized a group of people, reducing them into to sexual objects. Their skills, their intelligence and the personalities were replaced by a number (“6”), a description (“most STD ridden”) and a row in a spreadsheet. The offending members of the men’s team ignored the women’s humanity, dignity and safety solely for some lewd humor and sexual fantasies. The Harvard administration was right to firmly crack down on them.

Some have argued that they were punished for nothing—that a spreadsheet and a few emails could not have truly hurt anyone and that the whole ordeal was a bit of harmless fun. Balderdash. Sexual violence and harmful culture do not come out of nowhere. They are birthed through the normalization of reducing others to sexual objects. The spreadsheet was a physical manifestation of toxic attitudes towards women. It not only dehumanized them, but made it made individuals explicit sexual targets.

All members of the men’s soccer team, innocent, guilty or silent deserve the punishment handed down to them. Those who failed to speak up in the face of injustice allowed perpetrators to continue. Whether bystanders are equally culpable or not is not salient given the gravity of this situation; if individuals feel they acted less immorally than their peers, let them prove that with their future actions.

Critics of the punishment might argue that the men’s team’s privacy was unfairly invaded and that the documents were meant to be secret. In response, we would first note that the emails and spreadsheet themselves were an invasion of privacy of the women’s soccer team, detailing past sexual histories and supposed sexual preferences. We would next point out that secrecy is not a shield for immorality. The punishment doled out for these private emails is legitimate for the same reason public scrutiny of Hillary Clinton’s emails was legitimate; potential harmful impact on the public outweighed the fact that the emails were meant to be private. In fact, we hope that Harvard moves beyond its current chosen consequences to examine a campus culture in which these emails could exist in secrecy.

That culture, though, is not unique to Harvard. Given Duke’s unfortunate history with sexual assault and the recent news of a former Duke student being charged for a rape that allegedly occurred at the university, it’s important to recognize the culture exists on our campus too. It is easy to explain away silence on sexually inappropriate behavior with excuses of friendship or fraternity, but it is no way okay. Students should always challenge those who act unjustly.

Only by reporting on the “small” things can we learn to act justly when something worse occurs. In looking at Harvard’s scandal from afar, we urge our fellow Duke community members to be brave enough to ensure that similar practices on our campus do not go unchallenged.

Correction: Jeffrey Yoh, the man recently charged for rape, is a former Duke student, not an alumnus. The Chronicle regrets the error.