AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – All activities of Amherst College’s men’s cross country team have been suspended while the school’s athletic department looks into a series of e-mails and social media postings that the college’s president called “appalling.”In a letter sent out Sunday to students, faculty, and staff members, Amherst College President Biddy Martin said that she was disturbed to learn about the exchanges, which were exposed in an article in the student-run commentary magazine The Indicator.
Amherst College student Hwi Soo Kim told 22News, “I think it was confirmation of what a lot of the people of color community have been thinking.”
The Indicator report said that the purported sexual histories of eight different women detailed in a June 2015 e-mail sent to incoming freshmen on the team. It was part of an e-mail chain that was supposed to welcome new members of the team.
Subsequent e-mails in the chain also included comments that Athletic Director Don Faulstick described as racist and misogynistic. Martin says that Faulstick informed her that members of the team have confirmed the nature of the messages, and that such messages have been circulating for several years.
“They are not only vulgar, they are cruel and hateful. No attempt to rationalize them will change that. My reaction is one of profound sadness, disappointment, and anger,” Martin wrote. “The conduct of those involved flagrantly violates Amherst’s principles and the most basic forms of decency and respect.”
Amherst College student Daniel Delgado said, “We feel that there is something within the athletic culture that perpetuates this type of thinking, but other than confirming those already held beliefs, it didn’t do much to surprise anybody.”
Delgado and other students 22News spoke with said they hope the issue will be addressed more widely among all sports teams on campus.
This controversy at Amherst College comes a little more than a month after a Harvard Crimson report revealed that members of that university’s men’s cross country team annually created a spreadsheet listing members of the women’s cross country team, which had in the past included sexually explicit comments about them. The team was placed on athletic probation. A similar scandal led to the cancellation of the Harvard men’s soccer team’s season.Martin’s complete statement is below:
December 11, 2016Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,Late this afternoon, I was informed by the athletic director, Don Faulstick, of an article in the student publication The Indicator that exposes emails and social-media exchanges among members of the men’s cross-country team.These exchanges are supposedly meant to “welcome” new teammates and introduce them to the culture of the team. The messages are appalling. They are not only vulgar, they are cruel and hateful. No attempt to rationalize them will change that.My reaction is one of profound sadness, disappointment, and anger. The athletic director has informed me that members of the team confirm the nature of these messages. The exchanges have been occurring for several years.The conduct of those involved flagrantly violates Amherst’s principles and the most basic forms of decency and respect.The athletic director has informed members of the cross-country team that, pending an investigation, all team activities have been suspended. I expect to have more information within the next several days.— Biddy Martin