December 15th, 2016 – Amherst College is the most recent institution to find itself entangled with an email scandal. The Massachusetts liberal arts school made the decision to suspend the men’s cross country team after email chains were discovered which showed the athletes sending misogynistic, racist messages.
The Indicator, the school’s student-run commentary magazine, first broke the story last Sunday where it detailed messages which referred to women as “a walking STD” and “a meatslab” – targeting eight people in total.
“This is one entry in a series of similar emails sent during the early summer of 2015, and this series is in turn part of a misogynistic, racist, homophobic, and transphobic trend spanning verifiably from summer 2013 to summer 2015, and implicitly much further back in the team’s history,” the site wrote.
Other targeted language included speculation of the shape of Asian women’s genitals, confusing two women of color personally known to the team and hypothetical scenarios on how the “politically correct” on campus would respond if the Amherst football team played the Redskins.
Despite the ongoing vulgar communication, some team members did call out the content and language used in the emails:
“That was one of the most fu**ed up things ive read in a while. I know youre friends with most of these girls but you took it way past friendly messing around.”
Another note of opposition came from a former team captain:
“Perhaps one of the more important parts of this email is to address the freshmen and let you know that this email chain is not a total reflection on individual team members or the team culture as a whole, especially in regards to [teammate’s] comments,” he wrote.
Another team captain framed the messages around a question discussed often here at Is It Funny or Offensive.
The administration, however, did take them seriously and quickly released a statement after the decision to suspend the team. Amherst President Biddy Martin posted a letter to students and faculty on the college’s website.
“These exchanges are supposedly meant to ‘welcome’ new teammates and introduce them to the culture of the team,” she wrote. “The messages are appalling. They are not only vulgar, they are cruel and hateful. No attempt to rationalize them will change that.”
Amherst College follows other higher education institutions that have had to deal with sexist joking going too far. Last month, the men’s soccer team at Harvard had their remaining season canceled after a document ranking the women soccer recruits by their sexual appeal and physical appearance was found to be created by team members.
For the team’s part, they have issued a statement on The Indicator apologizing for the comments and the impact they’ve had; while also claiming to be reaching out to resources on campus that can best help them move forward.
Do you think the messages from members of the Amherst cross country team crossed a line? Did the college respond appropriately? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.