Amherst College has suspended the activities of the men’s cross-country team while the school investigates emails allegedly written by some of the athletes, which describe female students in vulgar terms.
The story surfaced when a student on-line magazine called The Indicator quoted emails sent from a current team member to the entire team and fall recruits in June 2015. Allegedly the emails give a list of women and their sexual histories, referring to one woman as a “walking STD” and another as a “meatslab.” The magazine reports emails dating back to 2013 include racist comments.
Eli Mansbach, a junior at Amherst, said he knows some of the athletes and was shocked.
“The general student sentiment is surprised, partially confused and obviously very outraged,” Mansbach said Monday.
The outrage comes as Amherst has tried in recent years to change its culture and rebuild its reputation after allegations that the school failed to act on complaints of sexual abuse and rape.
This report also follows a similar incident by Harvard’s soccer team, which rated women sexually. Harvard responded by canceling the team’s season a month ago.
Kameron Millner, a sophomore at Amherst, said this kind of thing goes on on a lot of campuses and everywhere in the world, but she also recognizes that — included in the emails — there were some apologies.
“I think they could have been a little more forceful, but obviously it’s hard to go against teammates and friends,” Millner said. “Everyone just speaking up and saying, ‘We won’t stand for it,’ I really think is the best thing to do.”
And this could all be a teachable moment, according to Molly Mead. She teaches American studies at Amherst and is a member of the Sexual Respect Task Force on campus.
“How do we help all of us get closer to being our best selves?” Mead said. “And how do we help all of us to have the courage and skills to speak up when we see something or read something that’s not OK?”
Some students have already taken action. Eli Mansbach, who plays on the ultimate Frisbee club team, said the captain wrote team members saying hateful comments won’t be tolerated.
“It was like a good wake-up moment for my team personally about what we say and how we act towards each other,” Mansbach said.
In a statement addressed to students, faculty and staff, college president Biddy Martin condemned the emails. She wrote that they violate “the most basic forms of decency and respect.”