The Elephant in the Room
Issue   |   Wed, 02/13/2013 - 15:47
Image Courtesy Huffington Post
A professor at Amherst College criticizes the final report of the Special Oversight Committee on Sexual Misconduct.

The recent report of the Special Oversight Committee on Sexual Misconduct at Amherst contains some good suggestions on how to improve the disciplinary system and the delivery of psychological and medical care to victims of rape, recommendations that are already being implemented. But in one important respect, the report is seriously flawed.

That flaw appears in the very first pages of the report. The Committee tells us that it is a “stereotyped assumption that athletes are more prone to sexual misconduct than non-athletes.” It concludes that it would be “counterproductive to indict any one demographic.” The report claims that their research found that athletes were not disproportionately represented among perpetrators of sexual misconduct.

But it seems clear that the Committee found no evidence because it didn’t look. Numerous studies throughout the country have shown clear relationships between single sex teams and sexual assault. Meegan Mercurio of Providence College provides a useful summary of such research in her 2010 thesis, “Athletics and Violence Against Women: A Study of Relationship.” (available at Digitalcommons@Providence.edu) Mecurio notes that in one study, at a university where male athletes made up only two percent of the undergraduate student body, male athletes were found to be responsible for approximately 20 percent of reported cases of sexual assault. And in a literature review concerning rape myth acceptance, Rosemary Iconis, in a 2008 article for Contemporary Issues in Education Research (2nd Quarter, 2008, available at http://journals.cluteonline.com/index.php/CIER/article/viewFile/1201/1185) notes that at least three independent studies over several decades have shown that male athletes are more prone than others to believe that women lie about being raped 50 percent of the time. Moreover, the research notes that there was a variety of levels of acceptance in these studies, with members of individually focused sports such as golf, for instance, and older students, being less likely to believe rape myths.

The body of existing scholarly studies on the connection between male athletics and rape culture is substantial enough to have warranted the Committee treating this connection — at the very least — as a valid hypothesis to be investigated. Given the Committee’s reliance on existing scholarly studies to consider other hypotheses, and to defend their use of sanitized language, it is truly odd that it did not even entertain the connection between male athletics and rape culture as a hypothesis to be verified (say) through systematic, confidential interviews with students in general, and rape survivors in particular. A more critical committee would have at least entertained the hypothesis that the predominance of athletic culture on campus, and the tight bonds of team unity, might contribute to the underreporting of alleged assaults by team members. If a student is raped by someone on a prominent sports team, surely it is plausible that she now has to entertain the idea that she is at odds not only with all members of that team, but also perhaps with its fans. Surely it is plausible to suppose that on a campus where athletics is so central, victims and survivors face a stronger disincentive in this case to report than they would if they were to report a rape by someone affiliated with no team at all.

Perhaps more relevant to us, there is far too much anecdotal evidence from Amherst students themselves that tells of an athletic culture that encourages misogny and homophobia and that discourages victims of sexual assault from reporting such acts for fear of ostracism by their peers. Why is it that, instead of being curious about this question, which is warranted not only by existing scholarly studies and by student anecdote alike, the committee instead criticized as “stereotyping” the very idea that one might be curious about this question?

Given the prominent role that team sports plays at Amherst, for a select committee assigned to address sexual violence to ignore athletics is very disappointing. The stated fear of stereotyping, or unfairly identifying a particular group for responsibility for sexual violence is a red herring. (This claim, by the way, is an implicit criticism of anyone who would even raise the issue, for they are seen as being prejudiced. Nothing is more detrimental to open discussion.) It is to turn away from the obvious need to have a critical examination of one of the most important extracurricular forces at our College, one that does so much to shape the character of so many of our students.

Without trying to assume that I know the minds of the members of the Committee, I do know that athletics at Amherst College provides a major link between alumni and the student body, that contributions to the College are correlated with the relative success of our teams, especially, though not exclusively, the football team. And, while I do not know because I don’t have access to the budget for the athletic department, my eyes tell me as I drive down Route 9, that we are spending more and more money to support a violent sport that inevitably results in brain injuries to at least some of our students.

How is this related to the report on sexual assault? It provides us with a possible reason why athletic culture was not discussed at any length by the Committee. The very reluctance of the Committee could be ­— and has been — construed as testimony to the outsized role that athletics plays in the life of the College: in admissions, in budget, in interference with the curriculum. For us to avoid having a serious and independent investigation of the current athletic culture at Amherst is to do a disservice to the community, especially to those students who have had the courage to speak out, privately and publicly, and who have themselves been accused of being “anti-athletic.”

It is, in my opinion, long past time for us to reevaluate the role of sports in the life of Amherst. That the occasion of this Committee’s investigation did not even touch upon the matter is not a good sign, because it suggests that such a discussion is not possible, given the outsized power of our athletic complex, especially among alumni and trustees.

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Comments
Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 02/13/2013 - 16:20
Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 02/13/2013 - 16:33

Your reasoning for why it wasn't mentioned is 100% correct. Lacrosse stars from Exeter whose parents and grandparents all graduated from Amherst bring in the big bucks, not only in terms of alumni donations but even more practically in paying full tuition.

Still, I think it would be beneficial to the entire campus to have the role of Athletes reexamined IMMEDIATELY on this campus. We can still have a Lord Jeff Nation without having any other subcultures on this campus. What is a substance free student supposed to do on a Saturday night besides play pool in Keefe or drink at the athlete-dominated socials? Absolutely nothing.

In true Amherst fashion, if you draw a racist cartoon in the newspaper, you get a building named after you. And if you perpetuate misogyny and sexism, you get a NESCAC championship ring.

anon (not verified) says:
Wed, 02/13/2013 - 18:20

The generalizations contained here are absolutely mind-boggling.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Fri, 02/15/2013 - 10:59

Have you ever stopped and educated yourself about rape laws. Because I have, and had to when a girl I had only been in the same room with once (a party with about 50 other people) accused me of rape. Did you know that if a girl has sex with a guy when she is drunk, even if its consenting, she can decide the next morning that it is rape. Athletes get unfairly persecuted, and are instantly considered guilty. How about the BU hockey play. It was from page news when he was charged with rape. He was kicked off the team, and out of school. However, I did not see one news story when the charges were dropped because she admitted to making it up. He was not let back into school, and his life was ruined because a girl decided to lie. It's ignorant people like you who ruin innocent kids lives, whether they are atheletes or not, with gross generalizations about a group of people. In no way am I condoning rape or sexual assult, but if you take a minute to read the laws you will see that they are terribly flawed, and allow girls to accuse guys, with no reprocussion for lying. If a girl is not responsible for herself when she is drunk, and the next day can decide it was rape because she was drunk, even though she consented. Why should the guy be held responsible if he is drunk. Does not make any logical sense to me. Athletes are more often than not, unfairly targeted, and next time before you post educate yourself.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 02/13/2013 - 16:33
'12 Alumnus (not verified) says:
Wed, 02/13/2013 - 19:02

Thank you so much for articulating what I and so many other Amherst alum have tried to articulate half as gracefully as you have here.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 02/13/2013 - 20:03

This is completely narrow-minded and ignorant and only furthers a divide between athletes and non-athletes. Congrats.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Mon, 02/18/2013 - 21:51

Couldn't agree more. What does he expect to accomplish with an article like this? Pointing a finger at the athletes doesn't solve the issue, it brings greater division and encourages stereotypes.

lady jeff'15 (not verified) says:
Wed, 02/13/2013 - 20:45

I find it hard to believe that anyone would consider Amherst athletics so high-profile that a girl wouldn't report RAPE. disgusting. and to think that a private committee, set up by Biddy with the sole purpose of rectifying this sexual assault issue, is worried about the feelings of the alumni and the football stadium? not a chance! while overall I agree with the message about including athletics in the talk, your reasoning is seriously flawed. of course athletes commit more sexual assaults/crimes, they have 1000x the exposure to bad situations. parties tend to be in athletes' suites and girls tend to be more relaxed and friendly with athletes because they're more attractive and personable. the nicest guys I've met here have been athletes, and I won't throw them under the bus and accuse them of rape culture just for playing a sport they love.

femaleathlete'13 (not verified) says:
Mon, 02/18/2013 - 00:31

"1000x the exposure to bad situations"? What are you implying here? These athletes that host parties in their suites, with an emphasis on binge drinking, are creating the "bad situations" in the first place. This is exactly the culture that perpetuates rape. Are you saying it isn't their fault that they are "exposed" to rape? Because it is.
As a female that was sexually assaulted by a male athlete, I found that yes, in fact, it is extremely difficult to report. I think your argument is seriously flawed.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 02/13/2013 - 21:02

"Ridiculous
This is completely narrow-minded and ignorant and only furthers a divide between athletes and non-athletes. Congrats."

How is it this "narrow-minded"? What's narrow-minded is dismissing a study as irrelevant without actually completing the study or looking into it at all. There's nothing "ridiculous" about the FACT that it's tougher to admit to sexual misconduct when an entire team will chide you for it. That's not "ignorant" -- that's a genuine claim! No one's saying that the sports teams here have committed such misconduct. Just that it should be looked into as by the Sexual Assault Committee, just like dozens of other potential factors must be examined.

Alum (not verified) says:
Wed, 02/13/2013 - 21:17

As someone who took two classes with professor Dumm, I'm shocked that a man this smart could write such an ignorant article - to call upon athletes like this is cowardly and requires little effort. This is someone who truly has never known a single Amherst College student, who also happens to be an athlete. Shameful is just one word that comes to mind when reading this.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 02/13/2013 - 21:36

The generalization of athletes and general ignorance in this article is completely astonishing. You pretend to represent a standard of morality in the community while at the same time condemning a large proportion of the student body as a group of non intelligent, abusive, non contributing members of the community. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that on this campus the likelihood of an athlete committing sexual assault in the same alcohol fueled interaction is greater than a non athlete. To say otherwise is offensive and spiteful. This guy is the professor who would stereotype athletes in his class as not good students when almost 40% of the school body is on a varsity sports team. Thats a pretty big proportion of kids to consider not good students and still support amherst's claim to academic excellence. Overall just frankly embarrassed that such ignorance could be displayed by a professor from this institution.

Student Athlete (not verified) says:
Wed, 02/13/2013 - 22:14

I am a senior honors student carrying at 3.9 in a difficult program of study---and an athlete. Athletics need not detract from the educational mission of the college. Indeed, I believe they can further it, by teaching hard lessons that can't be learned in the classroom, by fostering school pride and social cohesion, by creating well-rounded and healthy individuals. That being said, there are certainly parts of the athletic culture on campus that I find unsavory. I think that we should set as our goal reforms of the system to further the positive mission of our athletic teams while addressing the concerns of Professor Dumm. Correspondingly, I am alarmed at Professor Dumm's seeming disdain for the idea of athletics as such. I believe it betrays a regrettable ignorance of the truly life-affirming potential of sport. Professor Dumm conflates his irrational hate of athletes with genuine concern for the victims of sexual assault and how we can better address this issue at this College.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 02/13/2013 - 23:12

Hey

Before I delve into other matters, there is one thing I would like to address. I am sure I am not the only one who has considered this. Author's article suggests ( at least from the wording in the 3rd paragraph) that it's kind of a taboo to say that a woman is lying about rape. I find this hypocritical. I know the argument that claiming a woman is falsely accusing sb of rape could discourage women from reporting rape, even when it does actually happen. To have a truly open and thorough discussion on rape, I agree with the assertion that all hypothesis should be considered. I feel the general opinion among what I call the "rape experts" at Amherst College is that the alleged victims of rape are automatically telling the truth and there is a lot of animosity towards anyone who might consider an alternative story, because the truth is it does happen. This is a link to a sad story about someone who was falsely accused of rape and to make people understand that this is a serious issue and the assertion that people lie about rape is something that should be taken seriously.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1219179-the-brian-banks-story-tells-u...

The point on the hypothesis raised by the author is valid, but to add to that we could also substitute athletic team with Asian group, Black group, singing group... and still have the same effects of ostracism of the alleged victim of rape. Thus, I wouldn't necessarily say athletic team's alone (if that was what author meant).

Another thing is the preconceptions and stereotypes gotten from news sources about Athletic teams in other colleges heavily affect our (author and myself included) perception of the Athletic teams at Amherst College. One thing to note though is that Athletic departments in different colleges have very different rules and different ways of implementing those rules. So, one must factor this in the dialogue.

One conclusion I have drawn from this is. It's the capitalist world we live in. No one will bite the hand that feeds it. Until, the big picture (America) changes, it will be very difficult.

anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 02/13/2013 - 23:19

As someone who has spent a bit of time on Amherst College campus, I have to say that this is exactly right. Thank you for having the courage to say this.

To "Ridiculous": on what point exactly do you find this letter narrow-minded and ignorant? Do you mean the part where the letter writer cites social scientific evidence in support of his argument that this should have at least been a valid hypothesis that the committee studied? Do you really disagree with that idea -- that this at least should have been a hypothesis that the committee pursued, rather than ruling it out in advance on the basis of a "philosophical choice" (as one member of the committee put it, see article about the SMOC report in this same issue of the Student)? Really? Athletic culture should not even have been -- a hypothesis? If this is your argument, doesn't it actually confirm what the letter writer is suggesting -- that there is a belief on the Amherst College campus that athletic culture ought to be untouchable, ought not to be questioned or investigated at all, not even as a hypothesis? If on the other hand this is not your argument, and you agree with the letter writer that athletic culture should at least have been a hypothesis for the committee to investigate as it considered the sources of rape culture on campus -- don't you then *also* confirm what the letter writer is suggesting? What then exactly are you arguing? That you unwittingly agree with the letter writer? Or that you unwittingly agree with the letter writer?

nonathlete (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 00:18

thanks but no thanks Thomas

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 01:17

Lets not forget that Suzanne Coffee is BOTH the athletic director of this school and the Title XI coordinator. That is: she is in charge of both getting alumni dollars for athletic programs and is one of the two people at Amherst that you are supposedly required to report sexual assault to.

The reality is that roughly 40% of the student body plays a varsity sport. Slightly less than that number got into Amherst in large part because they played a sport well in high school---- not just on their academic merits. I like watching varsity sports like the next person, but the reality is that if Amherst is serious about its academic mission, I'm not sure there is a space exclusively (which is to say, carved out, by giving preferred treatment in the application process) for athletes. The culture that varsity athletes bring to this campus is mostly a negative, and I can imagine for young women, a dangerous one. I say this despite knowing a number of fantastic student athletes who buck the trend.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 01:28

Professor Dumm, why do you say that the committee didn't address the athlete question? As you mention, "their research found that athletes were not disproportionately represented among perpetrators of sexual misconduct." In other words, the committee DID DO RESEARCH and came up with a conclusion. The fact that they didn't come up with a conclusion that pleases you or other scholars, that's another thing. Listen, Biddy and the administration are trying to solve this very important issue. There is no need to point fingers without evidence.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 09:42

I'm sure Prof. Dumm recognizes that they did *some* research, but it does seem irrefutable that they ignored a body of research, which was "not worth pursuing" but that undoubtedly, as is documented in this article, exists, about homosocial spaces, athletics, and hyper-masculinity. As Margaret Hunt said in the other Student article on the issue, the decision to close the questions of athletics and frats down: "That was partly a philosophical choice that we made; it was partly a strategic choice; and it was partly a choice necessitated by the evidence." Notice the order of those statements, and the way the first two absolutely undercut the third.

Anon (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 08:03

1) Prevalence of athletic culture on campus? I'll take your word for it. Most students don't really care about athletics; the specter of angry fans turning on accusers is more of a Division I school thing.
2) While Mercurio's thesis is eye-opening, and actually DOES bolster the article's point, the use of Iconis' research is, honestly, chilling: Dumm is pretty much conflating beliefs that are retrograde with actual perpetration of rape. And yes, I know, rape culture contributes to the real thing, blah blah blah, but the point is that you're pretty much using some anecdotal evidence and a study to imply that that the men (and heck, maybe some of the women) are festering misogynists. If that's really what you want to say, then have the guts to say it plainly.
3) What on earth do concussions have to do with anything? All it suggests is that Dumm is using "athletics" as a code for "football."

And I'm not even an athlete--I just don't like ignorance.

Wesleyan Alum (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 09:41

Dear Amherst,
Please, continue to do exactly what you have been doing for the past forty years (or, since whenever you decided to go co-ed); do continue to reserve forty percent of your incoming classes for "well-rounded" student athletes; do continue sending all hipsters, hippies, poets, musicians, political activists, lesbians, gays (and, their allies) to Wesleyan and Swarthmore. We appreciate the business.

'80 Alumnus (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 11:26

I found this article disturbing. The assertion that alumni give to Amherst because of the athletics begs credulity. If you come to homecoming, even against Williams, I doubt there are more than 500 alumni in the stands, mostly from recent classes, at the football game. Of all the other sports, if you exclude former team members (the baseball and soccer teams in particular) I doubt there are more than 10 watching. Alumni giving itself is concentrated around reunions - a time when no sports are played, and very few current students are even on campus. What drives alumni giving is not football, or sports. It is a sense of pride in our institution, of the education we got, the friendships we made, and the extraordinary community that is (was?) Amherst.

Commentary like this is putting a dagger into the heart and soul of our community.

As to the athletes, first I would point out that every athlete who attends Amherst made a conscious choice not to attend a Division 1 school, and is certainly not coming to Amherst for athletic glory. Yes Amherst has a culture of competition, and a pride in its sports, just like it has pride in its academics, and that is certainly no less competitive. 40% of Amherst students play sports, and physical education is part of its tradition of developing excellence. I would also tell you that a disproportionate number of investment bankers, management consultants, corporate executives, and probably doctors were also athletes in college, particularly from places like Amherst. Leadership, team building, determination, drive to succeed, these are traits that are valued in later life, that are often grounded in experiences in athletics. I also agree that Professor Dumm appears to be conflating football with sports and athletics generally.

As to the rape issues, while I clearly am not in touch with today's situation, I haven't read or heard anything to suggest that the situation at Amherst is any different, let alone worse, than any other college or university. I suspect that other larger societal issues, like binge drinking and the pick-up culture, play key roles. Amherst is right to confront these issues, and particularly to review its institutional response to allegations of rape. But I would urge the community not to slander or demean large sections of the student body based on unfounded or presumed stereotypical behavior. Remember it is your fellow students, and faculty, that make your experience at Amherst special, and don't lose sight of just how extraordinary they are. I marvel at the achievements of my classmates 30 years later, and yet, as the first coed class, we struggled with issues of sexism, institutional bias, and adapting to change at the college. There were mistakes made then, too - probably much worse than any today after 35 years of societal change. And yet, our institution succeeded in educating an exceptional class of men and women.

Be careful with your words. Amherst is an elite institution drawing from high achievers from all sorts of backgrounds. It may not be as diverse or as egalitarian as you may wish, but I believe it represents the best pool of talent one could choose. Don't destroy this special community; work to make it a better place. Stupid stereotypes and uncalibrated criticism will hurt the institution; that is just dumb.

anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 11:41

i totally agree with the Professor's point regarding the inclusion of this potential factor in a study of Sexual misconduct on Campus...after that I am basically appalled..to me the definition of a top rate educational institution is one that provides as many different channels through which its' student body can pursue excellence..and that it is the pursuit of that excellence that is to be applauded...i'm really dismayed by how athletics is looked upon by ther ":academic" community at a school like Amherst...When did participation in sports become looked upon with such disdain..it was such an integral part of my "educational experience"...i would encourage Amherst to explore the schism that Professor Dumm's article so clearly lays bare..because it has a real polarizing effect on Campus Life..or at least it did in the late 70's..I always found it odd that you very rarely saw Professors at athletic events(save for the Econ dept.) and now I find it sad that when you attend a lacrosse game the crowd more than likely consists of the parents of the players...i'm not suggesting that putting on the school colors and representing Amherst well(as defined by sportsmanship and fair play) should be rewarded by being placed on some higher pedestal,but last time i checked it was to be applauded..thx

Alumni (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 11:44

The committee report did single out a key demographic from their research - upper class male leaders of student organizations, particularly ones where socialization into the organization involves partying. (p. 20). It has been some 30 years since I was a student at Amherst, but what are these organizations? Are they athletic organizations? Social organizations? There is a limited universe of such organizations, and a fairly sizable number of rapes, and I have trouble imagining what this identified demographic is if it specifically excludes atheletic organizations. I would like to see the data.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 13:04

"There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that on this campus the likelihood of an athlete committing sexual assault in the same alcohol fueled interaction is greater than a non athlete."

^ I'd like to here the committee say that themselves after, like Dumm says, doing extensive interviews with our sexual assault victims themselves. At present, there is no evidence because we haven't looked at any.

No one is blaming just athletes. We just need a multi-faceted investigation that explores all elements of the social scene at Amherst, INCLUDING Athletes. At present, athletic culture has yet to be researched. We must do that.

That is the point of this article and it is true.

What is stupid though is the concussion thing, I agree. Clearly that has nothing to do with anything.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 13:16

"When did participation in sports become looked upon with such disdain?"

Athletes are not looking at with disdain for being athletes. It's great that our school is healthy, active, and diverse.

Athletes are looked at with disdain for socializing only with other Athletes, quartering off an entire section of Val for their teams and grimacing at anyone else who dares to sit in the "cool kids section", throwing mixers with other teams and never other clubs, Acapella groups, or other extracurricular facets of this school, and failing to "check their privilege" since most of them come from elite prep schools with rich parents/legacy families.

The recruiting process at this school is a joke on it's own. Coaches look at the creme de la creme from Greenwich Academy, Deerfield Academy, Exter, Andover, and a few other token prep schools in the midwest, north east, and south. Public school athletes have to fight to get noticed and recruited. No one's going to reach out to them first. Athletes get accepted early decision and from that point on they rule the school. And it's fine to look at athletes from top prep schools because they are the best athletes. But what about diversity? What about recruiting a top black lacrosse player from an inner city public school in Texas?

These teams are disgustingly homogenous.

And Student Athlete argues that sports "foster...social cohesion"? Is that an absolute joke? What would the lacrosse team do if an international Kenyan student sat at one of their long tables and started up a conversation? Would they invite him to their spring break trip to Spain? Would they invite him to their mixer with the girls swim team that weekend? You're fooling absolutely no one.

Athletics are the greek system of this school. Everyone knows how problematic and divisive greek systems can be at other schools. The only difference is that at schools like Duke, a team of 30 lacrosse players go largely unnoticed at a school of 6,000 students and it doesn't permeate every aspect of the social culture. At Amherst, our boys' clubs, I mean teams, or 30 are on our dorm floors, in our classes, hogging the gym, in line at Val, and in our faces every second of every day. It's inescapable. The 40% ratio is because we only have 2,000 kids. If you compared our number of athletes with Harvard's it'd be the same but at Harvard the culture is less permeant because they have a larger student body for the athletes to disappear into.

No such luck at Amherst.

So what's there to do? Grin and bear it until you graduate. Because the Andover football captain who's cheating off of you in class is also paying for half your tuition with his grandfather's alumni donations.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 16:45

It is disturbing how wildly uninformed this post is

@JODYHiGHROLLER (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 20:01

One word: Illuminati. Legacies, elite prep schools, and MONEY. Until we reexamine where all of this MONEY is coming from, the Illuminati will continue to control our fine institution and the most elite jobs on Wall Street (I'm looking at you 1%) through athletics, classism, racism, and misogyny. Down with big government!

Recent Amherst Alum (not verified) says:
Sat, 02/16/2013 - 22:49

Much of what was said in the comment is true. Even as a freshman, it didn't take me long to realize that the athlete / non-athlete distinction at Amherst is so profound, it's almost disgusting. I'm not against playing sports per se. I can imagine that being on a team builds discipline, team spirit, etc etc. And yes, a lot of athletes go on to be bankers, doctors, etc. The problem at Amherst though is two fold. It's crazy the amount of privilege student athletes get on campus. Sectioning off a whole segment at Val, getting to throw cushy exclusive formals, etc etc Heck I wouldn't be surprised if Room Draw was conveniently set up to favor them. And all of this for what? Simply because they play D3 varsity? Give me a break. It's almost as if the administration doesn't give a crap about the 60% of students who would rather read a book, or dance, or engage in some other uplifting activity. And let's not forget that these athletes are by far the most obnoxious group. Elevator panel ripped off in Chuck Pratt? Football team. Someone punched every wall in a dorm? Lacross team. Random guy puked in your common room? Basketball team. And yet the school turns a blind eye. Year after year. Sports teams foster inclusion? Rubbish. If you're not rich and white, forget it. The whole diversity thing is a sham.

And yet some people on here have the nerve to deny all of this happens at Amherst. What a joke. Getting rid of our sports / Nescac / obnoxiously elitist teams will make many, many people happy. We're an academic institution. I see no reason why D3 sports players should be strutting around like they're the only ones who deserve to be there.

Proud NARP '15 (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 13:20

How is it ridiculous to suggest that all hypotheses should be considered? That's what this article is asserting. Spewing your GPA and credentials are an athlete and purporting your ability to excel at academics and athletics does nothing for this argument. No one is saying that athletes aren't smart.

The fact is that the committee failed to adequately ascertain the influence of sports culture on sexual misconduct at this school in its research of the impetuses of sexual misconduct. Thus, the committee's research is flawed and incomplete. Fact.

If the athletes at this school are as blameless as these comments suggestion then such an investigation will be no burden to any of you.

Matt T. (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 13:23

Literally could not have said voiced my thoughts any better than this anon:

"To "Ridiculous": on what point exactly do you find this letter narrow-minded and ignorant? Do you mean the part where the letter writer cites social scientific evidence in support of his argument that this should have at least been a valid hypothesis that the committee studied? Do you really disagree with that idea -- that this at least should have been a hypothesis that the committee pursued, rather than ruling it out in advance on the basis of a "philosophical choice" (as one member of the committee put it, see article about the SMOC report in this same issue of the Student)? Really? Athletic culture should not even have been -- a hypothesis? If this is your argument, doesn't it actually confirm what the letter writer is suggesting -- that there is a belief on the Amherst College campus that athletic culture ought to be untouchable, ought not to be questioned or investigated at all, not even as a hypothesis? If on the other hand this is not your argument, and you agree with the letter writer that athletic culture should at least have been a hypothesis for the committee to investigate as it considered the sources of rape culture on campus -- don't you then *also* confirm what the letter writer is suggesting? What then exactly are you arguing? That you unwittingly agree with the letter writer? Or that you unwittingly agree with the letter writer?"

Thank you Professor Dumm for providing this insight.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 13:29

'80 Alumnus, congrats on being one of the only alumni who gives for a genuine sense of pride on the school.

"What drives alumni giving is not football, or sports. It is a sense of pride in our institution, of the education we got, the friendships we made, and the extraordinary community that is (was?) Amherst."

Education is unparalleled. Friends here are great. But what community are you talking about? The community of 40% athletes? The same 40% that will graduate and end up giving back to Amherst as they are from prep schools and affluent backgrounds that afford them that luxury? And moreover, because they ruled the school and thus had the best 4 years of their lives as the big men on campus?

Maybe you didn't give because you're a a football fan, but undoubtedly, other alums give because they benefitted from playing a sport at this school or from the sports culture or because they are rich legacies. That's just a fact.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 16:54

I'd like to see the proof for this "fact"

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 13:32

"I would also tell you that a disproportionate number of investment bankers, management consultants, corporate executives, and probably doctors were also athletes in college, particularly from places like Amherst. Leadership, team building, determination, drive to succeed, these are traits that are valued in later life, that are often grounded in experiences in athletics."

Is this news? These people are prep school elites whose parents and grandparents hand down the keys of the family oil corporation to the athletes at this school. Sure, some athletes actually earn their way to success. But most of these consultants and bankers are Mitt Romney types who were born with a golden spoon in their mouths. I'm not impressed in the slightest.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 13:33

"The committee report did
The committee report did single out a key demographic from their research - upper class male leaders of student organizations, particularly ones where socialization into the organization involves partying. (p. 20). It has been some 30 years since I was a student at Amherst, but what are these organizations? Are they athletic organizations? Social organizations? There is a limited universe of such organizations, and a fairly sizable number of rapes, and I have trouble imagining what this identified demographic is if it specifically excludes atheletic organizations. I would like to see the data."

At the very least, we deserve to see this data and more like it.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 15:22

The issue at hand is not the prevalence of athlete culture on campus, but rather a history of patriarchal culture that is endemic not just at Amherst College, but in colleges and universities across the nation as well as in our society as a whole.

Joe Somebody (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 16:10

This situation can be easily rectified. Take a look at everyone who has been accused of sexual assault at Amherst in the last 30 years. From these 300 people check how many where athletes.

The facts will show that Athletes are no more likely to commit sexual assaults than anyone else. Lets stop trying to get revenge for the fact you were picked last for the Kick ball team and listen to reason.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Fri, 02/15/2013 - 17:09

Even if a large number of the accused (and let's not forget that these men are just that, "accused") men are athletes, would that be surprising? This thread has pointed out numerous times that athletes account for 40% of the student body. That is to say, 40% of the men on campus are athletes, given the fact that the school has a 1:1 male to female ratio and there are approximately as many male athletes as there are female. If a male is accused, there is a ~50/50 chance that he is an athlete. This doesn't imply that athletes are the source of sexual violence on campus.

The author's letter accomplished all that I would expect of a liberal academic (a term not to be construed as slander). He raises a question, but offers nothing in terms of a solution. What should be done if a study is undertaken and it shows athletes are more prone to be accused of rape? A result that is not unrealistic given the fact that male athletes are aggressive by their nature and arguably more highly exposed to these situations. Should all athletes be punished and ridiculed for the actions of a few? What if black students were found to be more likely to commit theft on campus? Should the black community be ostracized? Issues like these are faced on a daily basis in American society. The answer is not to profile, the answer is not to support and spread prejudice beliefs against a group.

The fact is that these crimes are not committed by "athletes," "blacks," or any other group that could be profiled. They are committed by individual male members of a community, and these individuals should not be held to represent the rest of their colleagues.

Too Small for J... (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 16:45

Amherst would be a better place intellectually and socially if athletics were eliminated from admissions considerations.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 18:02

Congratulations on alienating 40% of the student body. Great work Professor Dumm.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 18:10

This is one of the more ignorant articles we have seen out of the AC professors in some time. Especially from someone who has influenced hundreds if not thousands of students; that is sad. 1. Lets say that a study says Amherst college athletes are more likely to be involved in sexual misconduct. There will be another study saying Amherst athletes are more sexually active on campus, and a third study saying victims of rape are more sexually active then non-victims. If you ever studied something other than topics you already know professor Dumm, you would understand that this would be inconclusive. 2. If it was without a doubt a conclusive study stating that Amherst College athletes were more likely to commit sexual misconduct, THAT IS STILL IRRELEVANT- why? Because there are other athletes who are the most respectful people on campus to their opposite gender counterparts and why should they be persecuted for their association with a particular group? I did not take your course because I heard you were very arrogant, but I imagine that you criticize racial profiling- judging a person based on characteristics that may be CORRELATED with but not the CAUSE of breaking the law. Well professor, this is the exact same situation. You should be embarrassed of yourself for encouraging the committee to effectively profile and discriminate against a group of people. And lastly- If you were a better professor, more alumni would donate to your department. You are like the Red Sox complaining that their fans won't buy expensive tickets anymore. What does it tell you that former athletes have achieved economic success to give back to the campus in overwhelming numbers? That their coaches teach them sexual abuse and then they rape their way to successful careers? Sexual misconduct is horrible on every level, but persecuting athletes, a vast majority of whom have done nothing wrong, is unacceptable; a grudge held from getting cut from every sports team in high school

Alumni Professor (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 18:41

I think this is a very important piece, and raises excellent questions. Responses calling it "ignorant" are merely ignorant themselves. Prof. Dumm cites evidence -- why does the other side not cite evidence? Because there is none. When anyone considers this hypothesis directly, one finds it is true. One thing that Prof. Dumm did not point out about the report is that it faults "student organizations" at the same time as it lets athletic teams and fraternities off the hook. I would ask what organizations they are referring to then? What other organizations on campus are as tightly organized and hierarchical as athletic teams and frats? And do those organizations place as much emphasis on a tight sense of loyalty and on drinking together to foster that loyalty? Do any of those organizations have aggression woven into their culture? This needed to be said, and we are lucky to have someone as brave as Tom Dumm to say it in our community. Thank you. Thank you also for using the word "rape," a word studiously avoided by the report and unfortunately also avoided on the so-called Day of Dialogue.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Mon, 02/18/2013 - 14:03

I really can't believe that Professors at Amherst College really think it's ok to stereotype athletes in this manner and then actually publish something as ridiculous as this...especially without any proof. You should be ashamed. You might as well right an article about homosexual males and the spread of HIV and AIDS at Amherst, or investigate all the African Americans for all the thefts on campus because there is much more evidence of that. And yet you never would because you know it's wrong to write that type of stuff about minorities. That's seriously how absurd this whole article and your response is. You two have seriously let me down and all the athletes who are great citizens down. Stop generalizing, Amherst College professors should know this.

K (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 20:24

Prof Dumm - Your use of a study based on schools where athlete's make up 2% of the population weakens your already shaky argument even further(please reflect on the need to identify and control for variables). There is a qualitative difference between the campus culture and the placing of male athletes on pedestals at those schools and Amherst, I would have expected your undergraduate experience at Penn State would have made this evident to you.
Your piece appears to promote the position that to question a female's veracity on a rape claim is in and of itself almost a crime. Are you not familiar with the Duke Lacrosse debacle? Many of the Duke Faculty sullied their reputation by jumping to conclusions similar to the ones you present in this piece. As an ethicist, do you paint other groups with such a broad brush or do you save accusations based on anecdotal evidence and non-analogous research only for athletes?
While your discussion of concussions/health issues appears to belong in another article, please note that the college appears to "support" other activities that may lead to health issues(i.e. the signs all over the dorms that appear to encourage engaging in sexual encounters that may lead to STDs etc).
I hold the professorship at Amherst in high esteem and I must say you have let me down with both the stereotyping and weak analysis of this piece.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 21:08

To "when did participation in..." Couldn't agree more. We need to start cutting our athletic programs one by one. Eventually, there will be none left and finally Amherst can be a better place. Go Jeffs!

Anon (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 21:43

Did you just seriously say that 30 lacrosse players at Duke go largely unnoticed? You're right, haven't heard anything out of the Duke lacrosse players, especially related to this topic...

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 02/14/2013 - 21:47

Professor Dumm,

You stated, "And, while I do not know because I don’t have access to the budget for the athletic department, my eyes tell me as I drive down Route 9, that we are spending more and more money to support a violent sport [football] that inevitably results in brain injuries to at least some of our students." This statement implies that Amherst College is using money in its budget to fund the new construction projects. This is factually not true! According to this article published on the Amherst website

https://www.amherst.edu/aboutamherst/magazine/issues/2012spring/colleger...

The funding for the renovation of Pratt Field and the construction of the new field house "will be paid for entirely with donations." These donations were obtained specifically for this project. Furthermore, the new facilities will be used by both female, and male sports - including but not limited to Football, Women and Men's Soccer, Women and Men's Lacrosse, Track and Field, Rugby and Field Hockey. One last side note, this new complex will allow NCAA competitions in Track and Field to for the first time in over a few decades.

You are inclined to view this as nitpicking at an argument. I merely wanted to bring forth that as a member of the Amherst community we need to solidify our arguments with facts and concrete evidence for every accusation or opinion we have.

Former athlete,... (not verified) says:
Fri, 02/15/2013 - 00:08

Interesting how the rightly-named anti-athletic side of this issue has to couch their argument in intentionally vague terminology such as "looking hard at these issues" or "curiosity about the question," because the things that would make them happiest, such as the disbanding of the football team or the cessation of athletic consideration in admissions (oh what a utopian academic rape-free wonderland the college would be!) would be complete non-starters for anyone with a balanced view of what the best possible college experience should look like.

The committee did their research and found that athletics didn't deserve the shaming that you were hoping for. Get over it.

Here's a hypothesis worth entertaining, as long as we're demanding investigations based on anecdotal evidence from the people we surround ourselves with: What if it's not the athletes but rather the non-athletes, (generally) less socially developed, less sexually experienced, less experienced with alcohol, and experiencing for the first time a level of autonomy and social interaction entirely new to them, that account for more than their share of sexual assaults? So counter-intuitive that's it's obviously true.

One more thing: The idea that sports teams at Amherst represent an oversized influence on campus compared to other colleges is an absolute farce, and perpetuated only by people who have never set foot on any campus other than small division III liberal arts schools.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Fri, 02/15/2013 - 01:53

The new football stadium being built along route 9 was provided for by a donor.

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