Inclusivity and Participation
Issue   |   Wed, 03/07/2012 - 01:12

I would like to discuss the school-wide email chain dilemma. On Saturday two emails were sent to a school-wide chain advertising sporting event. The hockey team was in the semi-finals of the NESCAC championships and the basketball team was in the first round of NCAAs. Matt Fernald ’13 responded in a very provocative manner ultimately stating that this “spamming” was not only an inconvenience for him, but it also caused him to lose respect for those who sent it. In response, several other students sent emails that were extremely negative and even offensive. This then sparked administration to warn against sending out emails to the whole school and stating that disciplinary action could be taken for those using this privilege.

I understand why the administration took the steps they did because the responses to the original email were offensive and needed to be condemned. However, all of the emails leading up to the original provocative statement were a very positive, inclusive part of Amherst College. They encouraged school spirit and camaraderie between students. It is one of the few all-inclusive aspects of the Amherst social life.

Last year, these same emails invited other students to these same social events and went to the same 150 students. While some of these emails may have implied consumption of alcohol, those who choose not to partake in these activities or attend sporting events, can easily just delete the email or even mark it as spam. They will never have to deal with this type of invite again.

While the direction the thread has gone in because of the original email has turned very negative, I still believe that access to a school wide email list for students was a positive resource and could be restored to its once inclusive, constructive position. Though some of the emails sent on this chain were about sporting events or lost electronics, it has also been used positively, such as an email from the Student Health Educators encouraging positive body image.

This conflict has caused stereotypes and drawn lines between Amherst social groups. Now it has become almost a feud against athletes, regardless of the fact that none of the aggressive responses to the original email were even from athletes. We all know that Amherst is a top tier school, being an athlete is not mutually exclusive with intelligence, just as going to parties is not mutually exclusive with being friendly and open to others. I personally am a three-season athlete. I am also a tour guide, and on my tours I tell people that my favorite part of Amherst College is the feeling of camaraderie and openness of the students. I work in a neuroscience lab, tutor other students and am part of a bible study, and I also consider myself friendly with Fernald, who wrote the original incendiary email. I have friends who are varsity athletes who also sing in A capella groups, participate in community service and even know of several varsity athletes who graduated phi beta kappa. The point is, Amherst is a small school with a lot to offer; we have just as strong extracurricular activities in music, acting, dancing, religion, community service and many other categories as we do in athletics.

The administration, in sending such a generic condemnation of the email chain has really sold itself short. One of the greatest aspects of Amherst is that the administration not only encourages camaraderie between students, but it also tries to engage students from different social groups to come together.

By denouncing the usage of the email chain, students cannot advertise their extracurricular endeavors and achievements to the entire student body. The actions of the very few members of the student body who responded in a negative manner resulted in the punishment of everyone. We are adults and the actions of a few should not penalize the future of the whole student body.

In conclusion, while I do not agree with any of the confrontational emails that were sent, I believe that overall use of the all school email chain is an advantageous resource that can and should be used in many positive ways.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 03/07/2012 - 11:58

"By denouncing the usage of the email chain, students cannot advertise their extracurricular endeavors and achievements to the entire student body."

In my 3.5 years at the college, I do not recall ever having received a mass e-mail from students for this purpose. The only mass e-mails I have received are from people advertising parties or sporting events, and doing so rather unprofessionally. The fact of the matter is that I, like all the other students on campus, get many e-mails everyday. Many of these e-mails are irrelevant and I delete them immediately, but I have to waste time in doing so, so you can imagine why I, like others, might not particularly like getting spam mail from students who feel the need to tell me, someone who they likely don't know, about a party I don't care about. For the record, I agree 100% with Mr. Fernald - he did not say anything wrong. I don't think his e-mail was at all "provocative" - it merely expressed something that many of us feel.

John (not verified) says:
Wed, 03/07/2012 - 13:28

I agree that Fernald's e-mail was unnecessarily harsh, but I also think that if you're going to tout athletes' intelligence, you should make sure your letter to the editor is grammatically correct.

'12 (not verified) says:
Wed, 03/07/2012 - 14:43

As a senior, I am shocked by the level of vitriol in nearly all campus debates this year. I don't know if this is a product of Amherst admissions letting in more opinionated people, or if the underlying tensions between groups on the Amherst campus has just boiled over. But I do know that now, for nearly all debates, campus dialogue hits a tone that was previously reserved for Hillel-SJP spats. The disrespectfulness on the part of Fernald AND his attackers in an all-school chain is all too reflective of that. The all-school e-mals were not a big deal. They were maybe 3 or 4 each week, and they were reserved for important events. Most of all, they were cheerful, and all it took to get rid of them was one click of a button. It is sad that because people who decided to show the entire school their jerkitude (is that a word?) and intolerance, we have now lost this great resource. Shame on those who bring Amherst down to the combative, competitive atmosphere of a high-pressure Ivy.

Jeremy (not verified) says:
Wed, 03/07/2012 - 14:46

I personally found nothing wrong with Fernald's email. He tried to strike a humorous note while making clear how hundreds of students feel about the mass emails: they are, for the most part, self-serving spam and do nothing to endear us to the various sports teams advertising their games. I completely agree with Matt's sentiment that those emails actually made me lose respect for the sports teams in question. In fact, had I been able to reply to more than 500 recipients on Gmail, I would have asked that people cease using the mass emailing list myself.

"By denouncing the usage of the email chain, students cannot advertise their extracurricular endeavors and achievements to the entire student body."

This is completely untrue. Somehow, I have managed to go through 7 semesters here finding out about the events I want to go to through reading posters in public areas, reading the weekly e-digest, checking Facebook events, and checking schedules on the Amherst website. I have been a member of 4 music groups and a few other student groups and never have I felt the need to send an email to every person in the school, even when attendance was below expectation. There is nothing 'inclusive' about mass emailing the school and turning people off.

"none of the aggressive responses to the original email were even from athletes"

I'm sorry but that is a complete lie. In fact, I looked up those individuals and 4 of the 5 emails were from people on the rosters of varsity sports teams at Amherst. I understand that you don't want the athlete vs non athlete gap to continue to grow, but lying certainly does not help you cause and insults our intelligence.

You claim to have all of these friends in different groups: Can you imagine how many emails you would get if every student group sent out an email advertising their event? Case in point, a couple weekends ago, there were 4 performing arts events on the same evening within the same 3 hour time frame. Add in other student groups, sports teams, etc--you get the idea. I, for one, do not want to get an additional 5-10 emails a day and I'm sure anyone who uses the default email program would not want to have to delete those emails as well.

Again, I understand that you don't want further stereotyping to occur. But let's be realistic: nothing quite reinforces stereotypes like advertising for "fan appreciation" and mass emails that begin with "that shit was cray."

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 03/07/2012 - 19:09

oh god forbid you all have to delete a couple extra emails from your inbox. we all know how much of a premium email storage comes at

maybe you should embrace the fact that people are inviting you to have fun, i don't know. i can't even imagine being so petty that a few extra emails i have to delete would actually bother me. i'm not even on campus this semester and i don't care

what is wrong with you people

Daniel Diner (not verified) says:
Wed, 03/07/2012 - 20:46

This really doesn't merit any debate. I can't believe there were any, let alone two articles about this. We have a right not to be spammed. Facebook's latest widgets make advertising for things like this easier than ever. Matt's email was hillarious. What is there left to be discussed?

I already spoke with one of the guys on the chain and he apologized. They weren't ill-willing - they just wanted to invite people to their party. The method by which they did so was just unprofessional. They have since stopped using the chain. What is the problem?

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Wed, 03/07/2012 - 21:11

The problem is that other people are trying to revive this chain. There should not be an unauthorized campus-wide listserv.
1. Amherst email accounts have limited storage space. Yes, one could forward emails to other accounts, like Gmail. However, sending messages from multiple email addresses can be confusing to recipients, which should be avoided when applying to internships or jobs. If one's mailbox goes over the limit, even over the course of a few hours, someone might miss important messages (class assignments, on-campus jobs, internship or job interviews, etc.).
2. The abuse of the email list is not limited to sports teams. For example, a group of first year RC's used the list to advertise an instance of community service. While it's great to have people attend both sporting and service events, no one should have used that chain, including the author of this article when she misplaced her belongings.
3. As the author points out, there are a large number of teams, clubs, organizations, and events on campus. To receive frequent emails about all of these happenings would not amount to a few emails per day. If there was an invite and a reminder for every occurrence, there would be hundreds of emails each week. Unlike Val and, for the most part, Facebook, many students use their email accounts for predominantly academic and professional purposes. (Additionally, students advertising events are not equivalent to department coordinators or other staff members, who have authorization to send campus-wide emails.) Receiving emails about every event would be more than annoying and a show of disrespect for the privacy of others. It would fill up people's mailboxes to a level that could be very detrimental if they miss other emails.
4. The tone of Matt's email was unnecessarily sarcastic. Yet, if someone asks to stop receiving emails, others should oblige. One might consider his complaint to be unwarranted, but one should remove his name regardless. Both the people who sent campus-wide emails and those who continue to defend the listserv's existence should respect the requests of others, particularly while the school's current policy remains on the books.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sun, 03/11/2012 - 13:08

petty is the right word for fernald's e-mail and dan's sentiments. there are maybe a couple e-mails a week and I was happy to get them. sports games aren't always well-adverstised and i think there was a direct correlation from the e-mails to the great crowds at a few basketball games. go whine about something more important than having to delete e-mails. or get g-mail where it threads them all together