Inclusivity and Participation

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.