EJ Mills, Head Football Coach at Amherst College, writes in response to “Elephant in the Room”
I write this letter in response to the “Elephant in the Room.” I have dedicated the past 25 years of my life to coaching football and consider it an honor to coach the young men at Amherst College. Football at Amherst maintains a storied tradition of excellence. It has been my extreme pleasure to follow in the footsteps of the legendary coach James Ostendarp. My role as a coach extends far beyond the gridiron. Coaches are educators and help to shape the character of their scholar-athletes with every interaction. In my opinion, athletics serve as an extension of the classroom and provide a vehicle for our students to aspire to be the very best people, students and athletes that they can become. Each scholar-athlete must feel my support for all of their endeavors during their time at the college. I view each of them as remarkable ambassadors for Amherst College and most certainly view them as students first and athletes second. It is their acumen and their perseverance that have landed them at Amherst College. I consider it an incredible honor to be their coach and will continue to stand by them as we labor together to improve the culture at Amherst College.
Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It is imperative that we seek a higher road for this discussion. Is it not our job as educators to forge a path that avoids ugly stereotypes and narrow classification boxes? Amherst College is intimate enough in size that such direct verbal insults are inflammatory and create bias that only exacerbates a division among us.
I applaud Professor Margaret Hunt and the entire Oversight Committee for their tireless work on a complex issue. Their findings implore the campus community not to point fingers — but beckon us to each look inside ourselves to discover a way to be part of the solution. The report challenges each of us — administrators, faculty, staff and students — to become better bystanders. Actions speak volumes; we must redefine what behavior is acceptable in the Amherst culture and begin to act in a way that rids our society of misogyny and sexual misconduct. Now is the time for honest discussion, not sweeping generalizations. Tolerance and “respect for persons” are essential core values for Amherst College. I ask that we let go of the labels and the stereotypes and welcome each individual as they are and support them during their journey of learning. We all become educators when we encourage one another to become our best self.