I am the father of a senior student-athlete (in fact, a football player) at Amherst, and I have just read the opinion piece from Professor Thomas Dumm. I was deeply offended by almost every point raised in his piece and am extremely concerned about the impact that his series of false stereotypes and grossly irresponsible innuendo may have on my son and so many others like him. I am also concerned that such ill-informed statements might taint the perception of a school that we have come to love and respect.
In order to put Professor Dumm’s inferences in some perspective, allow me to posit an equally absurd and potentially damaging comparison. There have been many high-profile stories about teachers and professors around this country engaging in inappropriate relationships with students whom they teach. Would I suggest that there might be a problem with Professor Dumm or his wonderful profession, simply because a number of teachers have behaved so reprehensibly, by taking advantage of their power and influence over their victims? Of course not, since the actions of a very few cannot create such a potentially damaging stereotype regarding such a noble profession. However, Professor Dumm has no problem casting such a wide and clearly damning net over students like my son, just because they choose to play a sport they love.
It is also clear to me that this professor has formed his stereotype based on an absolute failure to investigate the true character of those he assails. In my profession, the law, if I were to engage in such ill-informed and biased hypotheses, I would expect to be censured or at least have my competence and intellectual credibility questioned. It appears that at Amherst, this professor feels that he has a license to attack these students, thereby painting them with scarlet letters — “watch out for those who play team sports at Amherst, as they are all ‘misogynists’, and are likely to sexually assault fellow students.” Incredible.
I ask Professor Dumm to put himself in the shoes of those he attacks in his note. Can you imagine being a student-athlete at Amherst and waking up to read this? I would also ask members of the administration at Amherst to put themselves in the position of parents of these students, who have spent their hard-earned money on a wonderful education, but who now have to read such an attack on so many of their children’s teammates and friends, who they have come to so admire and respect. All this is so very unfair and does a tremendous disservice to these students, their parents and the school itself.
The real tragedy here is that, as we leave Amherst, one of the last, and potentially lasting, impressions we will have of the place is how our son has, by association, been branded as a likely “misogynist” by someone with a warped and apparently deep-seated disdain for student-athletes. How very sad for him — and for Amherst.