The recent articles and campus buzz about the online student community at Amherst encourage me. As the College looks at retiring the VAX system and moving to a newer, more maintainable system, issues of community are ones that should be specifically addressed.
When I made the transition from student to staff member in the fall of 1994, I encountered an online culture shock. I found that there was very little sense of online community within the faculty and staff compared to the very strong online community I had felt among my fellow students.
Online communities can be tenuous, but I think the physicality and reality of Amherst actually serve to strengthen the student online community here rather than make it irrelevant. As a student, online communication (VAX, send, talk, plans) simply became an integral part of my daily routine.
I went to Valentine, I went to class, I logged on to see who was on VAX and talk with them; all were elements of my reality at Amherst. I was surprised to find out as a staff member that this part of the Amherst experience was essentially accidental to the official workings of the College.
The challenge now is for the College, students and administration alike, to recognize the community value of a virtual meeting ground, even at a place like Amherst. I encourage students to get involved with the efforts to continue a uniquely Amherst online community.
More importantly, I encourage students to partake in the vibrant online community you may step into right now, and to remember that the community can and should be stronger than just “the VAX.” As another place to congregate online at Amherst is developed, embrace it.
Cathy Miller ’94
Curricular Computing Specialist
Ads For Teams Are Demeaning
To the Editor:
A new fall sports season is underway, and so is the annual campaign by Amherst’s female athletes to attract fans to their games. Fliers announcing women’s sporting events have been popping up on campus bulletin boards and, inevitably, many of them seem more concerned with celebrating the athletes’ sexy bodies than with advertising the team’s contests: so far this semester, a women’s volleyball poster has featured the headline, “There’s Something About Spandex,” while the women’s tennis team advertisement led off with the words, “Skirts Will Fly.” Posters advertising, “Hot, Sweaty Girls,” which have appeared on campus many times in recent years, cannot be far behind.
This advertising technique is perplexing. For one thing, the signs have become so commonplace that they are neither creative nor funny. For another, they utterly disrespect the female athletes who dutifully tack them up in prominent places.
Women’s sports teams should advertise their athletic ability, not their sex appeal. Doing so would not be difficult; the teams’ accomplishments often speak for themselves. The women’s volleyball team, the Firedogs, reached the NCAA Regional Finals last year and finished 26-7. The women’s tennis team, meanwhile, still includes many of the women who helped win a national championship in the spring of 1999. These are accomplishments that any sports fan can appreciate. But the signs advertising the teams’ games seem to target heterosexual men, not sports fans.
Maybe we understand why female athletes feel the need to brag about their looks. Unfortunately, the stereotype of athleticism as a masculine trait endures. Female models, who are waifish rather than athletic, seem to support the notion that weak is beautiful. It is only natural for female athletes to want to prove that muscles can be sexy, too.
The signs with sexual undertones, however, do not accomplish this goal. By advertising their bodies with prominent headlines, Amherst’s female athletes are stifling their own impressive accomplishments. The fliers make the women seem pathetic, not strong-as though they are begging to be noticed by a male-dominated society.
The women on Amherst’s sports teams have worked extremely hard to become great athletes. Now they need to trust their ability, and realize that people go to their games to see sports, not legs.
David Abramowicz ’01
ASAP Protests Wal-Mart
To the Editor:
On Sept. 26, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) will be meeting yet again. The agenda, protests surrounding the building, and the air of discontent around the meeting will all feel similar to the growing anti-globalization sentiment that this country watched explode in Seattle and Washington, D.C., last year. But this time around, our country’s activists will have to settle for local solidarity movements unless they can afford a plane ticket to Prague, which is where the meetings will be held next week.
The solidarity movement for our area will be held in the parking lot of the local Wal-Mart on Route 9 in Hadley, Mass. Social justice activists from all over western Massachusetts will gather to show their support for the workers inside and outside of Wal-Marts nationwide. Wal-Mart will be held as the exemplar for this event because as the nation’s largest employer and world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart is also notorious for workers’ rights violations. The National Labor Relations Board has filed complaint after complaint against Wal-Mart’s refusal to recognize its workers’ right to unionize and bargain collectively. Besides violating obvious federal law, this retailer also violates workers’ rights across the world by selling products made by sweatshop labor.
The protests in Prague will once again be condemning globalization’s effect on workers’ rights, women’s issues, wealth distribution and the environment. To show the universality of these concerns, we will gather in Wal-Mart’s parking lot to support the workers inside the store and educate the public about the violations that are occurring to the invisible work forces of this world. There will be a “show and tell” session where individuals will hold up items previously purchased from the store and inform the public of the human rights violations that went into those products’ creation.
The protest will be in front of the Wal-Mart at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday. We hope that students will come voice their frustration at the way our world’s most powerful financial institutions are harming people under the far too popular guise of “helping” them.
Julie Ajinkya ’03
Amherst Students Acting Politically