Men’s Lacrosse Members Involved in Racist Incident

Three people — all members of men’s lacrosse — chanted the n-word outside of a Black lacrosse player’s suite on March 7. Provoked, the Black lacrosse player punched one of the teammates chanting the n-word. The Black lacrosse player and the person he was with were the only two Black people in the suite at the time, The Student confirmed with five people with knowledge of the situation. 

This is the second publicly-addressed hate incident within the last year that has involved men’s lacrosse players. Last spring, The Student reported on an incident that took place at a December 2018 men’s lacrosse party during which a swastika was drawn on an unconscious student’s forehead and then circulated on men’s lacrosse players’ social media.

Dean of Students Liz Agosto sent an email on March 9 notifying students of “an altercation between two students involving the use of racist language and subsequent physical violence.” The email did not provide further details of what happened. 

“It is important for us to recognize and acknowledge that both the use of racial epithets on our campus and physical violence cause harm not only to the individuals involved but to the community as a whole,” Agosto wrote in her email to students. 

The Black Students Union dedicated its meeting on Tuesday night to discussing the incident. 

The Student reached out to Director of Athletics Don Faulstick, Senior Associate Dean of Students Dean Gendron and Chief Student Affairs Officer Karu Kozuma for comment. No one responded by press time. At this time, The Student has been unable to confirm the disciplinary action taken. Last year, after the anti-Semitic incident was made public, men’s lacrosse still participated in matches and went on to compete in the NCAA national championships. 

On March 10, the men’s lacrosse team traveled to Endicott College to compete in its regularly scheduled game. The team will participate in an impromptu intrasquad scrimmage tomorrow so that the team, particularly seniors, will be able to play before departing campus indefinitely after the suspension of all spring sports due to the college’s COVID-19 response. Due to the confidential nature of this ongoing investigation through the Office of Student Affairs, The Student has refrained from publishing the names of the people involved.

President Biddy Martin learned about the incident on March 8, she told The Student in a statement. “It’s essential that we get more information and get to the bottom of what happened,” Martin said. “It is not tolerable to have a racist slur used against anyone. In fact, I can think of no legitimate reason why any white person would use it, whether it is directed at a specific person or not. I don’t believe anyone will face consequences until the facts are known.”

The incident, it appears, risks becoming swept under the rug in light of recent events involving COVID-19 and major changes to the structure of the campus. Agosto’s responsibility is now “focused on our COVID response,” she told The Student. Student Affairs, however, is working with Amherst College Police Department and talking with the students involved so “we can manage impact.” 

“That doesn’t stop just because we’ve made this announcement [to send students home],” Agosto said. “That is the business of the institution, and that doesn’t stop happening because we think many of our students will be leaving in a week … But we have had to shift priorities and focus on what are the primary things that we are working on, and so for me, the two things are COVID and individual student and community crisis care … Everything else we will get to in a minute.” When The Student asked Martin about follow-up on the incident after the sit-in on the night of March 9 and the morning of March 10, Martin said that “in every spare moment that we’ve had [between COVID-19 response planning], we’ve returned to get information from each other about this incident, so that is the top of mind.”

Editor’s note: This story is evolving, and further reporting about the administration’s response and the disciplinary action faced by the students responsible for hurling hateful language is forthcoming. Stay tuned for updates from The Student regarding this story’s development.  

Olivia Gieger ’21 and Henry Newton ’21 contributed reporting to this article.