An Open Letter to Professor Thomas Dumm
No thoughtful, sane person can or would deny that the recent allegations of sexual misconduct at Amherst are shocking, alarming and truly awful. Like many members of our community, my heart breaks for each and every victim of such senseless, horrendous violence, and it is my sincerest hope that each individual receives every measure of care and attention they need and that those responsible are dealt with fairly, swiftly and severely. Now what comes next might shock professor Dumm, but I am a male student-athlete at Amherst.
Is it true that male student-athletes have committed some of these atrocious crimes? Yes. Does this, however, provide a justification for professor Dumm’s irresponsible, ignorant and libelous article? No. Amherst College, like many institutions of higher learning, provides a wonderful platform for informed intellectual discourse. It is perhaps Amherst’s last great remaining attribute that small groups of students are encouraged to engage in debate with world-renowned professors in an intimate setting. However, there is no place at our institution for such petty, unproductive and offensive diatribes like that produced by Professor Dumm. Professor Dumm’s argument should be grouped with those that believe that stereotypes and vast, overarching generalizations are productive analytical tools. My question to professor Dumm is this: If Muslim terrorists attacked the United States on 9/11, and statistics suggest that Muslim individuals are more prone to violence against our country; does that mean that all Muslims are a threat to our national security? Should the United States deport or kill all its Muslim citizens? Should it falsely accuse and openly target all of them for the actions of a select few? If certain ethnic or socioeconomic groups are statistically shown to commit more crimes should every man, woman and child of those races and classes be condemned as a criminal? Should they all be publically humiliated? After reading his musings, I am unclear as to what professor Dumm’s response would be, but as an educated person, mine would surely be a resounding “no.” Perhaps Professor Dumm wishes to argue that the violent nature of sports produces individuals more prone to committing these types of heinous crimes. Ostensibly, this is a perfectly valid hypothesis; however, Amherst’s most publicized sexual misconduct incident occurred between two members of the track team, and though I have not attended a meet in a while, I am fairly certain track is utterly devoid of anything remotely resembling violence. Not only was his evidence minimal and largely anecdotal, he was unwilling to do basic research to support his egregious claims. It is disappointing that a respected professor could be so out of touch that he is incapable of doing his own homework. It begs the question: does professor Dumm even care about uncovering the truth, or does he have ulterior motives? As is clearly stated on Amherst’s website for all to see, (https://www.amherst.edu/aboutamherst/magazine/issues/2012spring/colleger…), anonymous donors paid for the entire renovation of the 121-year old Pratt field and the Neuhoff-Lumley Track complex. The large structure to which the professor irreverently refers will house several women’s teams and other men’s teams in addition to the football team. I believe that it was a truly selfless, philanthropic act on behalf of these football donors to build a facility large enough to house teams with which they are not associated. The generosity does not stop there. In addition to his donation, the football team’s donor was required to donate a sum equal to the renovation costs to the school’s general endowment, which helps pay the salaries of professors like professor Dumm. This is standard procedure for athletic donations to the college. Perhaps professor Dumm is right, perhaps Amherst, home to the oldest athletics program in the nation, should allow its infrastructure to crumble before its eyes and turn away loyal alumni who are eager to give their time and money to help us remain competitive. If Professor Dumm had cared enough to do his due diligence, he might also have uncovered that Middlebury, a chief academic and athletics rival, has already broken ground on a 100,000 square foot field house, while our facilities remain so woefully inadequate they could hardly support a small high school athletics program.
Professor Dumm’s irresponsible rumination is also devoid of any acknowledgment of the good Amherst’s athletics teams do every day, and many of my peers an me, this is outrageous and utterly offensive. One hundred percent of the College’s student-athletes perform community service as part of their athletic commitment. Student-athletes are required to meet GPA standards to compete and are subjected to drug testing and team imposed alcohol restrictions in season. Drugs and alcohol are at the heart of this issue, and athletics continually stem the tide of substance abuse in ways that professor Dumm fails to mention. Not only do our student athletes meet these extra requirements, their teams also serve to unite our campus, a vital function that cannot be overstated at a college that rightly treasures its diversity. Diversity initiatives and workshops often do not attract members from the different social strata on our campus, mainly because they are forced. Athletics, however, has the unique ability to bring students from every ethnic and socioeconomic background together and to remind us of our common humanity and the unique bond we all share as Lord Jeffs.
I agree that we, as student athletes, can do much more to stem the tides of this malignant, pervasive force on campus. As visible members of the community, we are obligated to speak out against sexual misconduct, and we need to do so more often and louder. We also must make it clear to the victims that we love and support them, even and especially if their allegations are directed at one of our teammates. That we can fix, but the solution is not to destroy our athletics department or to publically slander our students in a manner that is highly inappropriate and offensive. The solution is to look at both sides of the argument, evaluate them and embrace the complexity of this issue judiciously and magnanimously, not to enforce stereotypes with vitriol and ill intent. Also, though I am certain professor Dumm had only the best interests of the victims in mind, publically making such derisive statements is, in fact, injurious to those affected. Condemning athletics and all athletes merely serves to divide our campus, and indirectly deprive the victims of the potential support they could be receiving from the Amherst athletics community — support they deserve. Therefore, on behalf of all student-athletes at Amherst, who now, thanks to professor Dumm’s article, stand to face additional unwarranted scrutiny from potential employers and graduate school admissions committees, I would like to ask Professor Dumm for an apology. Our campus does not have room for otherization, stereotyping and bullying, and a well-respected, well-liked professor should not have to be reminded of this. In closing, I have a message to every Lord Jeff out there: Whether you don a purple uniform on the weekends or whether the classroom is your favorite playing surface, let’s come together as a community and fix our problems with love and cooperation, not ignorance and disdain.