December 20, 2016
Dear Faculty, Staff, Students, Alumni, and Parents,
As the fall semester comes to a close, I write to wish all of you a restful and enjoyable holiday season. There are too few opportunities in our accelerated lives to be fully present to one another, to read, to wonder, to play, and to reflect. I hope you get a chance to do all of those things over the next couple of weeks and into the new year.
The end of this semester has been marred for many by reports of troubling behavior on men’s athletics teams at several colleges and universities, including one at Amherst. Given the growing number of such reports across the country, I worry that the problem may extend to other teams and that there will be more revelations—here and elsewhere. I am concerned that there may be groups beyond varsity athletics that engage in similar forms of “bonding” through behavior that involves ridicule, denigration, and vulgarity. Condemning such behavior and holding those who are involved accountable is a necessary but not a sufficient response. In this letter I want to reflect on the larger question of how we build positive forms of community.