Students at the small but elite liberal arts institution Amherst College, in western Massachusetts, were both alarmed and dismayed by an e-mail that went out from dorm advisers last week, warning students that the college’s alumni were a bunch of drunken rapists.
The e-mail, which a spokesperson for the tiny, New England school with a student population under 2,000, said that he e-mail was sent out by accident and was intended as an “internal” communication.
Under the banner of advice on “how best to have a safe and fun homecoming weekend,” the e-mail went on to implore students to “keep an eye out for unwanted sexual advances.” Why? It’s those inebriated, horny almuni.
“A lot of alums come back for Homecoming pretty jaded with the bar scene and blind dating of the real world and are eager to take advantage of what they now perceive to be an ‘easy’ hook-up scene back at Amherst,” the e-mail said. “Also, many alums tend to be pretty drunk all weekend long. Alert your residents to this unfortunate combination and keep an eye on your friends, your residents, and yourself.”
Some students were most offended not by the characterization of Amherst alums as binge-drinking sexual predators, but by what they saw as the implied suggestion that women were responsible for not getting raped — as opposed to holding men responsible for committing rape.
“It’s so disillusioning how Amherst continues to task women with the burden of not being raped rather than imagining and creating a world in which women can walk around this campus on Homecoming without having to guard themselves from being assaulted,” Dana Bolger, an Amherst senior and campus anti-sexual violence activist told Newsweek magazine. “It’s 2013, but with emails like that, it doesn't really feel like it.”
Other students brushed off the controversy.
Class of 2015 member Julia Edholm told the Springfield Republican newspaper that she did not read the memo as saying that women were responsible for their own rapes, while another student who asked not to be named said that the school was in a tough spot because if it tries to warn students about the danger of sexual assault, it risks appearing as if it is blaming victims.
A school spokesperson, Peter Rooney, further aggravated the situation, telling Newsweek, the memo was simply meant to, “ensure a safe and festive Homecoming weekend,” adding, “with the exception of Amherst losing the football game, that’s exactly how the weekend turned out to be!”
Amherst President Biddy Martin later apologized for the e-mail and deemed Rooney’s remarks “inadequate.”
Though Amherst is a small school, its alumni roster is more than impressive, including three Nobel Prize winners, 12 Pulitzer Prize winners, one U.S. president and dozens of other notables, such as novelists David Foster Wallace, Dan Brown and Harlan Coben, movie director David O. Russell and Boston Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington.
SOURCES: Newsweek, Springfield Republican, Wikipedia