Amherst College men’s cross country team on probation after investigation into “vulgar” emails

The college hired a former justice of the state’s highest court to investigate

AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – Amherst college is punishing the men’s cross country team after an investigation into inappropriate online exchanges among team members.

Late Monday night, Amherst College released a statement regarding the team following the investigation that started after an article in the school newspaper alleged a series of inappropriate emails and social media posts were sent around the team.

The college called the exchanges “highly inappropriate” and several individuals have been suspended from varsity athletics for periods ranging from three contests, to the rest of their time at Amherst College. The length of their suspension depends on their involvement with the emails and social media posts.

With the exception of team members who began within the last year, all members of the men’s cross country team will forgo two track meets and may not resume practice until the last week in January. The entire team will also remain on athletic probation for four semesters, through Fall 2018.

The full statement is below:

The Amherst College Department of Athletics today informed current men’s cross-country team members of the actions it is taking as a result of its investigation relating to a series of highly inappropriate online exchanges among team members. When the messages were revealed through a story in an online student publication in early December of last year, the College immediately engaged independent, external investigators to ascertain the facts.

The investigation shows that incoming students were encouraged to participate in the exchange of offensive messages as part of their introduction to the team. The results also show that the level of involvement in the exchanges varied widely from individual to individual, with several engaged in the most active and problematic roles, others less active, and others not active at all. Some stood up to teammates with objections to the content of the messages, but no one reported the problems to the coaches, Director of Athletics, or the Office of Student Affairs. The investigation did not identify any current member of the team as having engaged in criminal misconduct, including sexual assault or illegal drug use.

The Director of Athletics, Don Faulstick, in consultation with the College’s leadership, has decided on athletics sanctions that uphold the College’s values and standards of conduct. His response also accounts for the differences in the nature and extent of involvement by various team members.

Accordingly, the following actions are being taken on the basis of the information available at this time:

Several individuals are suspended from varsity athletics for periods ranging from three athletic contests to the duration of their enrollment at Amherst. These individuals will be required to meet with the Dean of Student Conduct to discuss options for redressing the harm to the individuals and groups targeted in these messages, to the broader community, and to their fellow team members. The investigation identified additional individuals not currently on the team whose actions will be reviewed by the Dean of Student Conduct.

All team members will be required to undergo an educational process determined by the Director of Athletics in consultation with the Office of the Dean of Faculty. As a condition of returning to the team, those who are suspended must also go through this process.

With the exception of team members who entered Amherst in the Fall 2016 or Spring 2017 semesters­­­­, all members of the men’s cross country team—virtually all of whom also participate in indoor track—will forgo two track meets and may not resume practice until the last week in January.

In addition, the men’s cross country team is on athletics probation for four semesters, through the Fall of 2018.

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