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School suspends entire lacrosse team over alleged racist ‘incident’ involving three members

School won’t discuss specifics of case, suspension

Amherst College is remaining largely silent regarding questions related to the suspension of its men’s lacrosse team through the 2021 season, a decision the school said was in response to several “deeply troubling” incidents on campus.

The Massachusetts college published a letter on March 20 explaining the decision. The announcement was signed by President Biddy Martin, Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein and Director of Athletics Don Faulstick. The “incident” that inspired the suspension allegedly “involved the use by some members of the lacrosse team of racist, harassing speech.” That speech reportedly included the racial slur “nigger.”

“When some members of our community demean and harass entire groups and create an unwelcoming environment with their conduct, the College has an obligation to hold them to account. This we will do,” the writers declared.

They added that the incident was “only the most recent in a list of deeply troubling cases involving some team members over the years. Those cases include sharing photos of a teammate with a swastika drawn on his face who had passed out at a party, and GroupMe exchanges denigrating and ridiculing gender-nonconforming and trans staff.”

The Amherst Student reported last month that three members of the lacrosse team “chanted the n-word outside of a Black lacrosse player’s suite” at the beginning of March, after which the black player allegedly assaulted one of the white players.

If true, it is unclear why the entire team was suspended; according to the school’s website, there are fifty lacrosse players at the college. School officials would not answer repeated requests for comment. The College Fix reached out to several staff members including director of athletics Don Faulstick, none of whom responded to requests for comment. All five men’s lacrosse team captains who graduate this year also did not respond to queries regarding the suspension.

Reached via email, campus spokeswoman Caroline Hanna directed The College Fix to a message from President Biddy Martin. Posted a week after the school announced the sanctions against the team, Martin said college officials had identified “three areas” of the school in need of “systemic change,” including “a robust policy and set of procedures for dealing with identity-based discrimination and/or harassment,” a “bias-reporting protocol, which has been the focus of the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion and, when implemented, will include features of the best available models,” and “the development and use of restorative practices, where they are appropriate, to deal with conflict and violations.”

“We can take a number of necessary steps during this very difficult period so that more of what we need is in place in the fall. I am committed to ensuring that we take those steps for the benefit of the entire Amherst community,” Martin said.

School will force diversity training

The school last month outlined several terms of probation for lacrosse teammates. Players will be given the chance to play by Spring 2021 if they follow certain requirements of the college. This fall, every team member will take an education program “in consultation with the chief diversity and inclusion officer and the director of athletics.”

No “formal” team gatherings will take place until November, meanwhile, and the team is forbidden from participating in NCAA postseason play next year.

“[W]e have also concluded that a change in leadership for the lacrosse team will be necessary,” the letter read. That may have been a reference to the firing of lacrosse coach Jon Thompson, who was dismissed by the school last month. Thompson could not be reached for comment via his school email address, which has been disabled.

The school said it is doing further investigation into the team members and warns that if any player is found guilty under the college’s Student Code of Conduct for disrespect to others, vandalism or sexual misconduct, the team might not play in the spring of 2021 either.

MORE: Women’s soccer team suspended due to ‘blackface’ Halloween costume

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About the Author
Brianna Kraemer -- University of Colorado at Colorado Springs