Letters to the editor
By The members of the Black Men's Group; The members of the Amherst Feminist Aliance; Sidman '06; Liron
Article sparked needed dialogue
We are writing this letter in regards to your Oct. 2 article on Amherst's number one black graduation rate ranking ("Graduation rate of black students best in country"). This article was highly inspirational and we feel that the professors, administration and especially the students that are behind this statistic should all be commended. This high graduation rate is a testament to the quality of Amherst as an institution as well as the quality of the students who compose it. We feel, however, that the focus in the end should not solely be on graduation and matriculation, but more so on the entire four-year experience of black students in particular and of all students in general. Matriculation and graduation represent only the beginning and the end of this entire experience.

The statistics of this report on graduation, as well as the annual statistics on diversity in first-year classes, have shown how much improvement has occurred in these areas, but what is more pertinent is what happens to black students after they matriculate. What programs and resources are available to students? Can Amherst be described as an environment that stimulates the intellectual, social and spiritual growth of all its students? Do black students feel they are considered an integral part of the college community? What skills do black students feel they have obtained upon graduating from Amherst? Do black students have a clear line of communication with the faculty in regards to their education? What are both faculty and students doing to improve communication? How does Amherst compare to other colleges in regards to each of these questions? The answers to these questions, in the end, are what is pertinent.

We feel that an article that addresses each of these questions as well expounds on other related issues would be very helpful to the whole College community. This article would have, unlike the last article, more interviews with professors and students. The administration is an important part of any such discussion, but the main focus should be on the professors and especially on the students. Students are the individuals on the front lines and it's their efforts that are inevitably necessary for their success. The relationships they possess with the professors are also a very important element of their success, and thus need to be elaborated.

Thank you for publicizing this great achievement of the College and its students. Hopefully with your help and the continued efforts of the students, professors and administration, you will be able to continue to publicize such announcements in the future. But we feel this will only be possible if we focus our efforts on the present: the four-year experience of Amherst students. Hopefully, again with our joint efforts, we can make this experience as effective and as uplifting as possible.

The members of the Black Men's Group

Women's issues merit attention
There has never been a more important time than today to think about women's reproductive rights. According to the Civil Liberties and Public Policy and NARAL websites, Bush's reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule eliminates all U.S. funding to international family planning programs that even provide information about abortion. The Hyde Amendment denies women federal Medicaid funding for abortions that affect the lives of poor women, young women and women of color. Reproductive rights are threatened by the possible appointment of anti-choice justices to the Supreme Court. Such appointments will threaten pro-choice legislation all the way back to Roe v. Wade. Internet sites contain "hit lists" of abortion providers. Waiting periods, informed consent requirements, bans on public funding and insurance prohibitions are designed to deter women from choosing abortion and to make it more difficult for those women who do.

It is for all of these reasons that the Amherst Feminist Alliance (AFA) is hosting the 2002 National Young Women's Day of Action, this Thursday, October 24. The Day of Action is a nationwide effort to ensure women's rights, especially reproductive rights, across race, age and class lines. This year, the AFA is sponsoring the Hanger Project and informational tabling. On Oct. 24, wire hangers will be hung around the Valentine Quad containing facts about reproductive rights. Wire hangers are a symbol of a time in which women could not receive safe abortions and had to resort to drastic measures. The purpose of the Hanger Project is twofold: to provide information about reproductive rights and to memorialize any woman whose rights have been violated.

According to the National Abortion Federation, by age 45, 43 percent of the women in America will have had an abortion. The AFA supports a woman's right to an abortion and will never stop fighting for choice.

The members of the Amherst Feminist Alliance

Continue practice in the off-season
The recent decision by the NESCAC presidents to ban "captain's practices," as outlined in "NESCAC puts stop to captain's practices" (Oct. 9) was an ill-conceived idea. The ruling prevents varsity athletes from practicing with their teammates during the off-season. The decision stemmed from an incident involving a Colby ice hockey player who was not wearing a helmet during an informal practice and sustained serious injuries. While I can understand the presidents' concern over students' safety, one person's thoughtless actions should not result in a blanket restriction for varsity athletes. The majority of athletes exercise sound judgment with regard to off-season activity.

In general, athletes use the informal practices to better prepare themselves for the coming season. By practicing during the off-season, athletes are able to strengthen muscles for the season and thus help prevent injuries during the season. The off-season practices also serve to ensure higher quality games during the season. Simply put, the longer a team practices together, the better they play. It is much more enjoyable for fans to watch a game played at a high level than to see a sloppily played match. Off-season practicing also helps foster team unity and friendships that enrich the College community as a whole.

Additionally, the decision unfairly targets varsity athletes. Other students participating in club sports are not subject to this restriction. They could just as easily get injured as varsity athletes; in fact, some club sports such as skiing are arguably more dangerous than some varsity sports. Consequently, this action infringes on the rights of varsity athletes to practice freely together, while allowing other students participating in club sports to have complete freedom regarding playing together.

There is also a problem with enforcement of this rule. It is unrealistic to believe that athletic directors would be able to constantly monitor teams to make sure that they are abiding by these rules. As a result, while some colleges may strictly adhere to the ban, others may completely ignore it. This would give some schools an unfair competitive advantage.

I strongly urge the NESCAC presidents to put more trust in their varsity athletes and reconsider their stance on this issue.

Melissa Sidman '06

Speakers' hidden purpose
Those who missed "Living in Terror," the speeches of the three Israeli students on Oct. 9, flown here on monies of various groups who refer to themselves, in full condescension, as "pro-Israel," were saved from considerable embarrassment. One student's main message, according to him, was that Israelis were just like "us," by which he meant that they went to school, parties and trips abroad, with the exception that they did all this under the shadow of terror. What the audience realized, and the speakers apparently missed, was that this truth emphasized how Palestinians were utterly unlike "us." They live in terror, too, but while "we" carry on with some dignity, it paralyzes them.

In an attempt to garner pathetic sympathy from post-9/11 American students, they ended up flaunting their privileges. If they were truly pro-Israel, they would have confronted their self-imposed segregation as hostile conquistadors among hostile aboriginals. They preferred rather to mark themselves as victims. Even the barrage of Israeli flags decorating Johnson Chapel could not cover the nakedness of their purpose.

Tal Liron '03

Gun control is not the solution
I found some of the reasoning lacking in "Cease fire: Stopping killings at their source," (Oct. 9). It is terrifying to know that some maniac out there is killing innocents at the pull of a trigger. Guns, however are not the problem; immoral, desperate or mentally unstable individuals are. Inaccurate portrayal of statistics aside, the second amendment is as applicable today as it was when the Founding Fathers were still alive. Guns protect individuals from the tyranny of the government such as the case in the L.A. Riots. Where were the police when blacks pillaged Korean stores or when Filipinos' homes were broken into? In addition, it is vital to carry guns in areas where law enforcement officers are scarce.

Banning the use of guns will not deter violent crimes, but increase them when potential offenders realize that homes and property are unprotected. If gas station attendants weren't armed, then robbery would likely increase dramatically. Over 70 percent of guns used in violent crimes are obtained by illegal measures or sources. Banning guns or encouraging stricter enforcement of current gun laws will not stop any determined offender to find a means to kill.

We need a society that faces the fact that people can be dangerous when warranted. Instead of debating about our gun policy, maybe we should start focusing on what causes gun-related crimes such as abject poverty, illiteracy and the breakdown of families. Then maybe, just maybe, we can begin to have a meaningful debate.

David Eng '05

Issue 07, Submitted 2002-10-22 12:38:51