A Letter of Clarification for Amherst Alumni, Family, and Friends
To Amherst alumni, family, and friends:
At this point in time, given the conclusion of the sitin and the current effort to restructure the "Amherst Uprising" movement and its leadership, it is necessary and much overdue to provide some clarifications and updates to supporters and interested parties:
The movement began on Thursday, November 12th, at 1 pm. In light of recent events on campuses nationwide (e.g. Mizzou and Yale), three women of color organized a "sitin" in Frost Library that was only supposed to last one hour. However, as students, faculty, staff, and administrators gathered, it quickly evolved. The sitin developed into a forum in which students began to share their stories and experiences of racism and marginalization on campus. Students spoke for hours, as their peers, classmates, friends, professors, deans, librarians, and counselors listened, and joined with them in tears, laughter, and solemnity at the unpleasant experiences they have gone through while at Amherst and beyond.
While this forum went on, a group of students decided to make a list of "demands" in
which they enumerated the changes they wanted the administration to make to ensure a more
inclusive environment for minority and marginalized students on campus. A group of at least
fifty student leaders and representatives met together to discuss these demands to present to
President Martin. President Martin could not attend the sitin
initially because she was travelling
on business for the College. Upon hearing what was happening, she cancelled her trip, arriving at
campus around 9:30 pm. When she arrived, this group of students presented these demands,
urging her to consider the systemic problems that isolate students of color, as well as other
marginalized groups, and to join us in making changes. At the same time, a group of three
students, unrelated to this leadership group, declared they were going on a hunger strike. They
have since retracted their strike in agreement that it distracted from the larger movement.
The demands included a timeline for President Martin in which students wanted to see
changes initiated. Students decided that until these demands were met or initiated, they would continue their sitin
in Frost. However, these students made the list of demands in haste. The
group responded with urgency and emotion; they also did not intend this list of demands to be
the final list or the end of student efforts to bring about structural and social change on campus.
However, this group presented their demands in Frost in a very public way, which gave the
impression the demands were final and nonnegotiable.
This was not the case.
On Friday, six students met with President Martin. As intended, a conversation began to
address the sentiment of the demands in a more realistic way. After reflecting on the demands,
students realized their goals would be best met by collaboration with administrators, faculty, and
staff over an extended period of time, rather than through immediate action.
On the afternoon of Sunday, November 15, President Martin sent out an email to students,
faculty, staff, and alums. Her email offered clarification and hope. Given this response to some
of the demands, the sitin
ended. That same night, students met to figure out how to restructure
the movement in order to create more thoughtful shortterm
goals, and more
clearly, more permanent leadership structures. The students want to keep the spirit of the
demands, but acknowledge the need for revision and thoughtfulness. As an important note, the
movement, both at its inception and now, by no means intends to stifle free speech. Such
allegations are misinformed and misguided.
Going forward, the movement is making necessary changes. Students involved in the sitin
are grateful for the outpouring of support they have received from professors, faculty, staff, and
alums. On campus, the desire for positive change and inclusivity remains. Amherst Uprising
strives to make Amherst a safe and supportive space for students from all backgrounds,
maintaining an academic culture that enables students to think critically, learn from their
mistakes, and further develop as leaders who will proudly represent Amherst well beyond
graduation. Please look forward to more information which will be shared on our Facebook page, our website, or our Twitter.
Please see this timeline for a more detailed account of the past week.
Our Immediate Demands
We, Students of Amherst College, refuse to accept the negative social climate created towards our peers of color and other marginalized groups. We have begun this movement, Amherst Uprising, in an effort to change the status quo for a more just and inclusive environment within our campus. We demand that Amherst become a leader in the fight to promote a better social climate towards individuals who have been systematically oppressed. Student leaders acknowledge and support the demands previously stated and currently being presented. Furthermore, we demand the College acknowledge its ethical and moral responsibilities as an institution and community of our world. Amherst College should not be complicit in oppressive organizations and systems, no less.
We as a compassionate student body have gathered to address the legacy of oppression on campus. If these goals are not initiated within the next 24 to 48 hours, and completed by November 18th, we will organize and respond in a radical manner, through civil disobedience. If there is a continued failure to meet our demands, it will result in an escalation of our response.
1. President Martin must issue a statement of apology to students, alumni and former students, faculty, administration and staff who have been victims of several injustices including but not limited to our institutional legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism, anti-Latinx racism, anti-Native American racism, anti-Native/ indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Middle Eastern racism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, mental health stigma, and classism. Also include that marginalized communities and their allies should feel safe at Amherst College.
2. We demand Cullen Murphy, Class of 74, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, to issue a statement of apology to students, alumni and former students, faculty, administration, and staff who have been victims of several injustices including but not limited to our institutional legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism, anti-Latinx racism, anti-Native American racism, anti-Native/ indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Middle Eastern racism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, mental health stigma, and classism
3. Amherst College Police Department must issue a statement of protection and defense from any form of violence, threats, or retaliation of any kind resulting from this movement.
4. President Martin must issue a statement of apology to faculty, staff and administrators of color as well as their allies, neither of whom were provided a safe space for them to thrive while at Amherst College.
5. President Martin must issue a statement to the Amherst College community at large that states we do not tolerate the actions of student(s) who posted the ''All Lives Matter'' posters, and the ''Free Speech'' posters that stated that ''in memoriam of the true victim of the Missouri Protests: Free Speech.'' Also let the student body know that it was racially insensitive to the students of color on our college campus and beyond who are victim to racial harassment and death threats; alert them that Student Affairs may require them to go through the Disciplinary Process if a formal complaint is filed, and that they will be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.
6. President Martin must issue a statement of support for the revision of the Honor Code to reflect a zero-tolerance policy for racial insensitivity and hate speech.
7. President Martin must release a statement by Friday, November 13th, 2015 by 5:00pm that condemns the inherent racist nature of the unofficial mascot, the Lord Jeff, and circulate it to the student body, faculty, alumni, and Board of Trustees. This will be followed up by the encouraged removal of all imagery including but not limited to apparel, memorabilia, facilities, etc. for Amherst College and all of its affiliates via a phasing out process within the next year.
8. Dean Epstein must ask faculty to excuse all students from all 5 College classes, work shifts, and assignments from November 12th, 2015 to November 13th, 2015 given their organization of and attendance at the Sit-In.
9. Do not threaten the jobs of the faculty, staff, or administrators that support our list of demands. Such threats will result in an escalation of our response.
10. The Office of Alumni and Parent Programs must send former students an email of current events on campus including a statement that Amherst College does not condone any racist or culturally insensitive reactions to this information.
11. Dean Epstein must encourage faculty to provide a space for students to discuss this week's events during class time.
Please acknowledge that all of these statements of apology are not the end all - that they are only a part of short-term healing and by no means achieve all of the goals we will set forth. We are in the process of finalizing long-term goals which we hope to collaborate on regularly with all members of the community.
By no means does this start/stop with the administration.