Announcing Martha Umphrey as the New Provost and Dean of the Faculty

April 23, 2024

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

I am very pleased to share the wonderful news that Martha Umphrey, currently the Bertrand H. Snell 1894 Professor in American Government in the Department of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought, has agreed to serve as our new Provost and Dean of the Faculty. Martha, who will assume the position on July 1, succeeds Catherine A. Epstein, who has served truly exceptionally as dean of the faculty since 2014 and provost since 2019. You can read more about Martha’s outstanding credentials—and about Catherine’s accomplishments—in the press release

Martha and I share a vision of Amherst as a dedicated intellectual community of learning where we learn from one another through inquiry and dialogue. She is someone who has demonstrated her commitment to the work of Amherst’s faculty and staff, and she has a keen appreciation for the challenges facing liberal arts institutions at this moment.  I’m excited to begin our partnership.

Welcome to Spring Semester 2024

January 29, 2024

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Happy New Year, and welcome to the spring semester—and to Amherst for those transfer and exchange students who have just arrived. I hope your winter break was restorative and that you are looking forward to the challenges and rewards of the months ahead.

As we begin a new semester with optimism and high expectations, I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge that we do so against the backdrop of ongoing violence in the Middle East and elsewhere, deep political polarization in our own country, and profound mistrust in institutions of higher education. Over the course of the semester, I'll be looking for opportunities to discuss with you how Amherst can navigate this time of challenge.

Announcing the New Amherst Textbook Program

December 19, 2023

Dear Amherst Students,

We are pleased to announce a new textbook program that will provide all enrolled students with the textbooks and course materials required for classes starting in Fall 2024. The program, known as the Amherst College Textbook Solution (ACTS), aims to improve your educational experience and make course materials more accessible and affordable for all students.

ACTS will automatically provide digital or physical course materials for all classes, ensuring that you have the resources you need for your academic success. This program aligns with our commitment to providing equal opportunities for all students, regardless of financial circumstances.

Broadening Perspectives Panel

November 29, 2023

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Like many others, I have been profoundly shaken by the shooting of three college students of Palestinian descent in Burlington, Vermont, on Saturday—a horrific act that reminds us of the vulnerability of Palestinian lives and the real threat of Islamophobia that, like antisemitism, has escalated dramatically in the United States during the last two months.  

Against the backdrop of that violence, many members of our community have continued to work to provide opportunities for us to learn about the conflict in the Middle East and its reverberations here. I write to call your attention to a recently organized panel being held tonight in addition to the Bret Stephens event announced earlier this month. This panel, “Broadening Perspectives on Israel-Palestine,” will take place at 5:30 p.m. at Pruyne Lecture Hall and features Dr. Ahmad Samih Khalidi of the Geneva Center for Security Policy, Hampshire College Professor Omar Dahi, and Professor Christopher Dole of the Department of Anthropology and Sociology.

Reiterating Our Amherst Principles

November 20, 2023

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

As we enter the November break, I want to acknowledge that our sense of community has been challenged by the range of emotions and perspectives we have felt in response to the continuing violence and profound suffering in the Middle East.  

I am going to repeat some of what I have said previously about our principles at Amherst College because they are the absolute foundation of what we do and who we are, and because the tenor and rhetoric of some recent online posts and comments directed at students have violated these principles.

Investing in our Community

October 31, 2023

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

Even as our campus focuses its attention on the tragic violence in Israel and Gaza, the College also remains committed to supporting our local community. Toward that end, I write to let you know that after discussions that have unfolded over the past several months, we announced today a donation to several pillars of that community—namely the Jones Library, Cooley Dickinson Hospital, and the Drake arts and cultural performance venue—as a strategic partner with the Town of Amherst. We continue to work with the Town on a more comprehensive agreement that will include additional support.

Outrage, Grief, and Support in Our Community

October 11, 2023

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, and Families,

As classes resume after fall break, I am writing today to express my outrage and grief at Saturday’s brutal attack by Hamas on Israel and its people. This week, I have been appalled by the images and accounts of the violence and acts of terror against Jewish people and other Israelis. I am also anxious about the potential for further loss of life of Israelis and Palestinians in the coming days and weeks. I share the pain of so many members of the Amherst community, whether they are our faculty, staff, and students on campus—or our alumni and families at a distance.

Message to the Campus Community Regarding Violence in Israel/Gaza

October 10, 2023

Dear Faculty and Staff,

As we return to classes from fall break, we write to share with you the message that Student Affairs sent to all students on Sunday. As you will see from the message, our primary concern is caring for our students at a time when they are processing the horrific news and images of violence coming from Israel and Gaza. We know that this will be a moment of profound anxiety for many of our students—as well as for many of you—and we are also aware that issues regarding Israel and Palestine elicit strong and divided views in our community and worldwide.

Fall Update from Campus 2023

October 5, 2023

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

This glimpse of what was happening on campus as the semester got underway was shared with alumni, families, and other members of our extended community this week. I thought you might like to have a look.

Reckoning with Our Racial History

September 26, 2023

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

As you know, I am committed to reflecting on the College’s history with honesty and intentionality in order to grasp more fully the complex present in which we live. As part of our 2020 Anti-Racism Plan, we launched work on a broad and deep historical study of the College’s ties to slaveholding and capital accumulation connected with slaveholding. While we have learned much about the College’s ties to the slaveholding economy, there is still more to be learned on this topic and regarding the College’s involvement in racial discrimination in the many decades after the Civil War.

An Important Message from Amherst

June 29, 2023

To the Amherst Community:

I am writing to express my grave disappointment in today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding race-conscious admissions practices. This decision has changed the law, but it will not change our commitment to building a student body of diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences, which we believe is vital to our success as a residential living and learning community.

While we have been anticipating and preparing for the Supreme Court’s decision for many months, it will take more time to evaluate its full implications for the College. We remain resolute in our commitment to recruiting a student body that is diverse in all dimensions, in accordance with the law.

Announcing Our New CEIO, Sheree M. Ohen

May 25, 2023

Dear Faculty, Students, and Staff,

I am thrilled to announce that Sheree M. Ohen, most recently the associate dean for equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging at Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, will join the Amherst community as our Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer (CEIO) on June 20.

As CEIO, Sheree will oversee the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which is responsible for leading Amherst’s institutional diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, ensuring compliance with Title IX and other civil rights standards, and partnering with colleagues across campus. She will also serve as a member of my senior staff, and she will help to shape our broader institutional strategy.

Sheree brings a wealth of experience to this important leadership position for the College. At Harvard, she supported a community of more than 15,000 individuals, with a particular focus on partnership building, policy development, diversity training, and institutional accountability. She previously served as chief officer of diversity and inclusion at Clark University and in leadership positions at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the University of California, San Francisco. You can learn much more about Sheree in this morning’s press release.

Campus Safety Advisory Committee Year-End Report

May 16, 2023

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Over the past three years, with engagement from all constituencies, the College has revisited the important and complex question of campus safety, seeking to understand and respond to the range of safety needs and diversity of experiences within our community. Working collectively, we have sought to create a campus safety model that situates safety in the broader context of wellness, connection, belonging, trust, and equity. 

One year ago, the Campus Safety Advisory Committee (CSAC) was formed to review and implement recommendations that emerged from the prior two years of community discussions. Chaired by Angie Tissi-Gassoway, initially in her equity and inclusion leadership role and now as Chief Student Affairs Officer and Dean of Students, CSAC includes student, staff, and faculty representatives, including representatives from the Community Safety Assistant (CSA) team and leadership from the Amherst College Police Department (ACPD), Center for Counseling and Mental Health (CCMH), and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI).

Amherst’s Anti-Racism Plan and Upcoming Campus Events

March 30, 2023

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Since my arrival at Amherst last August, and even before, I have received many questions about my commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our community—both about the progress Amherst has made toward these goals over the last decade and more, and about my own vision, values, and aspirations for how that work will continue and evolve. On each of those occasions, and in the lead-up to our current national search for a new Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, I’ve engaged people on how Amherst is attempting to become a community that is not just demographically diverse, but one in which every member of the student body, the staff, and the faculty feels a true sense of belonging.

I’m writing today to share my thoughts on this work, and also to share an update on the far-reaching and transformational progress we've made on the College’s 2020 Anti-Racism Plan over the last year. I use the 2020 Anti-Racism Plan as a blueprint for our evolving and ongoing efforts, and I encourage you to have a look at our recent accomplishments. (The next update will be in the fall semester.)