Update on Campus Safety Advisory Committee

July 12, 2021

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff, 

I am writing to bring you up to date on the Campus Safety Advisory Committee. As you’ll recall, in my May 10 letter I indicated that I was establishing a process for informing and involving the community in deliberations about what constitutes safety and how best to ensure it on campus. 

Written Comment on the Title IX Public Hearing

June 11, 2021

Via Electronic Mail (T9PublicHearing@ed.gov)

Suzanne B. Goldberg
Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights
Department of Education

Re: Written Comment: Title IX Public Hearing (Title IX Protections Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity)

Dear Acting Assistant Secretary Goldberg:

Amherst College is grateful that the Department of Education has invited public comment on Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 ("Title IX"), specifically regarding the Department’s approach to protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in educational environments. Amherst welcomes this administration’s commitment to clarifying and enforcing the full scope of civil rights and protections for those who suffer discrimination and harassment because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and/or gender expression.

Return to On-Campus Work (Update)

May 17, 2021

Dear Staff and Faculty,

As you know from a previous message, we expect to have a return to in-person teaching and learning when classes begin on August 30. I am writing now with information about plans for your return to campus. Before I share those plans, I want to thank every one of you, again and again, for everything you have done, as individuals, as teams, and as a College-wide staff, to support the mission of the College during an unimaginably difficult period. That our students were able to persist in their studies is a tribute to them, and to you and your dedication to the critical role your work plays in their education.

Today’s Verdict

April 20, 2021

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

A short while ago, jurors found Derek Chauvin guilty of all three charges against him, including the most serious: second-degree unintentional murder while committing a felony. Chauvin’s conviction for the murder of George Floyd is a relief. But the verdicts that were reached today do not bring George Floyd back to life. They do not heal the pain that his family and friends have endured and will continue to bear. They cannot put an end to the anxiety and the anguish that members of our own Black community and other communities of color experience given the surge in white supremacist violence, the many deaths at the hands of police, and the resistance to criminal justice reform in Washington.  

Student Walkout and Demands

April 17, 2021

Dear Students, Staff, and Faculty, 

Many, but perhaps not all of you, are aware of Tuesday’s BlackMindsMatter protest organized by the Black Student Union. Hundreds of students gathered to call attention to the mental health challenges that Black students face by virtue of the two pandemics of COVID-19 and the systemic racism it exposes, as well as the many deaths of Black people at the hands of police over the past year alone. Just two days ago we learned of the fatal shooting of thirteen-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago. 

Letter from Biddy Martin About Fall 2021

April 7, 2021

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, and Families, 

I am writing to share our current thinking for the fall 2021 semester. As many of you know, classes will start on August 30, and we are planning a return to fully in-person teaching and learning for the 2021-2022 academic year. I look forward to this return and know that you do as well.

On the basis of what we are learning from the CDC and other sources of expertise, we anticipate that some health and safety measures may continue to be necessary for the fall. We hope these measures will be mild in comparison to this year’s protocols, but this will depend upon positive developments in the nature of the pandemic over the coming months. As always, we will follow current public health guidelines and make determinations of what we believe is best for the Amherst community to operate as safely and effectively as possible. 

Norm Jones Departure

April 6, 2021

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

This past week, our Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer and valued colleague, Norm Jones, let me know that he will leave his position in May to help lead a foundation that his family has recently established. Among other priorities, the foundation supports Black men pursuing leadership positions in secondary education. It was established to honor the legacy of his maternal great-grandparents. Norm’s grandfather was one of the first Black principals in Gadsden, Alabama. I know you will join me in appreciating this extraordinary opportunity for Norm, congratulating him, and wishing him well as he leads the foundation’s crucial mission in honor of his family’s ongoing legacy.

Events of January 6, 2021

January 7, 2021

Dear Amherst College Community,

Like many of you, I am sure, I was left with a range of feelings after yesterday’s horrific and deadly storming of the Capitol building in Washington. I have needed time before writing. I do so now knowing that all attempts to capture the significance of this moment and reflect on its implications are bound to be inadequate. 

What happened yesterday was not a surprise, not in the usual sense. There were signs, even warnings, that violence was possible, perhaps even probable, when Trump supporters were hailed to Washington to protest the outcome of the presidential election on the day when it was to be made official. There was encouragement of it at the highest level. And still, it is shocking. I felt the kind of shock that horrific events or inevitable losses cause, even when we have been forewarned, even when we know they are coming. After years of attacks on truth and the possibility of a shared sense of reality, it is good that we retain the capacity to be shocked, even, if not surprised.

Anti-Racism Plan Update

November 23, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, and Alumni,

We write with our first quarterly update on the anti-racism plan you received in early August. As you will recall, the plan, with its focus on combating anti-Black racism, was designed to bolster our broader diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. This status report is intended to let you know where things stand on key commitments, inform you about which offices or groups are responsible for the work, provide as precise a timeline as possible, and explain, when relevant, where final decision-making authority lies. The framework for this work is our overarching institutional commitment to providing the best possible liberal arts education to talented students regardless of their background and means, and to doing so as a community that benefits from diversity, inclusiveness, and equity, free of systemic barriers and incidents of discrimination, harassment, and bias.

Amherst’s Investments

November 24, 2020

President Martin has submitted the following letter to the Amherst Student.

To the Editors:

I write in response to the opinion piece, A Letter to the Administration: When Will We Divest? (Amherst Student, Nov. 18, 2020), about the College’s endowment. I’d like to provide the Student’s readers and the College community as a whole with some important facts that give a more accurate and complete explanation of Amherst’s investments. Before I do, I want to assure the authors of the opinion piece and subsequent petition that the College administration agrees entirely that we must shape the endowment to honor our mission and values while also ensuring that Amherst’s financial needs, now and into the future, can be met without damage to mission activities.

Announcing Amherst’s Preliminary Plans for Spring 2021

October 28, 2020

Dear Students, Families, Faculty, and Staff,

I am writing today to share some of the key elements of our plans for the spring semester. Although the fall has been, by necessity, a different kind of residential experience for everyone involved, it has brought great joy to have students on campus and I am grateful to everyone for their efforts to ensure a successful semester so far. Dean of Students Liz Agosto will continue to communicate with you about spring planning over the next several weeks.

Based on our experience this fall and the continued adherence to our COVID-19 safety protocols in our community, we plan to bring approximately 1,200 students in the spring (versus the 970 or so who arrived at the beginning of the fall semester). We will continue to maintain a low residential density by assigning only one student per room in the residence halls, using at least one residence hall that was not in use in the fall, and maintaining adequate isolation and quarantine spaces.

Fall Update and Spring Planning

October 7, 2020

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

I hope you are staying well and bearing up during this difficult time. We are midway through this historic fall semester; time for a fall update. 

Seven months after COVID-19 forced us to disperse back in March, we are fortunate to have more than half our students on campus, with nearly as many studying remotely. I have the great privilege of living on the campus and have loved seeing it enlivened after so many quiet months. I am also grateful for a beautiful fall with plenty of sunlight on the shades of red, russet, yellow, and gold as the leaves change.

Presidents’ Letter Regarding the Department Of Education’s Princeton Investigation

September 24, 2020

Wesleyan University’s President, Michael Roth, and Amherst College’s President, Biddy Martin, have written the following statement regarding the DOE’s investigation of Princeton surrounding racism and adherence to federal non-discrimination law:  

Across the nation, individuals, families, communities, businesses, corporations, and educational institutions are coming to grips with the country’s legacies of slavery and racial oppression,  which stretch back over four hundred years. Recently, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education announced that it will be investigating Princeton University for possible misrepresentations in its reports of adherence to federal non-discrimination law because its president publicly recognized that historic racism has been embedded in the institution over time. 

Amherst's Anti-Racism Plan

August 3, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, and Alumni,

For the past few months, I have read, listened, and thought deeply about the experiences of racism and violence that Black students and alumni have shared, and which they endured across this country and also at Amherst. I have spoken before about the environment in which I grew up and the racism and violence that were endemic to it. I know how visceral and violent the belief in white supremacy can be. I have seen it first hand. I know how essential it is to many white people’s identities, even when its importance is unconscious and unacknowledged. Given what I have lived and what I have studied, I know there can be no neutrality about the fact of racism and no legitimate debate about the urgency of confronting it. It is time for me as a president, who is also white, to take stronger stands and to enlist the entire Amherst community in bolder efforts to make Amherst a truly equitable and inclusive place. For me, this is a time to transform what I know and what I have known into what I can do and what I can enlist you to do.