Welcome from the Director



Dear Colleague:

Welcome and thank you for your interest in the NEH Summer Institute, Punishment: The American Story.

I am very excited about the chance to work with you and explore together some of the most important and challenging ideas in the humanistic study of law, politics, and culture. I have had the good fortune to direct several previous NEH programs for school teachers. Each of them was a wonderful experience. I am eagerly looking forward to assembling another group of diverse, talented and interesting group of colleagues.

From the Gospel of Matthew to George Bernard Shaw and former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan, many have remarked that how, when, and why a society punishes reveals its true character. Punishment then tells us who we are. The way a society punishes demonstrates its commitment to standards of judgment and justice, its distinctive views of blame and responsibility, its understandings of mercy and forgiveness, and its particular ways of responding to evil. Punishment: The American Story is intended to examine the nature and limits of punishment as well as its place in this nation’s complex history.

As you know, the subject of punishment shows up in the curriculum of schools across the country, in history, social studies, and literature courses to name just a few. Teachers regularly teach texts in which the fact of punishment, its purposes, or its fairness are central issues. We will explore new ways to bring those issues into your classroom. Moreover, students often have direct experience with law enforcement and bring those experiences, and their complex reactions to them, to school. Throughout our discussions we will ask  how issues of punishment encountered in school settings are illuminated by the texts we read.

To help accomplish this goal, I will work with Roy Blumenfeld who has taught high school at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, an independent K-12 school in New York City, since 2014. We also will be joined by a truly distinguished group of Visiting Faculty who will bring diverse perspectives to our subject as well as their expertise and insight.

I am looking forward to welcoming you to Amherst College’s beautiful campus. Participants in this Institute will be Visiting Scholars with full access to the college library, museums and athletic facilities.

No particular background is required for this Institute. You will need the interest and willingness to tackle rich and provocative material, and the patience to try to grapple with some of the most important contemporary issues of justice. If you are passionately engaged in current political and social issues, you would make an important contribution to the Institute. If you are a lover of literature and culture and are curious about the way either treats punishment, you would be most welcome. Or, if you are a physicist, librarian, administrator, or teacher whose curiosity is aroused by any of the words I've used to describe the seminar, you will benefit from the Institute, and be of great help to the rest of us. Given our subject, almost everyone should have valuable things to say.

At the conclusion of the Institute, I will be happy to provide each participant with a credit equivalency letter explaining how much in-service or graduate credit I believe participation in the seminar should carry.

I will be holding several information sessions if you would like to join me to hear more about the Institute. The dates and times are:

DECEMBER 4 at 1 pm EST 

JANUARY 8 at 1 pm EST

FEBRUARY 5 at 1 pm EST

The zoom link/info is the same each session


Meeting ID: 938 8822 6265  Passcode: 880924

But please reach out to me at any time if you have any questions.

I look forward to reading your application and to working with you next summer.

Austin Sarat

Location. The seminar will be held in an air-conditioned classrooms on the Amherst campus. You will be designated a "Visiting Scholar" with full access to the College's library, computer, athletic, and dining facilities. The facilities are quite good. During the summer the library is open weekdays from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. While there are many computers on campus, you might also be advised to bring your laptop computers as this will facilitate your work on the group writing projects.

You will receive directions on how to get to Amherst if you plan on driving. I have arranged for no-cost parking for you, and you may find it more pleasant to have your own car. However, there is easy public transportation, a local tradition of ride sharing, and a wonderful bicycle trail for those of you who choose to leave your cars at home. If you come by train, the nearest station is Springfield, Massachusetts; if you fly, the nearest airport is Bradley International Airport (near Hartford, Connecticut). Airport code (BDL).

Housing. I have arranged to house participants in a campus facility–Lipton House- -with wonderful large air conditioned rooms, spacious social areas, laundry facilities and nearby parking. Lipton is a former fraternity house that was recently renovated. It is clean, efficient, and convenient. There are great advantages to living in close proximity to other participants in the seminar and, the dorm is located right across the street from the College’s dining hall and is within close proximity to other campus buildings. It is two blocks from the center of town. There are enough single rooms to accommodate everyone.

For those of you who prefer other kinds of accommodations, we will be able to assist you with subletting arrangements in the town of Amherst and surrounding areas.                                                                                                

For Lipton House costs range from a low of $ 56.00 per day for lodging only to $ 95.00 per day for lodging plus a full meal plan at the Dining Hall. Lipton House does not offer a full kitchen.  A la carte meals for purchase are available at the campus dining hall. Costs for off-campus housing vary widely.

Social Activities. We will begin with a welcoming event to initiate the seminar. I look forward to being able to begin the process of introducing you to the many virtues of the Amherst area as well as showing you around our campus.

Stipends. As you know you will receive a stipend of $2,850.

Application. Application information is included on the website.

If you have any questions about the institute or the application process feel free to call me at 413-542-2308 or e-mail me at adsarat@Amherst.edu or my assistant, Megan Estes at 413-542-2380 or at mlestes@amherst.edu


March 1, 2022: Deadline to submit your application

How to submit your application:

 The Application

In addition to the Application Form, we also ask that you complete the document with additional questions and upload that to your Application with your Resume.


Additional Application Questions

Please answer the Additional Questions for the application. There will be a place to upload your documents to the online application.

 A Résumé

Please include a résumé or curriculum vitae (not to exceed five pages). There will be a place to upload your documents to the online application.



March 1, 2022: Deadline to submit your application

How to submit your application: submit using the online application at https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/departments/ljst/neh/application-questions-for-neh-2022

For inquiries about the seminar application, please contact:

Megan Estes Ryan, Academic Dept. Coordinator

ATTN:  2022 NEH Summer Seminar

LJST Dept. Amherst College

PO BOX 5000

Amherst, MA   01002

413/542-2380  e-mail: mlestes@amherst.edu


Successful applicants will be notified of their selection on Friday, March 25, 2022. They will have until Friday, April 8, 2022 to accept or decline the offer.

 Note: Once you have accepted an offer to attend any NEH Summer Program (NEH Summer Institute), you may not accept an additional offer or withdraw in order to accept a different offer.


Thanks once again for your interest.

Sincerely yours,

Professor Austin Sarat

Law, Jurisprudence & Social Thought

Amherst College

Amherst, MA 01002

413-542-2308 (phone)                                                                                                                                                                         413-542-2264 (fax)