President Biddy Martin announced Amherst’s anti-racism plan in August of 2020, in the aftermath of a series of brutal racist incidents that had recently taken place in the United States. These events brought heightened attention to the issue of systemic racism and related violence in this country and engendered widespread protests. “There are critical moments in history when the call for change is resounding,” the president wrote at the time. “This is one of those moments.” The anti-racism plan for the provost’s division emerged, and was shaped, in response to the call for action of the president and many other members of the Amherst community—a call for the college to take steps to confront and remedy racism at all levels, and to foster equity and inclusion across the college.  

The urgency of addressing racism, at the college and in the world beyond, underpins this plan, the goal of which is to support everyone in the provost’s division in moving forward with anti-racism work—thoughtfully, deliberately, inclusively, and expeditiously. The process of developing the plan was itself grounded in these qualities. The Provost’s Anti-Racism Leadership Group* drafted the plan, which was shared with a variety of groups, including department heads and all staff in the division; the Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; the Faculty Leadership Committee for the Anti-Racism Plan; Black@Amherst; the Committee of Six; and the chairs of academic departments and programs. The generous feedback offered by these constituencies informed each of the successive versions of the plan. The final document owes a tremendous debt to this iterative process.

The plan is meant to serve as an invitation, and to offer some pathways, for faculty and staff to explore and understand the past and present of race and racism and the impact on individuals and society. Given the lived experiences of many of our students, this work—which may be undertaken individually, in small groups, within departments, and across the college—takes on additional importance. In keeping with the values of the liberal arts, the plan does not seek to promote an orthodoxy or mandate agreement. Instead it is meant to encourage learning, to stimulate the exchange of different views, and to foster inquiry about, as well as to invite action on, these critically important and pressing matters.

Our Vision

Amherst College works to shape an academic community in which all students, faculty, and staff can succeed and thrive. The provost’s division, with its mission of teaching and learning, plays a central role in this effort. We strive to create conditions that inspire all members of our community to pursue their educational studies and professional work, knowing that their identities—and their humanity—will be respected, valued, and celebrated.


Anti-racism work, which addresses the legacies of systemic inequality, begins with learning and listening. All departments and individuals are strongly encouraged to learn about past and present racism within society, as well as at Amherst. Racism affects us unequally, but we are all responsible for anti-racist efforts; this work is not the exclusive responsibility of any particular group or of any manager, program, department, or unit. We must hold ourselves accountable for interrogating systems of privilege and inequality that are present in our work, and for addressing their impact. We must be conscious, deliberate, and intentional as we identify, remedy, and improve the conditions of study and work for everyone in our community, but especially for those from groups that have been marginalized historically.

Anti-racism work involves looking anew at and continuously reviewing programs, policies, and taken-for-granted practices. The goal is to identify legacies of exclusion, whether intended or not and their disparate impact on different groups. We seek to develop and implement policies and practices that advance equity for all faculty, staff, and students while dismantling barriers to well-being and equitable advancement for all. Anti-racism also implicates the allocation of resources; as much as we can, we will make available resources, benefits, and privileges so as to eradicate racist practices.

Anti-racism is essential to fulfilling Amherst College’s educational mission. We believe that empathy, equity, and respect are necessary if all members of our community are to flourish as individuals and do their best work. An anti-racist stance is indispensable if we are to maintain the highest standards for the scholarly and educational accomplishment of our faculty, the academic achievement of our students, and the professional and educational performance of our staff. Anything less would not be a true commitment to every member of our community.


To enable all faculty and staff to learn about and reflect on the history and legacy of racism in the United States in general, and at Amherst College in particular.

To identify structures and patterns of behavior in our policies and practices that have a discriminatory impact and cause harm, whether mental, physical, or material, to historically marginalized groups.

To develop and disseminate strategies that remedy structures and patterns of behavior that cause harm and that uplift historically marginalized groups. This process will involve questioning some long-held norms at Amherst, as well as difficult conversations about racism at the institution.

To develop and implement policies and practices that foster new ways of learning and working, with a focus on those based on values rooted in a variety of traditions. These new ways of learning and working should support the growth and well-being of all members of our community, thereby creating a more inclusive—and thus stronger—teaching and learning environment.  



All colleagues are encouraged to learn more about past and present racism in the United States.  

  • Individually and together, departmental colleagues are encouraged to learn more about past and present racism especially in the United States and, as necessary, beyond our borders. Colleagues are urged to consider how racism has structured their areas of expertise, disciplinary fields, and modes of inquiry. They are also encouraged to consider how this learning might inform pedagogy, course offerings, and departmental curricula, and major requirements.
  • Colleagues may participate in workshops offered by the college or professional organizations; they may participate in reading and/or other learning in groups or on their own, or they may engage in other forms of learning.


All departments are encouraged to examine, from anti-racist perspectives, their policies, practices, procedures, as well as their departmental cultures and, where applicable, their curricula.

  • Departments are encouraged to engage internal and outside experts to advise them on ways to identify, adapt, and implement anti-racist practices specific to their work. Academic departments are encouraged to seek advice on the structure and requirements of their major(s), and general course offerings, from anti-racist perspectives.
  • All departments are expected to create handbooks documenting their policies and practices; this will enhance transparency and allow colleagues to better navigate the institution.
  • Colleagues are encouraged to work with internal and/or external experts to examine pedagogical practices from anti-racist perspectives.


All departments should track their progress towards anti-racist goals.

  • Departments should discuss how they wish to track their progress. Department heads should update the provost regularly, and at least annually, on departmental progress.
  • Academic departments should report on their progress in the annual chair’s report of departmental activity. Progress toward anti-racist goals should also be addressed in department self-studies that are part of decennial external reviews.


To support these goals and guidelines, the provost and her office will do the following:

  • Champion these efforts in every part of the division.
  • Provide administrative structures for the implementation of this plan, including opportunities for discussion and collaboration across departments in the provost’s division.
  • Provide necessary funding for external consultants and reviewers, whenever possible.
  • Provide opportunities for growth, development, and learning for staff and faculty.
    • Support for individual and cohort activities around anti-racism professional development.
    • Support for examining departmental curricula from anti-racist perspectives.
    • Support for programming (lectures, workshops, and other activities) that support anti-racism learning for all members of our community.
  • Provide institutional data, as appropriate and possible, to help underpin anti-racism work. 
  • Illuminate and support connections between the provost’s division and other divisions in the college’s anti-racism work. 
  • Widely circulate information about the resources that the college offers to support anti-racism work, including the progress of Amherst’s racial history project and the channels for addressing incidents of racism that may occur within our community. 
  • Provide other forms of support, as our anti-racism work unfolds. 
  • Disseminate periodic updates about the work outlined in this plan.
  • Engage in periodic reexamination of this plan.

 *The members of the Provost’s Anti-Racism Leadership Group are Sarah Barr, advisor to the provost on campus initiatives and director of the Center for Community Engagement; Jack Cheney, associate provost and associate dean of the faculty and Samuel A. Hitchcock Professor of Mineralogy and Geology; Catherine Epstein, provost and dean of the faculty and Winkley Professor of History; Martin Garnar, director of the Library; Emily Griffen, director of the Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning; Darryl Harper, director of the Center for Humanistic Inquiry and associate professor of music; Michael Kunichika, director of the Amherst Center for Russian Culture and associate professor of Russian; Austin Sarat, associate provost and associate dean of the faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science; and Janet Tobin, associate provost.

Books cover of Stamped from the Beginning, The Color of Law, and The Fire Next Time

Racial Justice Resource Guide

This research guide lists a variety of resources related to racism that are digitally available to the Amherst community.