Statement on Diversity

Excerpt from the 2015 Strategic Plan on Diversity and Community

Amherst is by far the most diverse community in which many of our students will have lived. Given demographic and neighborhood data for the United States, it may be one of the most diverse in which some will ever live. 

The diversity of people and ideas opens up extraordinary opportunities for learning and prepares Amherst students to lead larger ongoing efforts to deal wisely with national and global changes. But bringing people from different backgrounds together in the same place and space is not enough to ensure that learning occurs or that a sense of community emerges. As we celebrate the diversity Amherst has assembled, it is equally important to acknowledge the challenges that accompany it and to be strategic in our efforts to help students balance the need for familiarity and comfort with the fundamental educational need to explore, risk discomfort, and allow change. Over the next 10 years we aim to create an environment that is not only progressively more inclusive but also more open to substantive conversations about our differences in experience, ideas, and perspectives—an environment that can serve as a model for life after Amherst.

The function of Chief Diversity Officer is in the process of being defined. The CDO or equivalent will report directly to the president to ensure that our goals are represented at the highest levels of decision-making and that diversity programs are coordinated across the College and its constituencies. Over the past year and a half, three centers overseen by the Provost—the Multicultural Resource Center, Women’s and Gender Center, and Queer Resource Center—have become hubs of social and intellectual life on campus, organizing scholarly and social events, advising student organizations and individuals, and coordinating activities that involve students of all kinds from across the campus. We will extend this work to all dimensions of diversity and to every constituency at the College with the goal of promoting friendships across racial, ethnic, religious, and national groups. (Download a PDF of the full strategic plan

A 1996 Letter from the Board of Trustees

To Members of the Amherst College Community:

Over many, many years, Amherst College has reached out to include in its midst talented persons of diverse races, nationalities, faiths and social backgrounds.Amherst's first African American student, Edward Jones, graduated in 1826. Joseph Hardy Neesima of the Class of 1870 was among the first citizens of Japan to graduate from an American college or university. The College'scommitments both to distinction and to inclusion have brought to Amherst a long line of extraordinarily talented students and scholars who have enriched our campus, our country and the world.

Amherst is a community that draws its strength from the intelligence and experience of those who come here to learn, to teach, to work. We reaffirm our goal of fashioning the Amherst College community from the broadest and deepest possible range of talents that people of many different backgrounds can bring to us.

We reaffirm our commitment to equality of opportunity, and to affirmative action under the law as a means of achieving that goal. We will continue to give special importance to the inclusion within our student body, our faculty and our staff of talented persons from groups that have experienced prejudice and disadvantage. We do so for the simplest, but most urgent, of reasons: because the best and the brightest people are found in many places, not few; because our classrooms and residence halls are places of dialogue, not monologue; because teaching and learning at their best are conversations with persons other than ourselves about ideas other than our own.

We seek an Amherst made stronger because it includes those whose experiences can enrich our understanding of our nation and our world. We do so in the faith that our humanity is an identity forged from differences, and that our differences deepen our knowledge and strengthen our community.

The Board of Trustees

Amherst College
May 25, 1996