By Emily Gold Boutilier
In a letter that ran nearly 9,000 words, the 17th-century French philosopher Blaise Pascal apologized for going on at such length, explaining that if he’d only had more time, he would have written something shorter. Pascal, one imagines, might have tipped his hat to the Amherst professors who’ve synthesized the college’s mission into a mere 151 words.
Nine years ago, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges asked Amherst to adopt a mission statement to serve as the basis of the college’s 2008 reaccreditation review. Never before had the college articulated its common purposes into a single official document, but the time to do so seemed right: a statement could serve not only to express shared aspirations but also to guide the college in planning for its future.
About a year ago, the seven-member Ad Hoc Faculty Advisory Group on Reaccreditation began to seek advice from the college community on what a mission statement might include. Then, the group used its Website to post various drafts for comment. In all, the advisory group fielded more than 100 specific responses to the drafts during meetings or in writing from students, faculty, staff and parents. The group held meetings with the Association of Amherst Students, the Advisory Committee on Personnel Policies, the Executive Committee of the Alumni Council, life and emeriti trustees and the Board of Trustees.
The end result is a precise—even elegant—mission statement that the faculty and the trustees approved in May and published on the college's Website at cms.amherst.edu/aboutamherst/mission.
Read the final and interim reports on the mission statement. See early drafts of the statement.