Comment on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

November 18, 2021

Submitted via www.regulations.gov to Andria Strano, Acting Chief, Office of Policy and Strategy, Division of Humanitarian Affairs, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security

RE: DHS Docket No. USCIS-2021-0006, Comments in Response to Proposed Rule, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

Dear Acting Chief Strano,

I’m writing on behalf of Amherst College[i] to express the College’s strong support for the above-mentioned proposed rule published September 28, 2021. As detailed further below, Amherst College has witnessed the value of the DACA program: it gives our educational institutions and workplaces access to the talent, creativity, and determination of hundreds of thousands of people who are Americans in all but immigration status.

Who are Amherst College’s DACA-recipients?

As an institution of higher education that is committed to creating “as much opportunity for as many academically talented young people as possible, regardless of financial background or legacy status,”[ii] Amherst College’s need-blind admission processes welcome more and more DACA recipients and DACA-eligible students into our learning community each year.[iii] Amherst College’s DACA recipients and DACA-eligible students contribute immensely to our vibrant campus community. While these students are certainly not a monolith—their academic and co-curricular interests vary, as do their socioeconomic backgrounds, their experiences in the United States, their family stories, their salient identities—they all share their immense talent, creativity, determination, perspective, and enthusiasm for learning with the greater Amherst College community. They work diligently to reach goals and build futures not only for themselves, but also for their families. These remarkable young people engage and contribute fully as students in Amherst’s rigorous learning environment, all while facing unrelenting uncertainty around their futures, their safety, their belonging, and that of their families.

Anti-Racism Action Plan Update

October 4, 2021

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

I am writing with an update on the College's Anti-Racism Action Plan, originally released in August 2020. As you will see, we continue to make progress on many of the plan's elements. There is still a lot of work to do, and I have included timelines where possible to indicate when additional progress will be made. Thank you to everyone for the work they have done to get us closer to our goals.

Sincerely,

Biddy

Statement to the Community About Financial Aid, Legacy Announcement

October 20, 2021

To the Amherst College Community:

Over the past 200 years, Amherst alumni have created a multigenerational community by treating each new class of students and recent graduates as “kin and heirs,” to paraphrase novelist and essayist Marilynne Robinson. Because of their generosity and the Amherst family they have created, the College has been able to provide an extraordinary education to students and to extend educational opportunity to young people from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds. 

I write today to share the news that, effective with the 2022-23 academic year, we will extend our already strong financial aid commitments and simplify the program so that prospective students and their families can easily understand what an Amherst education actually costs for particular income groups. The increase in our expenditures on financial aid to $71 million will benefit current, as well as entering students. 

Amherst President Biddy Martin Announces She Will Conclude Her Presidency Next Summer

September 13, 2021

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, and Friends of the College,

As many of you know, this is the beginning of my 11th year as president. I am writing to let you know that it will be my last year in this position.  I have never read an announcement in which outgoing presidents failed to say what a difficult decision they have made; in this case, I can certainly attest to the difficulty. I love this place, its mission, its beauty, and the people who make it so extraordinary.  I love the work. And I feel at home here. Amherst students bring me tremendous joy, whether I am interacting with ​them at a festival, guest-teaching in a class, listening to groups or individuals in office hours, attending student concerts, poster sessions, public speaking contests, athletic events, or just chatting with ​them at the top of Memorial Hill. It’s enough just to see students making their way with friends across campus and hearing them laugh. If I have one regret, it is not having had time to teach a course. I look forward to returning after a sabbatical year so I can do that.

Fall 2021 Update from Campus

A family poses by an large inflatable purple mammoth at Amherst College

September 7, 2021

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

I am pleased to send you my annual Fall update, which I hope you will enjoy. I have divided the material into sections with headings that will allow you quickly to identify the areas that are included. There is so much more than this sampling. Small wonder, given the vibrancy of this place!

Student Arrival

Over the past two weeks, we have welcomed nearly 2,000 students to campus in this, our Bicentennial year. It has been pure joy to have the campus populated in a way it has not been since March 2020. We have 532 new students on campus this Fall, a record high. The 470 newly admitted members of the class of 2025, admitted from a pool of nearly 14,000 applicants, are joined by 44 students who deferred admission last year and 18 who transferred from other institutions. Eleven of our transfer students have come from community colleges and five are veterans. For the first time, the majority (51 percent) of domestic students in our incoming class self-identify as people of color. Twelve percent of our new students come to us from abroad and 18 percent will be the first in their family to graduate from college. Thirty-two percent speak a language other than English at home (with over 40 different first languages represented). Fifty-seven percent of the incoming class are receiving Amherst grant funds, with an average aid grant of more than $60,000. Also new to campus this Fall are those members of the class of 2024 who studied remotely last year. Taken as a whole, our new students are extraordinarily accomplished academically, musically, artistically, athletically, in debate, civic engagement, and in many other ways. I have loved interacting with them, witnessing their excitement at being together, and hearing their enthusiasm about their classes. It has been wonderful to see them drifting across campus between classes in animated groups.

Kevin Weinman Departure

July 22, 2021

Dear Members of the Amherst Community,

I am writing to let you know that Kevin Weinman, our Chief Financial and Administrative Officer, has accepted an offer to become the new president of Marist College, a comprehensive institution in Poughkeepsie, New York, that serves more than 5,000 undergraduate and 1,400 adult and graduate students in 47 undergraduate majors and numerous graduate programs. I could not be more excited for Kevin. His passion for his work, extraordinary talent, and vast experience have created this wonderful opportunity for him. He is well prepared to lead an institution that will benefit from his expertise. At the same time, his departure is also an enormous loss for the College and for me personally.

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.

Campus Safety

May 10, 2021

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Last August in my letter outlining the College’s Anti-Racism Plan, I expressed my intent “to enlist the entire Amherst community in bolder efforts to make Amherst a truly equitable and inclusive place.”

We have made progress on key elements of that plan, which I outlined in quarterly updates in November 2020 and March 2021. I write today about two issues of concern to the community on which we are taking concrete action: insufficient resources devoted to student mental health and Amherst’s longstanding approach to public safety.  

First, we will immediately increase the number of full-time mental health counselors by three and take steps that will enable current staff to devote more hours to seeing students. These investments must be accompanied by a broader strategy to promote student well-being proactively. I have asked the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) to develop such a strategy and holistic approach for implementation in Fall 2021.

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.