Reflections on Learning, Distance, and Bias

April 3, 2020

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

I am writing to provide you with some reflections at the end of our second week of remote learning. But, first, I want to extend my best wishes to each and every one of you. I hope that you and your loved ones are well and safe and that you are finding workable and even meaningful ways to spend this difficult period of social distancing.

Statement on Addressing Racism on Campus

March 27, 2020

Dear Community Members,

I have heard, and continue to hear, from a large number of students and alumni, with a wide range of perspectives on how we should move forward in addressing the problem of racial prejudice and hateful expression on campus. I am doing my best to listen and reflect, knowing how important it is that we can move forward as a community.

I was asked by the editors of The Amherst Student for my response to the letters from alumni and BSU. Here is the statement I shared with them. I want to be sure everyone has the chance to see it.

Message to the Community Regarding Men’s Lacrosse

March 20, 2020

Dear students, faculty, and staff, 

We write with an update about the steps the College is taking to address problems with the culture and actions of the men’s lacrosse team. Findings of individual responsibility for violating the Honor Code lie with the disciplinary process in the Office of Student Affairs. That process is underway. Federally mandated student privacy protections mean that those findings will not be shared.

Message about the Novel Coronavirus, COVID-19

February 26, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

 I write with an update on the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, and its impact, particularly on some of our students studying or preparing to study abroad and those who come from affected areas.

President Biddy Martin on New Travel Ban

February 1, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

 Yesterday, the Trump administration announced an expanded travel ban, effective February 21, 2020, based on national security concerns. The expansion adds six countries—Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania—to the 2017 ban restricting entry into the U.S. by individuals from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. This ban, like the first, targets several countries with substantial Muslim populations and adds several African nations, including the most populous—Nigeria.

Announcing New Student Center

October 30, 2019

Dear Community Members,

As you know, we have long needed a student center on our campus that will support a vibrant sense of community and offer students, in particular, the kinds of social spaces that are currently in short supply. This morning The Amherst Student published the good news that we have made a formal commitment and have selected an architect.

Indigenous Peoples' Day

October 14, 2019

This year, for the first time, the College officially recognizes the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples' Day to honor the histories, cultures, and contributions of Native peoples. As we know, the continent that Columbus is said to have discovered had long been inhabited. The colonization of the Americas that followed his landing decimated “the only peoples who can claim to be indigenous of this hemisphere” (Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past).

Fall Update from President Biddy Martin to the Amherst Community

October 4, 2019

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, Families, and Friends,
Yesterday, as many of you know, we were honored to host U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on campus. The enthusiasm for her visit was overwhelming. A capacity crowd of 1600 members of our campus community gathered in Coolidge Cage (beautifully transformed for the event) to hear her speak. Many of you joined via livestream. It was a tremendously inspiring occasion. I invite you to check out pictures and video of the event.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Visit Campus this Fall

October 5, 2019

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Ruth Bader Ginsbur: Photo credit: Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States I am delighted to announce that we will welcome U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to campus this fall. On Thursday, October 3, Justice Ginsburg and I will hold an onstage conversation at 5:00 p.m. in Johnson Chapel. Justice Ginsburg has also generously offered to meet with students in Cole Assembly Room in Converse Hall at 3:30 p.m. for a review of cases from the last term. The second woman ever appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the first Jewish justice since 1969, Justice Ginsburg is well known for her clear voice in support of the constitutional rights of all members of our society.  Her early career as a pathbreaking lawyer in defense of fundamental rights, as well as her nearly forty years as an appellate judge and Supreme Court Justice, have been well-documented in many media, including opera, late-night television, and two feature-length films.

This will be Justice Ginsburg’s second visit to Amherst. In 1991, two years prior to her appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, Amherst College president Peter Pouncey awarded Ginsburg an honorary degree, citing her “lifelong insistence that inequality for some unbalances a society and makes it precarious for all.” Her unwavering dedication to righting that imbalance over the course of her lengthy and principled career as a jurist has made Ginsburg not only a pioneer for gender equality but an inspiration to all who seek to address systematic injustice.

Update on Sessions' Visit

April 19, 2019

Dear Members of the Amherst Community,

In last week’s message, I said I would provide the community with an update on the invitation extended to former Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, by the College’s Republican Club. The club has confirmed that Mr. Sessions has accepted its invitation to speak at Amherst next week. The visit is supported by funding donated to the club by external sources and by the Young America’s Foundation, which is the event’s sponsor. The republican club members are event hosts. The College has responsibility for security, as it always must, and has decided that the event will be open only to Amherst College faculty, staff, and students. It will be a ticketed event with one ticket per Amherst College ID. ID’s will be checked at the door.

Conflicts on Campus

April 11, 2019

Dear Members of the Amherst Community,

 A number of events, some interrelated, some not, have occurred on our campus that fall short of the standards of mutual respect, decency, and ethical behavior that we expect of each other. Furthermore, the response to these incidents has, in some cases, had the effect of escalation. Neither reason nor generosity have made enough of an appearance.

Response to Common Language Document

March 22, 2019

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

My email inbox and the conversations I have had over the past forty-eight hours are ample proof that we do not need an executive order to ensure freedom of speech or diversity of viewpoints on our campus. Faculty, staff, and students in this community have responded to the common-language document circulated on Wednesday with a wide range of views. Taken as a whole, the responses show the complexity of the issues and a desire to work through them together. Academic institutions do not need edicts to appreciate the value of expression.

Statement from President Biddy Martin, Amherst College

March 20, 2019

Creating a sense of belonging on a campus is difficult and complicated work. It is also vital to student success and the success of the entire community.  I know of no educational institution that would claim to have succeeded completely in the effort. Missteps are inevitable. 

The “Common Language Document” produced by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and circulated yesterday at Amherst takes a very problematic approach. The document defines terms in an effort to assist people in talking with one another about their identities and positions. The motivation of those who generated the definitions is understandable.  They were responding to questions from people who wanted to know better how historically underrepresented groups and individuals think about their identities and positions.

Announcement about Amherst's Accreditation

February 7, 2019

Dear Members of the Amherst Community,

I am pleased to report that we have received word from the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), which was previously known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), that Amherst’s accreditation has been continued.  The report of February 1, 2019, is the final finding of NECHE for this round of accreditation and is available online In accordance with its regular policy, NECHE has scheduled Amherst for an interim review in the spring of 2023 and for a comprehensive evaluation in the spring of 2028.