November 16, 2016

Dear Members of the Amherst Community,

Yesterday two posters were discovered in McGuire Life Sciences Building displaying skulls of different sizes and linking them to differences in intelligence by race. The poster-makers should have spent their time studying the history of science; they were apparently unaware that phrenology was discredited well over a hundred years ago and that more recent studies showing correlations between skull size and IQ prove nothing. Or, perhaps they know very well that the posters have no worth or use other than offense and provocation. They are playing a propaganda game—a dangerous and hurtful game, but a game nonetheless. Its purpose is to cause pain and, in the process, to put higher education in the cross-hairs by baiting people into confirming right-wing caricatures of college and university communities as bastions of hyper-sensitivity and repressive political correctness. 

I condemn the racism and cynical mean-spiritedness of those who hung the posters in the strongest possible terms. We are working to identify the person or persons responsible. I fear that we will experience more hateful, baiting behavior. And so I also want to encourage the community to double down on learning, thinking, succeeding, and creating positive change by developing smart ways forward. Don’t let bullies and know-nothing propagandists keep you locked in a reactive mode or distract you from your work, your place, or your well-being. Don’t take the bait. Don’t play “their” game. Up “your” game. Do the intellectual and political work that is worthy of your time, your energy, and your extraordinary intelligence. Know that this college stands for intellectual integrity, equality, and humane interactions among the members of our community and beyond. We will not be moved off those values.