April 7, 2020

Dear Members of the Amherst community,

In a letter I sent to you last week I wrote about incidents of COVID-19-related anti-Asian racism that are increasing across the country as the pandemic spreads. These incidents of harassment, verbal attacks, and physical assaults are doing tremendous harm to individuals and to Asian and Asian-American communities. Estimates from days ago suggested that at least a hundred or more incidents are reported each day, including physical violence of the kind that occurred recently in Texas, where three people were stabbed, including two children. These hateful acts represent the worst forms of ignorance. I am writing again today to express what I imagine is our collective horror at this surge in racism and to ask that you join me in openly condemning it, and in doing everything you can to help end it. I also want to encourage reporting and provide information about resources.

There is a long history of anti-Asian racism and scapegoating in the United States: Chinese exclusion in the late nineteenth and through much of the twentieth centuries, prohibitions and/or quotas on immigrants from other Asian countries, and the wartime internment of Japanese Americans. These represent only some of history’s most egregious forms. The current outbreak traffics in age-old prejudices about Asian cultures and habits as a way of blaming China and, by extension, Asian and Asian-American individuals and communities for a pandemic, the origins of which scientists do not yet know, and which no one who understands the science of how viruses emerge and spread would ever blame on a particular race or ethnicity. In the attacks on Asian and Asian-American individuals and communities, we are seeing the worst of what happens when fear and bigotry combine. It is crucial that each one of us intervene and stop the spread of misinformation and discrimination. 

Two of our students who live on campus have been the targets of verbal assaults in the town of Amherst. Some students have heard racist banter in the dorms. In addition to living with the extreme difficulty that everyone faces in this pandemic, these students, as well as faculty and staff, also live with the fear of prejudice and aggression. This is abhorrent. We can be certain that those living in other parts of the country are also living with the awareness, anxiety, and experience of bias, suspicion, and hostility.

Today I want to provide information to students, faculty, and staff – on campus and off – who are experiencing bias and forms of harassment and/or discrimination.  

  •  Students, staff, and faculty who become the target of bias, harassment, or assault – verbal or physical – should immediately call for help. If you are on campus, call ACPD at 413-542-2291. If you are in the Town of Amherst call the town police at 413-259-3000. If you are anywhere else, contact local law enforcement.
  • If you are a student, report all incidents of bias, threat, or harassment, whether online or in-person, to the Dean of Students, Liz Agosto (lagosto@amherst.edu), or Associate Dean, Dean Gendron (dgendron@amherst.edu.
  • For mental health support, please contact the Counseling Center where all our counselors are available to help.  Counselor Alex Kim (ajkim@amherst.edu) is currently organizing a group for support of Asian and Asian American students.
  • If you are faculty, please report all incidents to the Office of the Provost and Dean of Faculty; if staff, please report incidents to the Office of Human Resources.

Finally, the Department of East Asian Studies at Harvard has compiled an extremely helpful list of resources for Asian and AAPI students that I encourage everyone, regardless of identity, to read through.

Thank you in advance to everyone on and off-campus for doing what you can to end COVID-19-related harassment and to support those who are its targets.

Biddy Martin