Noose on Our Campus

September 10, 2017

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

As you learned on Thursday in an email from Chief of Police, John Carter, someone tied and left a noose on the football field this past week. I want to make sure that everyone in our community understands the gravity of that act of hate. The noose is a symbol of lynching, a form of racist violence and socially tolerated killing of Black people that occurred from late 19th century to the 1960s primarily, but not exclusively, in the South. I grew up in the aftermath of that time and place; I refuse to go back.

Over the past several months, nooses have been found in a number of places around the country, including the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture, in schools, and on several university campuses.  They are unmistakably racist symbols of hate. They have no purpose other than to evoke fear. It is appalling that one was tied and left on the ground in a visible part of our campus. This hateful and egregious act cannot stand without a response that affirms our collective outrage.

Biddy Martin Responds to Federal Announcement on Title IX

September 8, 2017

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Yesterday Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the Department of Education intends to rescind the current guidelines for how colleges and universities handle sexual misconduct under the federal Title IX policy. Officials will begin a formal notice-and-comment process in preparation for changes in Title IX enforcement. Title IX remains in effect, as do the College’s policies, state and federal laws, and federal regulations regarding sexual misconduct that were in force before today’s announcement.

It is important for you to know that Amherst will not pull back from our commitment to preventing sexual misconduct, to redressing the harm that it causes, and to following processes that offer necessary safeguards both to those who are accused and those who bring complaints. The measures we have put in place in support of all parties engaged in a sexual misconduct matter surpass current Title IX policy and the guidance issued by the Obama administration. 

Biddy Martin Responds to President Trump’s Decision to Rescind DACA

September 5, 2017

Dear Members of the Amherst Community:

Today President Trump made the reprehensible decision to rescind DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. As you know, DACA allowed young people to achieve the dreams in pursuit of which their families risked everything in coming to the United States. It gave them the opportunity to live in the open as they pursued an education and work in the country they consider theirs. It is a travesty to put the promise of hundreds of thousands of people in jeopardy, subjecting them to the threat of deportation and hindering their ability to make their mark on the world.

Letter to President Trump About DACA

August 30, 2017

The Honorable Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

In the face of reports that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA) may be eliminated, I write to express the strongest possible support for its continuation and to urge you to protect and defend it. As you know, there are currently 800,000 young people who are pursuing their dreams in the United States because of this program, which allows them to work, pursue an education, and give back to the country they call home without the looming threat of deportation.  The benefits accrue not merely to them, but to the nation as a whole. The DACA program 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.  And they add millions of dollars to the nation’s economy.

President’s Statement on Charlottesville

August 14, 2017

Dear Members of the Amherst Community,

This weekend, in my home state of Virginia, members of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups carried torches onto the University of Virginia campus and rallied in Charlottesville with Nazi slogans and signs to protest the planned removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. What occurred in Charlottesville was a blatant and vile display of racism and anti-Semitism. I write to express my horror and disgust at the Nazi- and Klan-inspired hatred and violence in Charlottesville. I condemn it wholeheartedly and unequivocally in the name of core American principles and values. On the basis of those principles, I also condemn the cynical misuse of the claim to freedom of speech by those who marched with torches onto a college campus in order to harass and intimidate.  

Thank you for a successful close to the Annual Fund

Dear Member of the Amherst Community,

This June I watched the Annual Fund grow day by day as volunteers, advancement staff, alumni, families, and friends joined together to make College history. As of June 30, because of the generosity of 11,326 donors, the Annual Fund crossed the $10.7 million mark, setting a new dollar record at Amherst.

We also saw growth in alumni participation this year, which is as important as the total dollars raised. It speaks to alumni love of the College and commitment to educational excellence. I thank everyone who joined in this effort by making a gift of time or money or both.

Postcard from Grand Rapids

Courtside reflections from President Biddy Martin at the women's NCAA DIII national championship game in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

March 23, 2017

As I’m sure you know by now, the women’s basketball team won the national championship last Saturday against Tufts.  They also completed a perfect season, going 33-0, which I’m told is a first at Amherst—an undefeated season capped off with a national championship.  I flew out on Friday for the semi-final game against Christopher Newport University, which was once an extension of William and Mary. (I was not stirred by that connection, despite my undergraduate degree.) We had a good crowd—mostly parents, grandparents, cousins, siblings, several former players, a few alums who live in Grand Rapids, parents of current students who are not athletes, but who encouraged their parents to attend. 

President Martin's Response to Revised Travel Ban

March 7, 2017

Dear Members of the Community,

President Trump released a revised travel ban late yesterday. It includes six predominantly Muslim countries, Iraq having been removed from the previous list of seven. The ban does not apply to existing visa or green card holders and is being implemented over a longer period of time to avoid the confusion that ensued after the first travel ban was issued.

While the ban now affects fewer people and, in the specific case of higher education, fewer current students, its damaging effect on prospective students at all our colleges and universities remains. The ban continues to prohibit travel for citizens of six of the seven original countries. It still could inhibit students from those countries or members of their families from travelling due to anxiety about the possibility of the rules shifting yet again. The ban also may adversely impact academic collaboration outside of the country.

Amherst’s Problems Are Society’s Problems

Feburary 24, 2017

This statement appeared on The Chronicle of Higher Education website on February 23, 2017

A recent article in The Chronicle attributed divisions of race, class, gender, and athletics at my institution, Amherst College, to an abstraction that the writer, Jack Stripling, labels the “Amherst chain of being.” To state the truth in less-fanciful terms: What he's talking about are longstanding, societywide problems, hardly ones that are limited to any one institution.

Amherst has sought to confront those problems with persistent efforts to identify and enroll talented students from a wide range of socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds, to the educational benefit of all our students. Our success to date has brought extraordinary opportunities and also challenges. The story alludes to the larger societal context but concentrates on the problems as though they were the result of a dynamic internal and specific to this school—something in the water, say. What Mr. Stripling calls remnants of "the old Amherst" allegedly stand in the way of what would otherwise be a higher state of grace.

Statement on Transgender Student Rights

February 23, 2017

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

I am writing to express dismay at yet another action at the federal level that is diametrically at odds with the values of the College: the decision by the Trump administration to withdraw a mandate that transgender students be treated by their schools in ways consistent with their gender identity. I condemn the rescinding of guidance that helped provide protection for some of our most vulnerable youth. The protections that have been rescinded were issued in the form of guidance under Title IX by the Obama administration. In their brief letter of guidance, the current Departments of Justice and Education explained last night that legal confusion and inadequate vetting of the existing guidance led to the decision to withdraw the protections. They also argued that the issues are best handled at the state and local levels. I agree with civil-rights experts who argue that transgender and other LGBTQ rights are fundamental civil rights that ought to be protected at the federal level. I note that Secretary DeVos is said to have opposed the withdrawal of federal protections. She tweeted a statement in support of LGBTQ rights soon after news of the withdrawal was released. Here is a link to: 1) the letter of guidance issued by President Obama’s Office of Civil Rights; 2) the guidance from Attorney General Sessions; and, 3) Secretary DeVos’ s statement. I want to emphasize that Title IX law has not changed and a range of organizations are offering legal help to transgender students who encounter discrimination in schools, among them Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the Human Rights Campaign.