Thoughts About Community

December 20, 2016

Dear Faculty, Staff, Students, Alumni, and Parents,

As the fall semester comes to a close, I write to wish all of you a restful and enjoyable holiday season. There are too few opportunities in our accelerated lives to be fully present to one another, to read, to wonder, to play, and to reflect. I hope you get a chance to do all of those things over the next couple of weeks and into the new year.

The end of this semester has been marred for many by reports of troubling behavior on men’s athletics teams at several colleges and universities, including one at Amherst. Given the growing number of such reports across the country, I worry that the problem may extend to other teams and that there will be more revelations—here and elsewhere. I am concerned that there may be groups beyond varsity athletics that engage in similar forms of “bonding” through behavior that involves ridicule, denigration, and vulgarity. Condemning such behavior and holding those who are involved accountable is a necessary but not a sufficient response. In this letter I want to reflect on the larger question of how we build positive forms of community.

Statement from the President to the Amherst Community

UPDATE from President Biddy Martin: December 12, 2016

Earlier this afternoon, the College retained Justice John M. Greaney to investigate reports regarding the men’s cross country team. Knowledge of the facts will guide the College’s decisions about disciplinary process. Justice Greaney, a former justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, is currently Counsel at the law firm of Bulkley, Richardson, and Gelinas. 

I encourage anyone who has information that would be relevant to Justice Greaney’s investigation to submit a report (anonymously, if you prefer) at:

I will provide periodic updates of the status of the investigation to the campus community.


December 11, 2016

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff, 

Late this afternoon I was informed by the athletic director, Don Faulstick, of an article in the student publication The Indicator that exposes emails and social-media exchanges among members of the men’s cross-country team. These exchanges are supposedly meant to “welcome” new teammates and introduce them to the culture of the team. The messages are appalling. They are not only vulgar, they are cruel and hateful. No attempt to rationalize them will change that. My reaction is one of profound sadness, disappointment, and anger. The athletic director has informed me that members of the team confirm the nature of these messages. The exchanges have been occurring for several years.

Immigration Law and College Campuses

(Traducción en Español)

November 20, 2016

Dear Members of the Amherst College Community,

On November 16, several hundred of our students gathered with faculty and staff on the steps of Converse Hall to express their fears and their opposition to possible changes in American immigration laws and enforcement. Their fears about how changes may affect them, their fellow students, and their families are all too real. At Amherst, we have an obligation to ensure that all our students are able to take advantage of the educational opportunity we offer without fear for their well-being. At this moment, we are particularly focused on undocumented students and students with legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order. We will do everything we can within the limits of the law to support them and fulfill our promise of educational opportunity.

Racist Posters on Campus

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. 

Update on the Area Drought and Amherst’s Water Conservation Efforts

September 26, 2016

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff, 

In August, I informed you of the severe drought our area is experiencing and the need to reduce our water consumption as a result. I write to provide you with an update on the situation and the impact our collective conservation measures are having. The bottom line is that our efforts have helped. The Town of Amherst’s municipal water system—from which the College obtains its water—is currently able to meet demand. However, to ensure that the system continues to work, we will have to keep our water use to a minimum for the foreseeable future.

A Note from Amherst

Two of the new greenway dorms, connected by a bridge

September 12, 2016

Dear Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, Parents, and Friends,

The education Amherst offers is grounded in the values of the liberal arts: breadth and depth of knowledge, rigorous analytical ability, and the capacity for creative problem solving. It is the form of education best suited for the demands of an uncertain and changing world. It works because of a faculty of distinguished scholar-teachers with high expectations and a strong commitment to student success. It inspires because of a student body filled with avid learners who teach one another what it means to make friendship a defining feature of community and democracy. Every initiative we undertake is aimed at renewing these critical features of an outstanding educational experience.

President Addresses Article on Alumni Giving

August 4, 2016
Dear Amherst College Community,

This morning The New York Times ran a story that featured Amherst College, among other schools. I want to provide context for several parts of the article and share information with you about the generosity of our alumni and the strength of Amherst’s longstanding values.

Your Help Needed in the Amherst Water Conservation Effort

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

As you may know, Western Massachusetts has experienced below-normal precipitation this year; as a result, water levels in town reservoirs are the lowest they have been in recent history. The situation prompted the state to issue a drought watch this month, and the Town of Amherst has now imposed mandatory water conservation measures for the town, including our campuses. The College has to do its part to conserve water and prevent what could become a bigger problem. This requires your help. 

President Martin's Reflections on This Week's Tragic Events

July 8, 2016
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,
Yesterday I sat down to write a letter about the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota. I knew from conversations and email that those killings and their implications led many of us to seek the comfort of friendship and a caring community. Many students, faculty, and staff of color have understandably felt particularly distressed in the wake of the killings of Sterling and Castile. And some feel alone in the pain of this moment. I wantedand still wantto assure you that you are not alone in your distress, pain, or determination to end racial injustice. Together, we can acknowledge the horror of the killings, the pattern they fit, and the despair that pattern has caused. Together, we can also eliminate it. This message was the heart of my intention yesterday. It remains so today.

Amherst and Today’s Supreme Court Decision

June 23, 2016

We believe the Supreme Court has made a wise decision in upholding the legitimacy of making race one among many factors in college admissions decisions. Amherst admits students using the highest academic standards while also considering students’ potential contributions to the Amherst community and to the society as a whole. As the College has become more diverse, every marker of student excellence has continued to rise. The country needs to develop talent wherever it exists. It exists everywhere. We also need to learn how to build relationships and collaborate with people whose backgrounds, experiences, and points of view differ from our own. Educational institutions have a responsibility to promote those abilities, which have never been more important to our society, our democracy, and our role in the world.