Fall 2013 Update

President Biddy Martin

A Letter to the Community from President Biddy Martin

August 30, 2013

Dear Students, Staff, Faculty, Alumni, Parents and Friends of Amherst College,

What follows is a letter that reflects my commitment to keeping you informed about the College. Let me warn you now that it is long. Most, if not all, of you will find it too long. I hope you will find it useful nonetheless.

The slower pace of summer has given way to the sparkling liveliness of eighteen hundred curious young people who are eager to connect with one another and set forth on the adventure of an Amherst education. The Class of 2017 arrived in force on Sunday, August 25. These 466 students—half women, half men—hail from forty states, the District of Columbia, and thirty different countries. Among them, they speak thirty languages. Eighteen percent are first-generation college students; twenty-five percent of our entering students receive Pell Grants; and fifty-eight percent receive Amherst College need-based grants. Our students come from 378 different secondary schools. Forty-five percent of them identify as U.S. students of color. Nine percent of our entering class comes from outside the United States and another five percent have dual citizenship in the U.S. and another country. In addition to their outstanding academic records and accomplishments, our new students bring musical talent, a wide range of experience in dance, and achievement in debate, 4-H, novel-writing, athletics and much more. I have had two formal occasions on which to spend time with the Class of 2017, the new student welcome and the DeMott Lecture, which was given this year by author and Amherst parent, Elizabeth Kolbert. Her book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change was required summer reading for all new students, and helped set the theme for orientation as well as for the 2013-2014 Copeland Colloquium. The members of the Class of 2017 are engaged, thoughtful and inquisitive, certain to have a lasting impact on the College as they mark out their distinctive paths through it.

Plans for the Amherst College Science Center

May 2, 2013

Dear Members of the Amherst Community,

I write to inform you that after careful consideration the college has decided to change direction on its new science center, moving it from the anticipated Merrill site to an alternate location. The administration and Board of Trustees have made this decision for two key reasons: first, because of the escalation in cost, which can be attributed, in large part, to the demands of the site; and, second, because the impact of the preparatory work indicates that construction will cause unacceptable disruption to faculty research, teaching, and student life. The significance to Amherst of a cutting-edge interdisciplinary science center requires that we build a spectacular center within the timeframe and budget that were anticipated for the Merrill site. We will. Fiscal responsibility demands that we pivot to a less difficult site that allows for a single phase of construction.

A Letter to the Community and Invitation to Meet

December 4, 2012

Dear Amherst Community Members,

This past weekend someone made the cowardly and mean-spirited decision to carve a racist epithet in the snow on top of a car parked on the street just north of the Lord Jeffrey Inn. S/he spelled out the “N word” on a car that belongs to an employee of the College. One of our students took the step of filing a complaint with the police when she became aware of the incident. I applaud her initiative. Neither the Amherst College nor the Town of Amherst Police has identified the perpetrator; not surprisingly, no one has taken responsibility. In the face of such an aggressive act, I suggest that the rest of us take responsibility, not for having spelled out a racist epithet on a car, but for a response to it that condemns this act and all the forms of racism of which it is an instance. We cannot undo what is done, but we can call racism by its name, agree that it will not be tolerated on our campus, and counter it by doing more to create a culture that honors our differences and our shared humanity.

President Martin’s Statement on Sexual Assault

October 18, 2012

Dear Members of the Amherst Community,

I write in response to the recent news about an incident of sexual violence and misconduct on the Amherst campus and to reports that the College has failed to treat similar incidents with adequate transparency or seriousness. A student’s first-person account in this week’s Amherst Student is horrifying—her rape, her painful efforts to deal with it on her own, and her subsequent experiences when she sought help on the campus.

A message from President Martin regarding sexual misconduct

October 11, 2012

Dear Amherst students,

I write to you concerning a matter that affects our entire community and for which we are all responsible, in one way or another. This message includes both information and an invitation. I know you are busy, but the issues are important. I hope you will take the time to read it.