President Biddy Martin delivered a State of the College address on Wednesday evening in Johnson Chapel. The brainchild of Sade Green ’20, a student senator, the event also included a Q&A. Martin talked about, among other topics, alumni giving, admissions, the work of various offices and the ways in which professors are adapting their teaching to meet 21st century demands, while also recognizing work in community-building that still needs to be done.
Why did Martin come to Amherst? “Well, it’s easy,” she said. “First, because of the College’s reputation for intellectual rigor and intensity, and the quality of education and of scholarly engagement, and second, because of the diversity that Amherst has achieved in its student body.”
“We’re good at Amherst at critique,” Martin said. “That’s what we teach, that’s what we value; we love it. I’m a literary critic—I love it myself. The culture of the College could stand to add to its love of critique a greater love of celebration, pleasure, joy and appreciation.”
“The Amherst administration has the best intentions and actively works to create meaningful and positive changes for students,” said Association of Amherst Students President Karen Blake ’17. “It is imperative that the administration also consider the ways in which students can play an active role in the oversight of these initiatives.”
“One of my goals as an AAS senator,” said Sade Green ’20, who organized the event, “is to enhance the communication between the student body and the administration, and I also want to create a more transparent student government. I believe that these two things—communication and transparency—are essential to the ways in which we build community with one another.”
Martin said that no fewer than three journalists have recently asked her whether campus crises and protests are interruptions in the work of the College. “These upsurges of tension and conflict are actually the leading edge of the evolutionary path that Amherst chose for itself and that we are clearly on,” she said in the chapel. “The work that we’ve done in response to these problems is at the heart of the work of the institution. It’s education, and it’s assurance that students and the institution can flourish.”
Students asked many questions during the talk. These touched on topics ranging from fundraising, to the divide between athletes and non-athletes on campus, to the role of student government, to the need for resources supporting black women on campus.
Martin said the goal is to “reach the point where this is a place where every student, no matter what your background, feels as much ownership as anyone else.”