Amherst Archives Featured in Article About Ethical Care of Indigenous Collections

Submitted on Tuesday, 1/5/2021, at 12:28 PM

An article in American Libraries magazine presents Amherst College as one example of an institution that has been making efforts toward more culturally “responsive and responsible” handling of Native American archival materials.

The “College’s approach to culturally responsive collection care is grounded in the documentation of Indigenous literary history, starting with the 2012 hiring of two Native Studies faculty and the purchase of a 1,500-volume collection of Native-authored books,” writes Ulia Gosart, referring to the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection

The article includes remarks from Mike Kelly, Amherst’s head of archives and special collections, about practices intended to accurately call attention to Indigenous authorship, such as consulting with Native communities about how to display catalog data on visual maps and how to note authors’ tribal affiliations, as well as documenting provenance of each book. “We want to embed the history of the collecting in the collection metadata,” Kelly says. “Transparency about how we are acquiring materials is one way of being accountable to communities.”

Racial Justice Activist Olusade "Sade" Green ’20 on Why She Fights for Representation in Politics

Submitted on Monday, 1/4/2021, at 4:22 PM

“I can't stress enough: This is our world, our society, and we have every right to advocate for these issues,” Green says to her fellow young activists in a profile and Q&A on 

The article, written by Chase DiBenedetto, describes many of Green’s efforts toward, as Green puts it, “increasing racial representation and decision-making power for people of color.” These include working in the Youth Court restorative justice program for Nassau County, N.Y.; interning for Congresswoman and former New York District Attorney Kathleen Rice; delivering a talk at TEDxAmherstCollege; organizing the Leadership Brainery's National Impact Summit at Harvard Law School; and writing for Teen Vogue and Forbes

The article recounts Green’s inspirational 2017 meeting with the late civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis, and also touches upon her senior English thesis at Amherst-- “a series of short stories featuring women and girls of color, with a focus on the power of representation in literature.”

Dan Duquette ’80 Among Those Honored by Red Sox Hall of Fame Induction

Submitted on Monday, 1/4/2021, at 1:53 PM

“Duquette, who was the general manager of the Red Sox from 1994 until 2002, was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame along with sluggers David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, Worcester native Rich Gedman and old-timer Bill Dinneen,” writes Howard Herman of The Berkshire Eagle. The induction ceremonies were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the inductees were honored in a mid-December broadcast on NESN.

The article describes Duquette’s path from Wahconah Regional High School in Dalton, Mass., through Amherst College and into jobs with several different Major League Baseball teams, culminating with his leadership of the Boston Red Sox.

“As general manager, Duquette guided the Red Sox to an overall 656-574 record in his eight seasons,” Herman writes. “Duquette was the architect of three of the most lopsided personnel moves in team history,” which “helped build the foundation for the 2004 World Series championship that was Boston’s first title since 1918.” 

This Isn’t an Election Crisis—It’s a Crisis of Trump, Says Alan Hirsch ’81

Submitted on Tuesday, 11/24/2020, at 7:45 PM

“I think this crisis really owes itself to the character of the person in the Oval Office, not to our electoral system, even though that system could surely be improved,” says Alan Hirsch ’81 in a recent interview with Andrew Keen for the Keen On podcast. Hirsch is a professor at Williams College and author of the 2020 book A Short History of Presidential Election Crises.

“An election crisis is one where after the voting is done, we don’t know who won,” Hirsch continues. “But now we know who won. That’s not really up for dispute. But we have a president who refuses to acknowledge that reality and possibly is willing to go to great lengths to try to impose his own reality, and that’s the crisis, if there is one.”

The interview delves into several major election crises in U.S. history, including those in the 1800 presidential race between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr and the 2000 race between George H.W. Bush and Al Gore. Keen and Hirsch also discuss possibilities for abolishing or reforming the Electoral College, a system that Hirsch believes makes elections especially vulnerable to crises.  

Speechwriter Dan Cluchey ’08 is “Exhausted and Hopeful” After Biden’s Campaign

Submitted on Thursday, 11/19/2020, at 11:54 AM

Maine’s Portland Phoenix profiles Dan Cluchey ’08, one of the three major speechwriters for Joe Biden during his recent presidential campaign. “With the presidential campaign now giving way to a transition effort, Cluchey isn’t sure what’s next for his career,” writes reporter Elizabeth Clemente, “but he admits he has had quite the ride from his childhood in Cape Elizabeth to his life in Washington, D.C.”

The article traces Cluchey’s career from Amherst College, where he first became interested in writing speeches; through Harvard Law School; and into his speechwriting jobs for President Barack Obama’s administration and later for Biden. It touches upon the challenges of crafting speeches for a socially distanced, virtual environment in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cluchey praises the diversity of people who advised him in writing about such issues as Black Lives Matter and transgender rights: “We were just fortunate to have a campaign that looked like America in all respects and to have their input not as some sort of afterthought but as a critical part of the process.”

The article also includes mentions and photos of Cluchey’s wife, lawyer Miriam Becker-Cohen ’11.     

Professor Mona Oraby on Faculty-Student Collaboration During COVID-19

Submitted on Monday, 11/16/2020, at 5:19 PM

In a post for the Islamic Law Blog, Assistant Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought Mona Oraby writes about participating in the Students as Partners Faculty Learning Community, hosted by Amherst’s Center for Teaching and Learning. Through this pilot program, each faculty participant chose a student partner to provide feedback on the professor’s teaching of a particular course.

“I chose to collaborate with Sophia Friedman [’21], one of my departmental advisees who has taken two of my courses,” Oraby writes. The advisee became an advisor regarding the professor’s Spring 2020 “Islamic Constitutionalism” course. “It was by working with her that I realized more fully the importance of soliciting and incorporating student feedback on how we teach, not just what we teach—as we teach. By mid-semester Sophia and I had a shared understanding of the classroom environment and the learning styles of students enrolled in the course. We developed a range of strategies for different students that would encourage each one to contribute more actively and substantively to classroom discussion.”

Oraby describes how this collaboration continued even after COVID-19 necessitated a shift to teaching the course remotely. She discusses how the pandemic and the summer’s political upheaval surrounding the killing of George Floyd both underscore the urgent need for adaptability in the quest for accessible and equitable learning environments.

Eli Harris '15's UVC Lamp Fights COVID in Restaurants, Classrooms and Beyond

Submitted on Friday, 11/13/2020, at 2:55 PM

The Santa Barbara Independent profiles Eli Harris ’15 as a co-founder of R-Zero, a company whose relatively inexpensive, movable lamp shines ultraviolet rays to kill 99.99 percent of nearby microorganisms. The lamp, called the R-Zero Arc, is now being used in restaurants, hotels, classrooms and other spaces around the country to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The article describes Harris’s path from his youth in Santa Barbara, Calif., to enrolling at Amherst with the intention of entering the foreign service, to winning a Fulbright scholarship at the U.S. Embassy in China, to becoming an entrepreneur. Harris created, but later sold his shares in, a lithium ion battery company called EcoFlow.

The article also explains the development of the R-Zero Arc lamps; the legal and economic factors at play in pricing and selling germicidal lamps; and their potential for use in businesses, schools and hospitals to combat not only COVID but also influenza, food poisoning and other germ-related public health threats. It includes photos and quotes from Santa Barbara-area establishments that are already using or planning to use Arc lamps.  

Professor Ilan Stavans’ New Book Retells Epic Mayan Creation Story Most of Us Don't Know

Submitted on Tuesday, 11/10/2020, at 2:54 PM

“Stavans is the author of Popol Vuh: A Retelling, a prose rendition of the heroic epic poem about the creation of the world as told by the K'iche' Maya people of Guatemala,” reports Arturo Conde of NBC News. “The book, with stunning illustrations by the Salvadoran folk artist Gabriela Larios, is out Tuesday.”

“The preservation of the Popol Vuh is a story about indigenous oppression, survival and endurance. But it also shows how colonizers can have within themselves the ability to rescue a culture, give voice to a people as an outsider," says Stavans, the Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst. The epic poem, believed to have been passed down through an oral tradition for more than 1,000 years, was first put in writing by K'iche' nobility in the 16th century, and first translated into Spanish by Dominican friar Francisco Ximénez in the early 18th century.

The NBC News article tells more about the poem’s history, its structure and Stavans’ new version of it, comparing it to Dante’s Divine Comedy and the Netflix series Stranger Things.

Professor Lawrence Douglas: “The Delays in the U.S. Election Result Mean Our System Is Working”

Submitted on Thursday, 11/5/2020, at 2:15 PM

“The fact that we don’t yet know who our next president will be is not evidence of a system malfunctioning,” writes Professor Lawrence Douglas in a Nov. 4 op-ed for The Guardian (U.S.). “It is proof that election officials around the country are taking the requisite time to make sure that all ballots—including all those cast by mail—are properly tallied.”

Douglas, the James J. Grosfeld Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought, points out that counting mail-in ballots is a labor-intensive process, the timing and procedures for which vary state by state. He criticizes President Donald Trump’s partisan “fearmongering” attempts to rush and undermine confidence in the election process, as well as Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s “sloppy concurrence” with the president’s efforts, noting that suspicion of the “blue shift” in late-counted ballots was also voiced by Republicans during the 2018 elections.

“[P]atience is the order of the day,” writes Douglas. “The integrity of the electoral system demands no less.”

Remote Antidote: College Students’ Tin Can Learners Offers Kids Fun Engagement

Submitted on Tuesday, 11/3/2020, at 3:39 PM

“The idea is to create joyful learning for students in fourth through eighth grades during the days of online school,” says Tessa Levenstein ’22 in an Amherst Bulletin article about Tin Can Learners, a Zoom-based enrichment program she co-created with four other college students.

Through the program, families pay what they can for after-school classes in science, math, art and other subjects, as well as tutoring sessions and “Friday fun day,” led by the college students. The idea grew out of the spring 2020 online Harry Potter class that Levenstein co-taught with Wesleyan student Michayla Robertson-Pine for the children of Amherst College faculty and staff.

The Bulletin quotes Vanessa Walker, an Amherst history professor whose son is enrolled in Tin Can Learners: “As a parent, I love that these programs engage the kids educationally but make it a lot of fun,” Walker says. “Perhaps even more importantly in this moment, they really do a wonderful job of creating a sense of community among the kids.” 

“Female Husbands: A Trans History” Delves Deep into Culture and Norms

Submitted on Monday, 11/2/2020, at 4:29 PM

On, a portal for New Jersey’s LGBT community, Lana Leonard reviews Female Husbands: A Trans History, by Associate Professor of History Jen Manion. The new book examines cases from Anglo-American history of people assigned female at birth who, in Manion’s words, “assumed a legal, social, and economic position reserved for men: that of a husband.”

Female Husbands arrives as a priceless truth to uncovering the oversimplification and erasure of trans and queer life in Western history,” writes Leonard. The review describes a case covered in the book: that of respected 18th-century tavern owner and female husband James Howe of Poplar, England, whom a neighbor eventually extorted and threatened into reverting to life as a woman. The review also acknowledges the book’s examination of white privilege and the legal system as they affected the lives of female husbands.

“People have been denied their history,” the review quotes Manion as saying. “I hope my book acts as a bridge, that you could give [Female Husbands] to a straight, cis person and say read this and it’ll make sense to them because it is history, right? It’s pretty straightforward but at the same time it’ll give them a window into our life.”

Professor Kiara Vigil on Why It Is Important to Highlight Roles of Native Americans in History

Submitted on Monday, 11/2/2020, at 2:06 PM

On Oct. 12, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Associate Professor of American Studies Kiara Vigil appeared on public radio to discuss the importance of learning and teaching Native history.

Vigil, whose ancestry is Dakota, Apache, Irish and Mexican, spoke of her experiences as a child in the Boston area, learning about her Native heritage in ways that went beyond what little she was taught in school. “So I had to kind of do supplementary reading on my own. And that just continued throughout life,” she said. “And so it's not surprising to me that I found my way into being a teacher of history, a teacher of literature and culture.”

The professor also described teaching her Spring 2020 course “Native Futures”. Many of the students, she said, were Indigenous—from “Hawaii and Chumash country, Ojibwe and Lenape, Pottawatomie”—and “in almost every single text we've read, there was something that spoke to their community or their people.” Vigil also recalled how a white student from upstate New York was able to learn about her own hometown’s connections to Mohawk history, showing how “it's not just one person's history or story to inherit. It's all of ours.”

5 Fast Facts You Need to Know About Aaron Latham ’66

Submitted on Monday, 11/2/2020, at 2:06 PM

Though the headline identifies him as “Lesley Stahl’s Husband,” a roundup of facts about Aaron Latham ’66 goes beyond his 43-year marriage to the 60 Minutes correspondent, also describing his early life, writing career and current engagement in boxing as a therapy for Parkinson’s disease.

According to the article, Latham grew up playing football in Texas and Arizona, and decided to become a writer in order to fulfill the unrealized dreams of his mother. After graduating from Amherst and then Princeton, Latham began writing books, articles for major magazines and newspapers, and eventually Hollywood screenplays. His writing is the basis for the 1980s John Travolta movies Urban Cowboy and Perfect.

The article details how Latham and Stahl met while reporting on the Watergate scandal and later had a daughter together—Taylor Latham ’99. It concludes by describing Latham’s Parkinson’s diagnosis and therapeutic boxing regimen, which he discussed during an Amherst reunion panel several years ago.

Chasing Shadows: A Deeper Look at Botanist Alvan W. Chapman, Class of 1830

Submitted on Friday, 10/23/2020, at 12:56 PM

An article in The Times of Apalachicola, Fla., profiles Dr. Alvan W. Chapman, an 1830 Amherst College graduate who “brought the study of botany out of New England to the expanding United States, especially to the then Territory of Florida.” Chapman’s former home and the Chapman Botanical Gardens are esteemed sites in Apalachicola today.

The article, written by Caty Greene, president of the Apalachicola Area Historical Society, surveys some of the writings about Chapman, which in turn shed light on his physical appearance, his personal and professional relationships, his involvement with the local community and his botanical fieldwork, which continued into his 80s. His popular book Flora of the Southern United States was first published in 1860, with further editions released decades later. 

The piece additionally describes how Chapman, who was originally from Southampton, Mass., and was also a physician, worked to inform and support the Union forces during the Civil War. 

Evolutionary Microbiologist Vaughn Cooper ’94 on Tracking COVID-19 Through Its Genome

Submitted on Wednesday, 10/21/2020, at 4:03 PM

Vaughn Cooper ’94, an evolutionary microbiologist at the University of Pittsburgh, spoke with The Washington Post’s Bob Costa on Oct. 19 about the Cooper Lab’s use of cutting-edge technology to track genetic changes in the coronavirus in order to trace and control the virus’s spread.

After gene sequencing, “we have a complete record of all 29,000 sort of nucleotides or letters in the RNA alphabet of the coronavirus genome. And then we can compare that sequence first with the original isolate that was sequenced in Wuhan, China, but we can also compare that sequence with literally every other sequence ever decoded on the planet,” Cooper explained. “And in the context of, say, contact tracing, what it allows you to do is determine whether the virus that you're looking at came from a close relative or perhaps came from sort of general community spread.”

The extensive interview also includes, among other details, Cooper’s commentary on the lack of coordination in the United States’ federal response to COVID-19; comparison of U.S. gene-sequencing progress to that in Australia and other nations; and explanation of the importance of gene sequencing in developing a vaccine and adjusting it in the future, as the virus evolves.