"Teaching Through (and About) the Pandemic" is a conversation with Professor Austin Sarat, moderated by Chief Advancement Officer Betsy Cannon Smith '84.
Sarat is Amherst's William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, as well as the associate provost, associate dean of the faculty, and chair of the Department of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought. Sarat received a B.A. from Providence College, both an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. He is author or editor of more than 90 books, including The Death Penalty on the Ballot: American Democracy and the Fate of Capital Punishment, The Lives of Guns and Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America’s Death Penalty.
At Amherst, Sarat teaches courses about law and violence, one of which is called "Murder." This course discusses the representation of murder in law, literature and popular culture. Another course takes up the subject of punishment. In that course, Sarat tries to help students understand why and when we punish and what punishment reveals about those who punish. These courses, like almost everything Sarat teaches, are deeply interdisciplinary, moving out from the study of law or political science to draw on philosophy, literature, sociology and history. Sarat’s hope is to take students on a journey from the familiar to the strange-- that is, to start with something about which students are familiar and, using the insights of different disciplines, to illuminate the complexities of those familiar subjects. Sarat also teaches courses on law and film; courses on law, jurisprudence and social thought; and a First-Year Seminar, "Secrets and Lies."
Betsy Cannon Smith ’84, P’15, was appointed chief advancement officer on May 23, 2019, by President Biddy Martin. Cannon Smith, who had been alumni secretary since 1993, has served the College in a number of key leadership positions within the Advancement division since joining that group in 1986, including with Alumni and Parent Programs, the Annual Fund and the leadership gifts component of the College’s comprehensive campaigns.
In addition to leading the College’s Promise campaign, Cannon Smith advises the Board of Trustees and Martin on advancement issues and serves on the College’s senior leadership team. She enhances and executes the strategic plan for advancement by capitalizing on Amherst’s existing philanthropic strengths and identifying new opportunities. She promotes and cultivates alumni and parent engagement with creative programming and will collaborate with departments and colleagues across the College. Cannon Smith, who earned a degree in English from Amherst, has served as the liaison with the Board of Trustees for areas including trusteeships, honorary degrees and Medals for Eminent Service. She also was a member of the 2003 search committee for the College’s president.
Dr. Mary Frances Berry has been the Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania since 1987. She received her Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan and J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School. She is the author of 12 books and recipient of 35 honorary doctoral degrees. From 1980 to 2004, she was a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and from 1993 to 2004, she served as chair.
Berry will discuss the case for reparations and the history of Callie House, a widowed washerwoman who demanded reparations for ex-slaves in the 1890s. This event will kick-off the Provost’s Lecture Series which will focus on “The History of Anti-Black Racism in America” for the 2020-2021 academic year. Students, faculty, staff, alumni and the public are all welcome.
The annual DeMott Lecture, a welcome address for incoming students, will be given virtually by author Ross Gay.
He is the author the poetry books Against Which, Bringing the Shovel Down and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. His new book-length poem, Be Holding, will be released from the University of Pittsburgh Press in September of 2020. His collection of essays,The Book of Delights, was released by Algonquin Books in 2019.
Gay is also the co-author with Aimee Nezhukumatathil of the chapbook Lace and Pyrite: Letters from Two Gardens, and co-author with Rosechard Wehrenberg of the chapbook River. He is a founding editor, with Karissa Chen and Patrick Rosal, of the online sports magazine Some Call it Ballin', in addition to being an editor with the chapbook presses Q Avenue and Ledge Mule Press.
Gay is a founding board member of the Bloomington Community Orchard, a nonprofit, free-fruit-for-all food justice and joy project. He also works on The Tenderness Project with Shayla Lawson and Essence London. He has received fellowships from Cave Canem, the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference and the Guggenheim Foundation. He teaches at Indiana University.
The DeMott Lecture was established in 2005 by Alan P. Levenstein ’56 in honor of Benjamin DeMott, a legendary and much-loved member of the Amherst English faculty from 1951 until his retirement in 1990. The DeMott Lecture seeks to expose incoming students to an engagement with the world marked by originality of thought coupled with direct social action, and to inspire intellectual participation in issues of social and economic inequality, racial and gender bias and political activism.
Additional information about Professor Benjamin DeMott and previous DeMott Lectures, including last year’s talk by Min Jin Lee, is available via the button below.