The Spreading Virus, Part 5 [With Mascot Commentary by John]

Now playing at Amherst College. Something called “Amherst Soul,” which describes itself as an “uprising,” has posted the following demand manifesto. It includes a deadline of next week for compliance, or—what? (Special attention to the most fascistic demands in bold. Also—does Amherst have a football team?)

Submitted by Amherst Uprising  – a collective of students on campus who came together as a result of the sit-In organized in Frost Library on 11/12/15.

Students shared the demands below with President Biddy Martin that same evening in Frost.

Initiate within 24-48 hours and complete by Wednesday, November 18, 11:59 pm.

Please communicate this list to the Board of Trustees on behalf of the students.

This list includes demands not only for President Biddy Martin but for key people of the administration —


We, Students of Amherst College, refuse to accept the negative social climate created towards our peers of color and other marginalized groups. We have begun this movement, Amherst Uprising, in an effort to change the status quo for a more just and inclusive environment within our campus. We demand that Amherst become a leader in the fight to promote a better social climate towards individuals who have been systematically oppressed. Student leaders acknowledge and support the demands previously stated and currently being presented. Furthermore, we demand the College acknowledge its ethical and moral responsibilities as an institution and community of our world. Amherst College should not be complicit in oppressive organizations and systems, no less.

We as a compassionate student body have gathered to address the legacy of oppression on campus. If these goals are not initiated within the next 24 to 48 hours, and completed by November 18th, we will organize and respond in a radical manner, through civil disobedience. If there is a continued failure to meet our demands, it will result in an escalation of our response.

1.    President Martin must issue a statement of apology to students, alumni and former students, faculty, administration and staff who have been victims of several injustices including but not limited to our institutional legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism, anti-Latinx racism, anti-Native American racism, anti-Native/ indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Middle Eastern racism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, mental health stigma, and classism. Also include that marginalized communities and their allies should feel safe at Amherst College.

2.    We demand Cullen Murphy ‘74, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, to issue a statement of apology to students, alumni and former students, faculty, administration, and staff who have been victims of several injustices including but not limited to our institutional legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, anti-black racism, anti-Latinx racism, anti-Native American racism, anti-Native/ indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism, anti-Middle Eastern racism, heterosexism, cis-sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, ableism, mental health stigma, and classism

3.     Amherst College Police Department must issue a statement of protection and defense from any form of violence, threats, or retaliation of any kind resulting from this movement.

4.   President Martin must issue a statement of apology to faculty, staff and administrators of color as well as their allies, neither of whom were provided a safe space for them to thrive while at Amherst College.

5.    President Martin must issue a statement to the Amherst College community at large that states we do not tolerate the actions of student(s) who posted the “All Lives Matter” and “Free Speech” posters. Also let the student body know that it was racially insensitive to the students of color on our college campus and beyond who are victim to racial harassment and death threats; alert them that Student Affairs may require them to go through the Disciplinary Process if a formal complaint is filed, and that they will be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.

6.     President Martin must issue a statement of support for the revision of the Honor Code to reflect a zero-tolerance policy for racial insensitivity and hate speech.

7.     President Martin must release a statement by Friday, November 13th, 2015 by 5:00pm that condemns the inherent racist nature of the unofficial mascot, the Lord Jeff, and circulate it to the student body, faculty, alumni, and Board of Trustees. This will be followed up by the encouraged removal of all imagery including but not limited to apparel, memorabilia, facilities, etc. for Amherst College and all of its affiliates via a phasing out process within the next year.

8.     Dean Epstein must ask faculty to excuse all students from all 5 College classes, work shifts, and assignments from November 12th, 2015 to November 13th, 2015 given their organization of and attendance at the Sit-In.

9.     Do not threaten the jobs of the faculty, staff, or administrators that support our list of demands. Such threats will result in an escalation of our response.

10.   The Office of Alumni and Parent Programs must send former students an email of current events on campus including a statement that Amherst College does not condone any racist or culturally insensitive reactions to this information.

11.   Dean Epstein must encourage faculty to provide a space for students to discuss this week’s events during class time.

Please acknowledge that all of these statements of apology are not the end all – that they are only a part of short-term healing and by no means achieve all of the goals we will set forth. We are in the process of finalizing long-term goals which we hope to collaborate on regularly with all members of the community.

By no means does this start/stop with the administration.

Students from:

AC Voice

African and Caribbean Students Union

Amherst Christian Fellowship

Amherst Dance

Amherst Equestrian Club Team

Amherst Soul

Amherst United Left

Athlete Bible Study

Asian Students Association

Association of Amherst Students

Black Students Union

Charles Drew Health Profession Society

The Charles Drew Memorial House

Chinese Student Association

Choral Society

Cross Country/Track & Field, Lacrosse, Softball, Women’s Rugby, Basketball)

Dance and Step at Amherst College (DASAC)

Divest Amherst

First-Generation Association

Gospel Choir

GlobeMed at Amherst College

German House

Hip Hop Club


International Students Association

Japanese and Chinese Language House

Korean Students Association

La Causa

La Casa

Marsh House

Muslim Students Association

Multicultural Resource Center

Middle Eastern Students Association

Mental Health Education

Multifaith Council

Native American Students Organization (NASO)

Newman Catholic Club

Peer Advocates of Sexual Respect

Purple Pride

Pride Alliance

Queer Resource Center

Remnant (Black Christian Ministry)

Roosevelt Institute at Amherst College

Sports Teams (Minority Students/ Allies in Football, Tennis, Field Hockey, Soccer, Baseball, Golf, Crew, Swim,

South Asian Student Association


Student Athlete Advisory Committee

Student Security


Transfer Student Association

Women of Color Empowerment Group

Women’s and Gender Center

Women and Men’s Club Soccer

Women in Science

JOHN adds: I was intrigued by the claim that Amherst’s “Lord Jeff” mascot is racist. I looked up the mascot:


Seems like an innocent little guy, if a bit goofy. But hey–it’s Amherst. So I investigated further. The college is, of course, named after Lord Jeffrey Amherst, about whom I confess I knew nothing. It turns out that Amherst was was the commanding general of British forces in North America during the last stage of the French and Indian War. It didn’t take long to get to the source of the protesters’ unhappiness. This is from Amherst College’s web site, Frequently Asked Questions:

4. I’ve heard that Lord Jeffery Amherst distributed smallpox-infected blankets to the Indians during the French and Indian War. True?

In the summer of 1763, attacks by Native Americans against colonists on the western frontier seriously challenged British military control. In a letter to Colonel Henry Bouquet dated July 7, 1763, Amherst writes “Could it not be contrived to send the Small Pox among those disaffected tribes of Indians?” In a later letter to Bouquet Amherst repeats the idea: “You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.” There is evidence that the Captain at Fort Pitt (outside Pittsburgh, PA — then the western frontier) did give two infected blankets and one infected handkerchief to Indians in June of 1763. This action happened before Amherst mentioned the idea in his correspondence. It is also highly unlikely that the tactic caused any infection.

It is accurate to say that Lord Jeffery Amherst advocated biological warfare against Indians, but there is no evidence that any infected blankets were distributed at his command.

“Spreading virus,” indeed!

But there is one obvious problem: if you assume that Lord Amherst was a horrible racist–which is not obviously the case, since biological warfare has been used long before and long after his time, generally between combatants of the same race–getting rid of the Lord Jeff mascot doesn’t really address the issue. The place is, after all, named “Amherst College.” The current movement to replace Lord Jeff with a moose mascot hardly removes the taint. Maybe the protesters’ next demand will be to rename the college “Moose U.”

In any event, that is the answer to the question of what the leftist students have against the Lord Jeff mascot.