After years of debate, the issue of Amherst’s unofficial mascot, the Lord Jeff, has finally come before the board of trustees. At its meeting this January, the board of trustees will finally discuss the question of whether Lord Jeffery Amherst should represent this college as our mascot. The Amherst Student urges the board of trustees to publicly condemn the Lord Jeff as an outdated symbol of colonial imperialism and violence that in no way represents our college or our values as a community.
Lord Jeffery Amherst is infamous for his letters advocating the genocide of Native Americans through the distribution of blankets infected with smallpox. In these letters, he proposed to Colonel Henry Bouquet, “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.” It is unacceptable that a man with this legacy of racial hatred and planned genocide should represent our community. Further, the irony of the recent administrative push for more Native American students at a school whose symbol sought the death of all native people is almost comical.
In the past few weeks it has become clear that the Amherst community no longer wants to be represented by the Lord Jeff. Eighty-seven percent of the current Amherst student body voted down the Lord Jeff. The faculty unanimously rejected the Jeff in a straw poll. It is time to stop listening to the vocal minority of alumni who believe that upholding an outdated tradition is more important than rejecting this symbol of hatred and intolerance. And let’s be clear: They are a minority. According to the most recent alumni survey, only one-third of alumni oppose changing the mascot. (Another one-third oppose it, with the other third not taking a side.)
We urge the board of trustees to consider the overwhelming opinion of the majority of the Amherst community. We need a mascot that all of the diverse members of this community can rally around — not one that bitterly divides us.