In recent months, Amherst College has hosted a highly impressive list of speakers, among them Scott Brown, Michael Steele, Frank Warren and Shaukat Aziz are especially notable. These speakers each carry with them a distinguished life’s work, and they impart much of their respectability upon the College when they choose to speak here. They bring prestige and accolade to our small college when they travel long distances to our rural Massachusetts campus and take part in events that leave a permanent mark in the memories of students and a physical print on other regional newspapers.
What these speakers have in common, other than their achievement, speaks volumes about the place that Amherst is; all these speakers were brought to campus entirely by student initiative, and the events were planned by the many proactive leaders and activists among us. It’s both heartwarming and inspiring to see student leaders reach out and leverage the connections they make on and off campus to enrich the lives of their professors, peers and the broader Amherst community.
The College provides us with the platform to fulfill our own goals to connect with icons and idols from a range of backgrounds even more diverse than all our fields of study. The College provides this to us with a reputation of excellence, financial backing and complete faith in its students. Almost unquestioning, the College extends its vast resources (e.g. facilities, staff, finances and great risk of liability and embarrassment), and this requires no small amount of trust in students often still in their teenage years.
Students are tremendously thankful for the financial commitment the school makes, and student leaders, armed with the seriousness that they approach their athletics and academics, do not take this responsibility lightly. It’s very damaging to both the liberty and liberal nature of an Amherst education when members of our community call for increased skepticism about the wisdom and good-intentions of student leaders. Critics of student activism and student-led life on campus, which has coming from various places on campus in recent days, ought to grapple with the impact that increasing oversight of campus activities and student organizations will have on student power, student initiative and the quality of our events.
Visits from such distinguished individuals prove that Amherst College possesses the recognition and respect to attract the great mountain-movers of our time, and our honorarium still carries much weight in the world. Using this capital to fund and invite reputable scholars, inspirational activists and powerful politicians is both self-enhancing and staying true to terras irradient .
The avenues for students to pursue these cherished occasions should remain as open and free as ever if we are ever to ask that our education and experiences at Amherst be so too.