To the Members of the Amherst College Community:
We write as the faculty of the Black studies department in support of the Black Student Union’s call for Amherst College to do more to address racial violence within our community. Acts that harm one member of our community harm us all. They undermine our moral obligations towards each other if they remain unaddressed. We consider it especially important to affirm our commitment to cultivating an anti-racist teaching and learning community in this time of national crisis.
Despite repeated official statements condemning particularly egregious acts of anti-Black, anti-Asian and antisemitic racism, as well as sexual harassment, members of our college community continue to be insulted, intimidated and excluded on account of their race, religion, nationality, gender or sexual orientation. People who belong to these marginalized groups share a history of oppression in American society, which is why federal and state laws explicitly enjoin institutions and employers to ensure that members of such groups are not subjected to hostile work and learning environments.
As members of an educational institution that prides itself on its diversity, we need to move beyond meting out penalties after the fact to those who harass others. Instead, we must embrace more fully our mutual responsibility in fostering a campus climate that allows all community members to thrive. We need to redouble our commitment to educating all members of our community about historic and ongoing structures of inequality and oppression. In particular, we need to ensure that all our students learn about the history of discrimination within our college and beyond, as well as its personal and political consequences in the present day. We also must ensure that all instructors and administrators receive the training and support they need to sustain an inclusive learning environment, especially as students from protected categories join teams and departments where they have traditionally been underrepresented.
Finally, if we intend to hold ourselves accountable for preventing racial violence and other forms of harassment, we need to develop explicit protocols for identifying and addressing such issues within our community. These should include:
- Providing all members of the community with an accessible and anonymous system for reporting incidents of bias and harassment.
- Encouraging a climate of transparency by informing members of the community on a regular basis of trends in bias incidents on campus.
- Making available clearly identified resources to support members of our community who have been subjected to incidents of bias and harassment.
As members of the Amherst community committed to racial justice and equity, we look forward to engaging constructively with students, faculty, staff and others at the college about these issues in the days and months to come.
The Black Studies Department Faculty
Rhonda Cobham-Sander (Chair)
Solsi del Moral