A Letter to the Amherst College Student Body

We ask our fellow members of the Amherst community to stand with us in opposition to yesterday’s resolution regarding fraternities. We are not against the fundamental spirit of the Board of Trustees’ decision. We respect their attempt to improve social life on campus, but this arbitrary and undemocratic manner of change carries with it troubling implications.

Despite broad repercussions, the Board made its decision without substantive student input. As with the appointment of Suzanne Coffey several months ago, we once again find ourselves cut out of critical discussions regarding our life on our campus. Our voices are critical when considering sweeping reform. Unilateral resolutions like the one announced yesterday afternoon should not and cannot be allowed to move forward without taking into account the sentiment of this community as a whole. The recent pattern of highhanded action represents a troubling trend. All student voices, regardless of opinion on the issue, have been silenced.

In their initial act in 1984, the Trustees’ conduct created the same gray area that has confounded our social scene for the last three decades. Their inability to grasp the nuances of the situation at Amherst placed fraternities in an awkward state of equilibrium beyond the reach of regulation yet within the boundaries of the Amherst community. Despite its unsatisfactory outcome, that decision was reached the right way: The Trustees solicited and sincerely considered student input and presented compelling and substantial evidence to support the decision. Yesterday’s order does no such thing. Rather, in their attempt to avoid “turning back the clock” on the fraternity regime, the Trustees do just that, basing their case on “sound” reasoning submitted thirty years ago.

Students are the best sources of knowledge on college life at Amherst. We inhabit dorms across campus, attend classes during the day and partake in the available social scene at night. The students here have been educated by some of the most accomplished professors in the country and approach intellectual dilemmas with careful consideration and thoughtful reasoning. We may not be experts on much, but we understand our surroundings to a degree inaccessible to a governing body of removed alumni reliant on historical documents to inform their opinion on student life today.

But the Board of Trustees has made apparent that it does not care for such input. The strategic decision to announce the resolution in the final weeks leading up to exam period and summer recess is a weakly veiled attempt to stifle organized student criticism. Such a cynical, undemocratic effort should offend those who embrace the values of the Amherst community.

This is not a fraternity issue; it is a crisis of student rights.

With this in mind, we ask for you to join with us in condemning the unacceptable actions on the part of the Trustees and the Administration. In the following days, we will be submitting a Referendum for Special Vote contingent on approval from the Judiciary Council. This statement will categorically disavow the Trustees’ attempt to change the Student Honor Code without our input and overturn the decision pending another student-wide referendum to be held 150 days from the arbitrary July 1st deadline. We ask for your support in this endeavor not as a final verdict on the fraternity question at hand, but rather as a statement against the unjust marginalization of student opinion on the matter of our own daily life.

As members of Delta Kappa Epsilon, we are willing to revisit the significance of our existence on campus with an open mind, and we will accept the opinion of the student body no matter the outcome. But if we are to stand trial, let it be before a jury of our peers, not the moot rhetoric of a decision determined in a different era.