Dear President Martin, Dean Boykin-East, Dean Fatemi, and AAS President Tania Dias,
I hope this letter reaches you well. Briana Hanny and I are writing on behalf of a number of students on campus who met after the Tuesday (11/27) meeting to discussed the proposed moves for the Women’s Center and Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) in Keefe Campus Center. This letter, however, is specifically in regards to the referendum issued by the Amherst Association of Students to the general student body on Wednesday (11/28).
We write to express our disappointment and disagreement with offering this move of such consequence as this for a particular segment of the student population — though a move that will benefit all students on campus — to a vote by the student body. We would like to highlight three ways, among others, as to why the referendum should not compromise plans to move the MRC, or a center by another name that the college will charge with the duties bound to similar centers nationwide.
Firstly, we must address that the referendum violated a central tenet of the democracy we live in this nation and as constituents to our student government, on this campus: majority rules, minority rights. Amherst College charges the MRC with substantiating the diversity on this campus. This diversity, nonetheless, means that “minorities” exist and our rights must be taken into account, not simply held at the whim of the majority. This simple fact alone renders the results of the referendum impermissible and challenges its validity.
Secondly, the referendum did not provide the necessary context or history to make a more informed decision. By offering two reductive questions and eliding context, the AAS referendum biased the referendum against the proposed move to the MRC. Moreover, the second option amounted to a zero–sum game by pitting the current game room against the MRC. Not only does this show the abject disregard and little worth that the AAS shows toward the mission of the MRC and the student body its presence would affirm, it omits the fact that the MRC’s relocation only moves the game room in the campus center, it does not remove it.
The AAS and the MRC committees must publicize: 1) the history of the MRC, and 2) the efforts over the past several years to move its location to a more visible and respectable location.
Finally, the comment box contents on the proposed moves in Keefe must be made available upon request. If Amherst College supports transparent and robust conversations on these moves, these comments must be made available to the student body. They hold particular value in demystifying students’ hesitations with relocating the MRC, and guidance on what aspects of the move and mission students need to be enlightened about.
This by no means is an exhaustive list, nor is it to be the final communication we will send to you as this process unfolds. It is important that the college listens to our voices and considers the minority rights that reside on this campus. Therefore, we look forward to engaging with you to convey: Why is the MRC a necessity?
We welcome your genuine engagement now and as we continue to convey our cause, convictions and opinions on this topic in the future.
Larissa Davis ’13 and Briana Hanny ‘13