This Week in Amherst History

Eighty years ago this week, the Honor System committee and a Senior delegation convened to discuss a renovation of the honor system at the college. The meeting led to a “definite policy” which included a five-point plan of action for the code, with hopes of creating a “more effective functioning of the system.”

The points of the new scheme included: “1. To uphold and strictly enforce the Honor System Consituation; 2. To extend the system so that it applies definitely to the taking of books from the shelves in the library; 3. To secure the aid and co-operation of the faculty; 4. To dispel the prevalent belief that it is unsportsmanlike to report an offender; 5. To publish semi-annually without names the offenses committed throughout the year and the punishments meted out to them.”


Thirty-one years ago, Amherst experimented in co-education by sending away 23 of its male students to Smith and Mt. Holyoke in exchange for students from those schools, who, after three weeks of the trial-by-error project, requested to stay on campus for a full year.

When asked what they enjoyed most about their new environment, the women all spoke about the “Amherst Experience.” One sophomore was quoted as saying “that Smith was just another year of prep-school,” whereas most transfers felt that Amherst offered a “certain spirit” of learning shared by all students.

The students were upset by Dean Robert Ward’s policy to give new applicants preference over renewal applicants for the second semester; his explanation was that turning down new students so current ones could stay a whole year was unfair. He made it clear, however, that the girls were “free to reapply for the second semester.”


Amherst life was altered forever when, in the early autumn of 1981, Professor Peter Gooding decided to “eliminate kegs from Pratt Field during fall Saturday afternoons,” due to the “ugly and unbecoming” behavior which their presence brought to football games. An anonymously written Student opinion piece cited the logic behind this decree as “ridiculous.”

The ban did not extend to all alcoholic beverages but only the keg, which Gooding called the “symbol of excess.” As the article’s author points out, however, a case or a beer truck would be permitted according to the rule. Although two students had recently been injured near a frat keg, “to hold the presence of the keg responsible,” argued the author, “is like saying that traffic intersections cause accidents.”

The author went on to insist that a can is unable to replicate a keg as a “gathering place for members and friends of a particular house or dorm.”

On behalf of the student body, the author, in admittedly undiplomatic terms, ended with this message to the administration: “Get serious.”