Right now Amherst College is on a precipice. As criticisms run rampant about our administration and students, the school’s reputation itself is suffering. I understand the anger and pain being expressed by many, but I would also like to point out that Amherst is still a place that I love. Humans are highly imperfect, and Amherst is an institution run by humans. Additionally, the all-male history has added to the issues of our college struggling to deal properly with women’s issues. I am not making excuses, I am not saying that Amherst is perfect, I am writing this article to express my love of Amherst and to share with others some of its amazing qualities.
In the words of my roommate Gina Ringelberg, “Without Amherst, I don’t know who I would have become. I would be lost.” She felt that Amherst saved her from going down a much different path. Coming from public school in Utah, she was an anomaly for going to a prestigious college on the East Coast. When she thinks about what her life would be like if she had not gone to Amherst, Gina sees a different person, with few ambitions, few opportunities in life and a narrow scope of the world. After three years here, the world is her oyster. Gina runs Big Brothers Big Sisters, has several jobs on campus, worked for non-profit organizations, studied abroad in Africa, and has nothing but potential in life.
I also cannot imagine my life without Amherst. Nowhere else have I found such an opportunity to express who I am as a person, to pursue my academic interests in ways beyond the classroom, and to be around people who accept me unconditionally. When I first visited Amherst, it felt like home. Five years later I can still say the same thing. I have a family here that is made up of friends, roommates, teammates, professors, coaches, co-workers and classmates. Amherst has allowed me to double major, study abroad, play sports year round, maintain four jobs and still find time to be passionate about my academics and have a social life. When I sit on memorial hill and look at the mountains, I often think to myself that I will never find another place like Amherst.
While those two anecdotes may be applicable to anyone who loves their college, I want to mention some of the unique qualities of Amherst that make it the wonderful place it is. Amherst students receive an immense opportunity when we are given jobs to work over commencement and reunion. It is definitely beneficial financially, and a great way to spend more time with friends, not everyone realizes the importance of the relationships formed throughout these two weeks. By working commencement and reunion for the past two years I have befriended many of the maintenance workers and custodians at this school. I have learned their life stories, and heard other students recount stories of their supervisors. These two weeks give students the chance to gain huge respect for these individuals who we may not interact with otherwise. It is amazing to learn of the atrocities some of these workers have survived, the obstacles they have overcome, and the joy they find in life, especially working somewhere like Amherst.
Another unique quality of Amherst is the support for students. We have numerous entirely free academic resources, which few schools can say. When I struggle with a paper, the easy solution is to go to the writing center. When I could not understand concepts in a class I got a peer tutor. When I wanted to write the best essay possible, I had professors spend hours editing my papers, discussing my ideas and when I get discouraged, reminding me that I have potential. The deans here perpetuate this idea of support. Last year I struggled with untreated narcolepsy. Dean Hart met with me, gave me options to help with my academic load, contacted my professors and checked up on me to make sure that everything was still going okay.
I could write infinite examples of why Amherst is unique and wonderful, but then people would become bored reading this article. I just urge students to think as they read; of all the little great things that Amherst has contributed to your life. When times are hard, it is easy to turn your back on the thing that seems to be causing you pain, but the healthiest response is to remember the benefits you have gained from being a student here. I believe that Amherst as an institution has more positive things to offer than anywhere else; it is just up to the students to explore these opportunities. Though Amherst is going through a storm, literally and figuratively, it is still a place I love that has brought so many positive changes to my life that I can forgive mistakes that have been made and other mistakes that will be made in the future. I feel that we all owe that type of consideration to this place.