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Political discourse heats up at Amherst College

(Collegian File Photo)

Only three weeks into the school year, Amherst College has already experienced a possible hate crime, a controversial banner on 9/11 and a flyer viewed by some as anti-Republican.

On the first day back on campus, a tied noose was found on the football field. After an investigation by the Amherst College Police Department, multiple juveniles were identified and found to be responsible for the incident.

The event began the year with what Amherst College President Biddy Martin, in a letter addressed to the school’s students, faculty and staff, referred to as an “act of hate.”

“I call on every member of our community to join me in condemning it and in standing with those directly targeted by an act of this kind,” wrote Martin in the letter. “You have my assurance that we are taking this act seriously and that the perpetrators will be punished appropriately.”

In another letter, Martin wrote that the action may be investigated as a hate crime, conducted by the Northwestern District Attorney’s office.

The response from around the college has primarily been one of condemnation, with statements coming from the president’s office and members of both the Amherst College Republicans and Democrats.

“The noose incident is not one to be taken lightly,” said Brantley Mayers, the vice president of the Amherst College Republicans, via phone interview.

“It’s important that we understand that the noose that was found on Pratt field was an act of white violence,” said President of the Amherst College Democrats Alexander Deatrick in a phone interview. “I think the news shows us that the campus is not necessarily a safe place, and that’s something we need to work toward.”

Although legal action may be taken by the Northwestern District Attorney’s office in response to the noose’s discovery, no further action will be taken by the college, seeing as “neither the Honor Code nor the law was broken by any member of the College community,” wrote Caroline Hanna, Amherst College Director of Media Communications, in an email.

Several days after the discovery of the noose, and possibly in response to the event, a flyer was posted around the Amherst College campus that read, “THIS IS OUR CAMPUS, NOT THE KLAN’S,” with the image of a fist below it.

The poster drew attention from the College Republicans following the possibly-intentional placement of one flyer in the window of their meeting space.

“We kind of viewed that as a group…making a broad interpretation of Republicans,” Mayers said. He went on to say that while the posters were placed throughout the campus, the one in the window of their meeting room was put first, and intentionally faced inward so that those in the room could see it.

In a Facebook post on September 7, the College Republicans stated that, “While the flyers are related to another incident on campus…the deliberate placement of the text facing the room…leads us to suppose this is an accusation of ACR being connected to the KKK.” The post went on to condemn “white supremacy, the KKK and related groups, etc.”

Deatrick of the College Democrats thought the flyers were an important response to the noose incident.

“The Amherst College Republicans decided that the flyers were about them for some reason. I think that projects pretty clearly on themselves that they think that [the flyer] reflects on them somehow,” Deatrick said. “That says a lot about them.”

In addition to the response of the flyers, Deatrick said he applauded recent events on the Amherst College campus, including a demonstration against hate that took place on September 12 in the Valentine Quad. Deatrick credited the Black Student Union and the Direct Action Coordinating Committee.

“I don’t think that these actually are contentious issues,” said Deatrick. “Flyers that go up that say ‘this is our campus, not the Klan’s,’ why is that contentious? It’s a perfectly reasonable message.”

On September 11, the 16th anniversary of the fall of the World Trade Center, a banner was hung from Valentine Hall that read the words “there is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people,” a quote by historian and social activist Howard Zinn. Below the quote, the banner continued, “In honor of those killed and displaced by America’s so-called ‘war on terror.’”

While the banner was reportedly hung for only a few hours in the morning before being folded to cover its words, its prominent location made it easily visible to students on their way to morning classes.

“The College found the message deeply insensitive,” wrote Hanna, “especially on that particular day.”

Hanna went on to write that college officials did not oversee the banner’s folding and removal.

The political messaging was clear to Mayers, who viewed the banner as an attempt to spark political conversation on a day that should be spent in remembrance.

“You’ll see banners, but not much policy discussion,” Mayers said, voicing his concern for a lack of dialogue between conflicting ideologies on the campus.

Will Soltero can be reached at and followed on Twitter @WillSoltero.

3 Responses to “Political discourse heats up at Amherst College”
  1. Nitzakhon says:

    Don’t forget – the Klan were DEMOCRATS.

    As were the Jim Crow laws. And Segregation. And the firehoses.

  2. Jon says:

    ^ Someone knows nothing about political realignment and the southern strategy.

  3. SittingBull says:

    Pretty easy to see that the Black Panther fist flyer is a similar “hate crime” to the noose. “Our campus” quite plainly refers to blacks, so……there seems to be a race problem at lovely Amherst College! The 9/11 banner could easily be construed a subversive and treasonous act. I hope the perpetrator is prosecuted for that message of cultural self-loathing, promotion of ethnic murder of Americans and the implicit incitement of violence. Oh, and there are no innocent terrorists.

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