Two Amherst students talk about a new project called Defining Amherst. This is the first in the series of upcoming interviews with students, faculty, and staff about the purpose of an Amherst education. For more info about Defining Amherst, visit

What is Defining Amherst about?

"A liberal arts education is rich in metaphors that are capable of capturing the multifaceted life of an entrepreneur” — Dennis Ray, “Liberal Arts for Entrepreneurs.”

In November, TEDxAmherstCollege drew in hundreds of students. Many students have purchased refrigerators from Green Garage, and a number of students in the Amherst community is currently anticipating the new BikeShare program. But most people are not aware of their common denominator: the Social Innovation Leadership Team(SILT).

Have you ever looked at a snowflake? Here I don’t really mean, ‘Have you ever seen a snowflake?’ or ‘Have your eyes ever registered a snowflake?’ I mean, have you ever sat down, or stood up, or taken up some bodily position, and given your full attention to a snowflake?

Two weeks ago, Idalia Friedson ’15 contributed an article titled “In Support of Biddy: Why We Shouldn’t Boycott Academia.” In her article, Friedson advances the argument that President Martin’s opposition to the American Studies Association’s boycott on Israel is grounded in principles of academic freedom. Yet at the same time as Friedson advocates for “academic freedom,” she constructs an argument that is ideologically lazy, patently biased and that reads little like any academic writing that I’ve encountered.

When I read through my first draft of this article, incomplete, written over a month ago and forgotten in the crevices of one of my many draft article ideas folders, I nearly threw up my tea in my mouth. “On the dialectic of intellectual elitism and egalitarian accessibility” was my working title, and it just got worse from there on in. It was written in vague, hazy academese, with liberal arts college major words like “paradigmatic,” “praxis” and everyone’s favorite, “problematic”, cushioned in every single sentence.

There is always something a little magical about snow days. They are a serendipitous holiday — a fortuitous chance to enjoy the idyllic side of the winter season before the snow turns to grimy slush and ice — and for those of us who grew up in the northeast, evoke a certain nostalgia for grade school. Nonetheless, while many of us rejoiced at having our classes cancelled last week because of the snow, it is important to remember that not everyone got off so easy.

Many of us probably noticed the massive banners hanging from the front of Frost Library and Valentine Dining Hall last week. In prominent bold letters, they displayed the question, “When do you conform?” Ironically, the large size of the banners, their positions overlooking the campus’ main quads and their odd wording in the second person all gave them an eerily Orwellian feel, as if they seemed to be aimed at promoting the same sort of groupthink that the question was meant to address.