On Sunday, Dec. 2, 2012 at approximately 3 p.m., the Amherst College police were notified that the word “nigger” had been written in the snow on the roof of a car parked by the Lord Jeffrey Inn. The car was parked on Spring Street on the north side of the street and was therefore not on college property. Because the incident occurred outside the jurisdiction of the campus police department, it has been referred to the town of Amherst police who are currently conducting an investigation into the incident.
Though the incident occurred off-campus, students were concerned, with rumors circulating throughout campus, linking the event to two separate incidents that occurred in Charles Drew House, the Black Culture House, an egging that occurred on Oct. 22 and an incident that occurred Dec. 2 in the early morning in which trash was strewn about the building on the third floor and in the first floor common room.
However, according to Chief of Amherst College Police John Carter, there is currently no evidence that any of these incidents are directly related.
“We are conducting an investigation into [the trash incident] at the moment. Right now it is our belief that that may have more to do with an interpersonal relationship between two people who had just met each other where one person got upset,” Chief Carter said. “It’s impossible to say that these are not related, but there is not evidence right now that all these incidents are connected.”
Chief Carter explained that the email regarding the racial epithet was written to the College community even though it did not technically occur on the college campus because of the Cleary Act.
“The reason it was sent out is that there are certain parameters in Cleary of when we have to send out a notice and it’s when an incident happens that is in one of the, I believe, six categories now under Cleary now that happen either on campus or immediately adjacent to it,” Chief Carter said. “Looking at this incident, it was immediately adjacent to campus, it is an area that is traveled by our students, and we felt that it was very important that they were aware of it.”
Though the incident may not be related to the college, the Dean of Students office and the College administration stated in a school-wide email that “should it be discovered that a member of the Amherst College community is involved, serious disciplinary action would result.”
However, though the incident didn’t occur directly on campus, members of the College administration and students are taking it very seriously.
On Dec. 4, President Carolyn “Biddy” Martin sent out a school-wide email addressing the incident and pledging to continue changing the culture of the College to make it a more inclusive environment.
“I wish the members of our community had been spared the pain inflicted by the act that occurred this past weekend and the other acts and insults and exclusions that too many of you have endured in your lives,” Martin said in her statement. “I want to work with you to combat racism and other forms of bias and disrespect, while building on what is hopeful about the opportunity at Amherst to make something of our diversity.”
Towards that end, Martin will be holding an open meeting today from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m., in Cole Assembly Room to discuss views on a possible symposium that would deal with race and diversity in the spring semester and other possible actions the College could take.
“Amherst is focused on making — but has not yet completed — the changes that would more fundamentally alter our culture and give it the inclusiveness we seek. We have taken deliberate first steps through our admission policies by assembling students from very different socio-economic, racial, ethnic, religious, and national backgrounds and of different genders and sexual orientations. Our task now is to put difference — and intellectual engagement with it — at the heart of our community and our everyday practices. Our efforts to make diversity a benefit for each and every one of us, to celebrate and embrace it, to develop a culture in which openness defines Amherst is our best hope for change. We won’t get there without acknowledging that discrimination of various forms continues to damage our institutions, our responses to one another, and our individual psyches. We won’t get there without accepting that this is an evolving community and that change takes advocacy and activism, but also time, patience, and the serious exchange of ideas,” Martin said in her statement. “Presidential statements, important as they may be in certain contexts, have limited power to make a difference. Change requires the involvement of a community, the willingness to listen to one another, a tolerance for conflict and the hard work of collaboration.”
Campus Police encourages anyone to contact them if they have any information about the incident.