Senator Always Looking to Make a Difference
Issue   |   Fri, 05/22/2015 - 10:49
Photo courtesy of Peter Crane '15

Do you remember when Macklemore performed at Amherst for the spring concert a few years ago? You can thank Peter Crane for that. Or have you ever taken an AAS shuttle to Boston, Bradley Airport, or New York before breaks? You can thank Crane for that as well. Were you glad to hear about the creation of the Title IX Policy Committee, too? Yet again, this in part is thanks to Peter Crane.

Changes like these are just a few examples of how Crane has contributed to making Amherst a better place. An active member of the campus community, he has used the responsibility bestowed upon him in his various extracurriculars to encourage reform, discussion and unity among students. Crane’s accomplishments vary in terms of whom they affect and what they concern, but his overarching motivation lies in his hope of leaving a truly positive impact on this community.

Coming to Amherst

Originally from Irvine, California, Crane graduated from University High School, a large public high school with 2,500 students. Attending a large school helped him hone in on what he wanted from his college experience, both in terms of classroom size and campus feel.

“I wanted to really take advantage of a small school experience rather than keep taking lectures,” he said. “I could have taken lectures at bigger places.”

When he came to Amherst he “knew that [he] wanted to be econ and something non-quantitative.” An economics and history double major, Crane discovered an interest in history during his first year at Amherst.

“It ended up being that during my first semester here, my freshman seminar was with a history professor, [so] I was inducted really early on into that type of thinking,” he said. “I found myself each semester willing to take a few more [classes], out of interest, for fun, and eventually I realized that that’s where I was naturally drifting anyways.”

Crane said juggling two different fields proved to have its difficulties, but it also helped him pinpoint what exactly he wanted to get from his classroom experience.

“[I liked being] able to have that mix of writing, reading and thinking but also a little bit of quantitative analysis and working with models, and both of those things in a way that avoided Scantron tests, memorization and things like that,” he said. “It definitely drove what I did want going forward, and thus what I didn’t want.”

Exploring a New Field

For his senior thesis, Crane chose to specialize in history. The inspiration came from two classes he took his junior year as well as the three professors who taught them; all of these influences were “a big spark” for him.
“My junior year, I had two professors who co-taught a class called secularism, and another professor who had, that very semester, taught a class on South Asian history,” he said. “I got really interested in that whole subcontinent … Luckily, [these events] happened within the same semester and proved to be a foundation for my thesis later on.”

Crane’s thesis concerns the Pakistani debates on secularism, with a special focus on the Objectives Resolution of 1949. Unlike many other thesis writers, he neither knew very much about the topic he wanted to research nor had extensive experience in the general department of South Asian studies. Given these limitations, Crane’s thesis advisor, Professor Dwaipayan Sen of both the History and the Asian Languages and Civilizations departments, was impressed by the way he tackled his challenges.
“I was very impressed that he came to me having only taken one course in South Asian history,” Sen said, Sen taught Crane in his History 301 and Intro to Modern South Asia classes during Crane’s junior year. “What was so remarkable was that this was something that Peter himself, coming into the project, was largely unfamiliar with, yet … [he was] able to analyze a fairly significant amount of unfamiliar material and … articulate a meaningful thesis.”

Sen also remarked on the uniqueness and complexity of Crane’s central focus.

“He was basically asking how and why the Objectives Resolution came about in the way that it did,” Sen said. “I think that was, in a sense, what struck me the most about the project, because it is a question that hasn’t really been asked.” Sen said he put Crane in contact with “one of the foremost Pakistani historians in the States,” and even she agreed that he was asking “a really weighty question.”

The fact that Crane devoted much of his time researching a specific topic, about which not much has been written before, speaks of his general attitude towards a liberal arts education.

“All the learning I’ve been doing at Amherst I have really explicitly tried to keep non-vocational,” he said. “I’ve tried to keep it as something that will better the way I think about the world, rather than something about which I’ll think ‘I want to use this for my job, going forward.’”

Now that he has completed his Amherst education, Crane will be heading to Los Angeles to join J.P. Morgan as a real estate acquisition analyst.

Serving the Community

While at Amherst, Crane participated in and occupied a wide range of activities and positions. Despite their diversity, all were motivated by his drive to make a genuine impact on the community.

Crane was one of the most prominent advocates pushing for the creation of Amherst’s Title IX Policy Committee.

“I’ve been really passionate about sexual misconduct policy and assault at this school,” Crane said. “The Title IX Policy Committee, which got started this semester, is … the first time students have had serious, direct policy-making power. Before, we had been in the form of advocates: We had never been in the committee meetings looking at details … It’s just really cool to be able to think, ‘OK, this is finally getting done, and now I’m a part of these conversations.’”

Crane has also been involved in the Association of Amherst Students for the past four years at Amherst. Like his interest in shaping sexual assault policy, his role in senate stems from his interest in issues of social justice. Accordingly, he places an importance on being able to see results at the end of the day.

“[At] a MUN conference … you talk about an issue, and then you leave when it’s over. Maybe you learned something, but did you have a real impact on the world?” he said. “Here, I can talk to people and see how things impact people, and have some influence on that.”

On a Personal Level

Because Crane puts such an emphasis on impacting others, it is no surprise that his ability to do so himself extends beyond the institutional level and into the realm of personal interactions.

“Peter has made a tremendous impact through his interpersonal relationships with other students,” said his friend Lola Fadulu ’17. “In my case, I had a difficult time adjusting to Amherst, but having Peter there listen to me vent and to show me the ropes as an upperclassman was a truly invaluable gift.”

Sam Keaser ’17E, who serves with Crane on AAS, concurred, pointing out the ways in which Crane has left a legacy on both the institutional and local levels.

“I think a lot of people have been and will continue to be impacted by him ... I think a lot of reforms are due in some extent to Peter,” Keaser said.

Keaser praised Crane’s “friendliness, the way he carries himself and the intensity with which he cares about his friends, their lives, how they’re feeling, how they’re doing.”
“He’s been a role model to me in that way for sure,” Keaser added.

As for Crane, the connections he has made at Amherst have impacted him in their own way.

“I’ll miss a space where everyone is so interconnected,” he said. “Even though, for example, I’m on student government, I’ve never felt particularly political … [interactions were] always one on one, and always about people’s stories and keeping things genuine. At the end of the day, that’s something I really hope I will be able to keep: just having genuine connections with such a wide group of people.”

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