A Year In News
Issue   |   Fri, 05/22/2015 - 11:20
Olivia Tarantino '15
Students, faculty and staff staged a walk out on Dec. 1 as a response to the Ferguson National Call to Action. Close to 500 people came to show their support for this national movement.


Following the board of trustees’ ban on fraternities last May, a group of students and administrators began discussing alternatives to the fraternity system. The group began brainstorming ways to create inclusive social groups on campus.

The college hired Alex Vasquez as the new dean of students. Prior to coming to Amherst, Vasquez worked at Wheaton College for 13 years. Vasquez began working with Chief Student Affairs officers Suzanne Coffey in the newly reorganized Office of Student Affairs.


The Powerhouse opened its doors for the first time to the student body with an open house event with food and music, followed by a wings night the next day. The renovation for the Powerhouse began in December 2013, and a committee of senators and at-large student members has been discussing how to use the Powerhouse as a student-run space since spring of 2014.


The Green Amherst Project organized a student walkout at a talk given by Patrick Moore, an ex-Greenpeace member and climate skeptic. Moore argued that the current trends of climate change are not dangerous and that they are part of a natural pattern instead of being caused by humans.

A newly formed student group organized the Black Lives Matter awareness week, following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson in August 2014. The week consisted of panels, discussions and flyers around campus that read phrases like “Don’t Shoot” and “Hands Up.”


The Green Amherst Project held a week of action in order to convince the college’s board of trustees to divest from the coal industry. The week consisted of a series of events that included a discussion of climate change deniers, a panel of students who shared their personal experiences with climate change and delivery of a letter that formally asked the board to divest.


Students, faculty and staff congregated in front of Frost Library on Dec. 1 to participate in the Ferguson National Call to Action. About 500 people observed a moment of silence together and marched around the main quadrangle with their hands up.

Professor of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought Martha Umphrey was appointed the first director of Amherst’s Humanities Center. The center is still under construction on the second floor of Frost Library and will serve as a space for research and collaboration in the humanities. The center is scheduled to open next fall.


New furniture appeared in Valentine Dining Hall over interterm. The changes were intended to encourage social interactions in smaller groups. The new furniture received mixed feedback: While some students praised the changes, others expressed concern about overcrowding due to the reduced number of seats in the dining hall.

The college held its first Day of Dialogue on Race and Racism. The events of the day included an academic panel on topics such as racial identity and political activism and an “envisioning” session, during which the attendees were asked to imagine a safer and more progressive Amherst.


Robert Frost Library won the 2015 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award from the American Library Association. The award committee recognized Frost’s focus on teaching undergraduates research skills, collaboration between faculty and library staff and innovative publishing methods.

A new student club, Hooked on Aquaponics, received funding from the President’s Office to build a self-sustaining, soil-free greenhouse next to Valentine Dining Hall. Aquaponics combines the farming of aquatic animals and hydroponics, which grows plants without soil. Once constructed, the system will repurpose fish waste into plant food.

During the week of Feb. 23, Provost Peter Uvin hosted a series of conversation called Amherst Reflects, a follow-up event to the Day of Dialogue held in January. The event was open to all students, faculty and staff and was intended to continue the conversations that took place in small group dialogues at the Day of Dialogue.

Don Faulstick was appointed as the college’s new director of athletics. He had served as interim director since February 2014, when Suzanne Coffey vacated the position. One of his stated goals as director is to concentrate administrative effort toward breaking down the social divide between athlete and non-athlete students.


In a letter to the campus community, the board of trustees announced that it had unanimously decided not to divest from the coal industry. The announcement was part of a statement on sustainability and investment policy, which formally recognized the dangers of climate change and affirmed the trustees’ commitment to environmentally sustainable policies.

The Amherst College Outing Club organized a spring break trip for the first time since 2005. The trip took place at Utah’s Zion National Park, and included non-Outing Club members in order to bring together students from across campus. 12 students attended the spring break trip, four being Outing Club members and leaders of this trip.


The Office of Admission accepted 13.7 percent of applicants to the class of 2019. The college received 8,566 total applications this year and accepted 170 applications during the early decision round and 1,006 applicants through regular decision. Class of 2019 was Amherst’s largest applicant pool as this year’s number of applications rose by one percent from the previous year.

David Hamilton was appointed Amherst’s new chief information officer. Hamilton previously served as the college’s director of web services, interim co-director of information technology and interim chief information officer. Hamilton plans to improve the customer service of information technology at Amherst by expanding cloud computing and relying more on user data for improving their services.

The Chainsmokers and T-Pain headlined the Spring Concert on April 25. The Chainsmokers are a New York-based DJ, producer and songwriter duo, with members Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall. Among the group’s most well known hits are “#Selfie” and “Kanye.” T-Pain is an American singer, songwriter, rapper and record producer who was featured on more than 50 singles that topped charts.

The Social Project Work Group released a formal proposal for the implementation of social clubs. The proposal outlines the purpose of social clubs, the process for creating and joining them and requirements of clubs. The group intended to create a campus-wide survey on social clubs by the end of the semester, but the vote ended up being postponed until fall.

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke with Professor of History and American Studies Frank Couvares in Johnson Chapel at an event open to the public. The talk centered on Gates’ experience working for the Bush and Obama administrations, as well as his opinion on the United States’ role in foreign affairs.


Chief Student Affairs Officer Suzanne Coffey and Dean of Students Alex Vasquez held the first open forum on neighborhoods. A part of the recent strategic plan, the neighborhood initiative intends to divide the dormitories into six residential areas (with the exception of the first-year dorms) in an attempt to foster community among students in those groups. Some concerns about the concept raised at the event include the lack of pre-existing architecture to support the neighborhoods and the inability for students to choose living arrangements.

The Office of Sustainability held a meeting introducing the Climate Action Plan Task Force, headed by Director of Environmental Sustainability Laura Draucker. The task force, which consists of students, faculty and staff, aims to create a comprehensive plan for sustainability at the college involving on-the-ground initiatives to reduce emissions in a way that is financially viable.