A Year in News: Deans, Frats and the AAS
Issue   |   Fri, 05/23/2014 - 12:20
Photography Editor Olivia Tarantino '15

Amherst’s Book & Plow Farm celebrated its first harvest, bringing in hundreds of pounds of kale, watermelon, mustard and bok choi, among many other fruits and vegetables. Farmers Peter McLean and Tobin Porter-Brown opened Book & Plow last year, and have been using the farm’s produce to supply Valentine Dining Hall as well as other customers around Amherst.

The college celebrated the completion of its $502 million “Lives of Consequence” fundraising campaign. The campaign, which launched in 2008, engaged 86 percent of Amherst alumni and 54 percent of parents through 1,463 events as well as opportunities to mentor and network with students. Ultimately, the college surpassed its $425 million fundraising goal.

Amherst received unflattering media attention when Newsweek obtained a copy of an email sent by Residential Life to many members of the student body prior to homecoming weekend. The Newsweek article criticized a section of the email that warned students to “keep an eye out for unwanted sexual advances” from alumni looking to take advantage of “what they now perceive to be an ‘easy’ hook-up scene back at Amherst.” Director of Residential Life Torin Moore issued a statement apologizing to the community for the email’s characterization of alumni.

After months of uncertainty due to unforeseen construction difficulties, the Board of Trustees finally voted to approve plans for a new science center, deciding to raze the social dorms in order to make way for a science center that is expected to open in fall 2018. Although the college had initially intended to construct the new buildings on the site of the current Merrill Science Center, the Board voted to abandon this plan last spring after building on the Merrill site proved to be more costly and disruptive than anticipated. The college also announced the construction of new dorms to replace the socials. These dorms will be built on the site where the modular housing units Plaza and Waldorf now stand and are slated to be completed in August 2016.

A professor of midwifery, a saxophonist and an Amherst College senior were among the eight speakers at the first ever TEDxAmherstCollege event. TEDx events are independently organized offshoots of the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences, and feature a combination of live speakers and videos of TED talks from other locations. Amherst’s TEDx conference was organized by a team of students who hope to make TEDxAmherstCollege into an annual event.

Angie Epifano and another former student filed a federal complaint against Amherst College, alleging that the college violated Title IX and the Clery Act by mishandling reports of sexual assault. The complaint came more than a year after Epifano published an account in The Amherst Student describing her experience with the administration’s handling of her sexual assault. Epifano said that she and an unnamed alumna decided to file the complaint after they decided that Amherst had not adequately responded to the reports of mishandled sexual assaults that began to surface last fall. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is currently investigating the complaint, and recently included Amherst’s name on a list it released of 55 colleges facing Title IX investigations for allegedly mishandling sexual assault and harassment. The college hired Laurie Frankl to be its first ever full-time Title IX Coordinator the day after the complaint was filed.

Renovations began on the college’s old Powerhouse building, which is scheduled to open as a new space for student activities next fall. Administrators and students on the Powerhouse Committee envision the space being used for performances, late night studying, concerts, speakers and other events. The student committee will be in charge of the budget, booking events and day-to-day operations of the Powerhouse, with the new Dean of Students providing some general oversight.

Amherst College Press, a new digital press based at the college, named Mark Edington as its founding director. Edington, formerly the executive director of the Harvard Decision Science Library, will be leading Amherst’s effort to become the first higher-education institution to run a completely digital open-access press. Unlike most university presses, Amherst College Press is a commons press, a press whose content is available for free. The first books published by Amherst College Press will be released next year.

Amherst expelled a student for committing sexual assault, marking the first time in over a decade that the college had expelled a perpetrator of sexual violence. The expulsion is the first under a newly revised sexual misconduct policy that was put into place during the spring of 2013. The new sexual misconduct policy includes changes such as a revised process for submitting complaints of sexual assault and measures that seek to better inform the community about sexual violence complaints.

At a White House summit attended by President Biddy Martin and other college presidents, the college announced four new initiatives to build upon its efforts to increase college access and success for low-income students. Martin announced that the college will be introducing initiatives to help Native American students attend college, to improve college access for local low-income students, to encourage low-income students to major in STEM fields and to enhance the experiences of low-income students at Amherst.

After December’s Crossett Christmas parties resulted in overcrowding and disorderly behavior in the social quad, the Dean of Students Office announced a new party policy that aims to create safer party conditions at Amherst. Part of the policy involves an effort to push gatherings into spaces other than the social dorms and make it easier for students to register parties in common spaces. After three months under the new policy, college staff members have said that the policy has made some progress in reducing overcrowding and encouraging students to clean up after their parties.

Jim Larimore abruptly stepped down from his position as Dean of Students, prompting President Biddy Martin to appoint former Athletic Director Suzanne Coffey to the newly created position of Chief Student Affairs. Larimore said in an email to the community that he made the change for personal reasons and that the job was causing him to move away from the “personal aspects of being a dean” that he valued. The change proved highly controversial as some protested the lack of student input on Coffey’s appointment. The college is currently searching for a Dean of Students to work under Coffey in the newly renamed and restructured Office of Student Affairs.

Amherst announced the creation of its 38th official major, as the Department of Mathematics changed its name to the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and began offering a new statistics major. The new statistics major has a curriculum with an emphasis on interdisciplinary skills and a required senior capstone project.

The college approved plans for a new Humanities Center to be built on the second floor of Frost Library. The center will support the scholarship of resident faculty in the humanities and also provide space for visiting scholars. The Humanities Center, which is expected to open in 2015, has attracted some controversy from faculty who are worried by plans to displace stacks of books and faculty carrels in order to accommodate the center.

Amherst College’s Mead Art Museum announced it would be working with the FBI to reopen an investigation on a painting that was stolen from the museum on Feb. 8, 1975. The painting, Jean Baptist Lambrechts’ “Figures Smoking and Drinking” was one of three works stolen from the Mead that night in 1975. While the other painting were recovered in 1989, the Lambrechts painting has yet to be found, although Mead Head of Security Heath Cummings says that there is some new information in the case.

The Office of Admissions accepted 13 percent of applicants to the class of 2018, offering admission to 1,103 out of 8,468 students who applied this year. Applications to Amherst rose by more than 6 percent this year, making this the second largest applicant pool in the college’s history.

Swedish DJ duo Icona Pop headlined Spring Concert on April 26. The electro-pop group, made up of Stockholm natives Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, played to a crowd of Amherst and Five College students in LeFrak gymnasium. British DJ Star Slinger, whose real name is Darren Williams, was the opening act.

Amherst announced the creation of a new Office of Environmental Sustainability scheduled to open next fall. The college is in the midst of a nationwide search for the office’s director. Chief of Campus Operations Jim Brassord proposed the office, which he said will work to coordinate Amherst’s sustainability initiatives and further incorporate sustainability into research and teaching. The announcement came just days before the faculty voted to make the college’s environmental studies program into an official department.

The Board of Trustees announced that the college will enforce a ban on off-campus fraternities starting July 1. The board’s chair, Cullen Murphy ’74, said that the ban was intended to uphold the spirit of the trustees’ 1984 resolution banning fraternities. The board portrayed the decision as a response to the Sexual Misconduct Oversight Committee’s 2013 report, which asked the board to clarify the ambiguous position of off-campus fraternities at Amherst. The decision provoked an intense backlash from many students, particularly members of fraternities. With the support of 70.46 percent of voting students, the AAS passed a referendum condemning the board’s resolution and calling for it to be overturned.

After nearly a month of complaints and controversy surrounding this year’s Association of Amherst Students presidential election, the Judiciary Council decided to void the election results, leaving the AAS temporarily without a president. The election results first came into doubt after some alleged that the winning candidate, Amani Ahmed ’15, had overspent on her campaign. Some claimed that Ahmed had violated the $45 limit by spending $20.35 on campaign posters that she never used in addition to $39.40 on posters she did use. Ultimately, the Judiciary Council overturned a previous ruling and decided that Ahmed had violated the AAS constitution’s definition of campaign expenditures.