Students Vote On College Mascot
Issue   |   Wed, 11/18/2015 - 02:50
Kaelan McCone '19
Students turned out to support the Amherst football team at its game against Williams on Saturday, Nov. 14. Several students held signs condemning the use of the Lord Jeff as mascot.

Students voted in a college-wide poll on Tuesday, Nov. 17 on whether to support removing the Lord Jeff as Amherst’s unofficial mascot. The Association of Amherst Students conducted the poll and will release its results on Thursday.

The poll comes in the wake of an informal straw poll conducted at a special meeting of the faculty on Nov. 16, in which all faculty members present voted in support of removing the Lord Jeff.

The AAS emphasized in the poll that a vote for the removal of the Lord Jeff was not an endorsement for any specific alternative mascot. In October, the AAS published a letter in The Amherst Student advocating against the current mascot, stating their intent to hold a poll on the removal of the mascot later in the semester.

“If the community agrees that we do not have an unofficial mascot, then we no longer have an unofficial mascot,” said senator Sam Keaser ’17E. “The hope is that people will respect the democratic process and the will of the community, and we’ll see sort of a general phasing out of the Lord Jeff in speech and posters and things like that. It can’t and won’t be enforced, but that’s the hope.”

According to Keaser, the AAS decided to release the poll now because they hoped that recent discussion of the mascot would lead to a higher response rate. The AAS hope to receive more than 1,200 responses in order to obtain a representative sample of the student body, Keaser said.

The poll follows a four-day sit-in in Frost Library in which many protesters advocated for a change in the mascot. At the sit-in members of Amherst Uprising presented President Biddy Martin with a list of demands, including a call for Martin to condemn the Lord Jeff’s use as unofficial mascot.

“President Martin must release a statement by Friday, November 13th, 2015 by 5:00pm that condemns the inherent racist nature of the unofficial mascot, the Lord Jeff, and circulate it to the student body, faculty, alumni, and Board of Trustees,” reads the demand, which can be found on the Amherst Uprising website. “This will be followed up by the encouraged removal of all imagery including but not limited to apparel, memorabilia, facilities, etc. for Amherst College and all of its affiliates via a phasing out process within the next year.”

Martin did not such a statement Friday, and student protesters responded by hanging posters against the Lord Jeff throughout the campus. The posters contained the words “This is Jeff. We Aren’t Jeff,” and had a picture depicting European settlers handing blankets to Native Americans. In 1763, Lord Jeffery Amherst advocated killing Native Americans by giving them blankets contaminated with smallpox. According to a statement released by Martin on Sunday, students later found that some of the posters had been shredded and taken down.

Martin’s statement did not include any reference to the mascot, but it did include an encouragement to “consider what message our symbols send.” Martin had said earlier that the board of trustees will be discussing the mascot issue in January.

During the football game against Williams on Saturday, some students who traveled to Williams to support the Amherst team held signs with messages such as “We support Amherst football” and “We are not Jeffs.”

“We lined up in front of the football stands and cheered on our football team while denouncing our unofficial mascot,” Andrew Kim ’18 said. “I think that’s important that we were in support of our athletes, but not Lord Jeffery Amherst.”

On Monday evening, the AAS held a forum as a follow-up to the protests over the weekend. The mascot was one subject of discussion. Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein announced the results of the faculty straw poll at that meeting. Athletic Director Don Faulstick said the Athletics Department has been phasing the Lord Jeff out of athletic uniforms since this past summer.

In the 2015 alumni survey, roughly one-third of alumni who responded indicated that they supported keeping the Lord Jeff, one-third supported changing the mascot, and one-third were indifferent, according to the Amherst College website.

In a survey given to students earlier in October, which asked a variety of questions about Amherst, one question asked students whether they were in favor of keeping the Lord Jeff as unofficial mascot. Twenty-five percent of students favored keeping the current mascot, 22 percent were indifferent, and 52 percent wanted to change the mascot, with one percent that did not answer the question. Overall, 45 percent of Amherst students responded to the survey.

Keaser said that if most students vote in favor of removing the Lord Jeff in this new poll, the AAS will begin formal discussions about a potential new mascot next semester.

Mike (not verified) says:
Thu, 11/19/2015 - 19:28

Historians debate whether proposed use of smallpox blankets to suppress 1763 uprising was acted upon. Stop with the mascot change. we will not donate a single cent to this school ever if you cave in to demands. What will be next? The faculty has caved but why exactly? There is something to be said about tradition.

L (not verified) says:
Sat, 11/21/2015 - 19:02

Seems to me that ditching Lord Jeff as college mascot is a weak move. We are still going to be Amherst College and like it or not that identity is now indelibly imprinted with Lord Jeff. You can't erase history and he is now part of our name.

If we had any guts (and we don't) we would change the name of the college.

Bob Sather '68 (not verified) says:
Mon, 11/23/2015 - 10:42

Proposal for a NewCollege Song:

Oh, Lord Jeffery AmMoose was a-wandring in the woods (1) (2)
And she strayed into Biddy's back ya-a-a-a-ard...
She is bigger than the bobcats, polar bears and purple cows (3)
And her antlers are very ha-a-ard... (4)
(And her antlers are very ha-a-ard)

Other colleges have animals of every shape and hue
Covered with scales or hides or downy fur,
But give us our shaggy AmMoose, she’s the noblest and the best
To the end we will stand fast for her. (Gung ho!)

Oh Am-MOOOSE brave Am-MOOOSE (5)
Twas a name known to fame from days of yore
May it ever be gloriOOSE
Til the sun shall climb the heavens no more!

(1) The moose that roamed the campus was female, but I don’t see a problem with it having a masculine name. This fits in with the College’s tolerance of complex gender issues.
(2) There are advantages in calling the moose ‘Lord Jeffery’. The song is easier to learn. And we can continue to call our teams the ‘Lord Jeffs’. Think of the savings in Athletics Department stationary alone! On the other hand, if we name our teams after the animal, the plural form will be a problem. ‘The Mooses played Williams…’? ‘The Moose played Williams…’?
(3) The animals named are the mascots of rival colleges: Bates, Bowdoin and Williams respectively.
(4) I know, female moose don’t have antlers. But it scans better than ‘hooves’.
(5) In the chorus, the ‘MOOO’ should be emphasized whenever playing the Purple Cow.