To the Curriculum Committee, and (again) in particular, The Fundamental Skills sub-committee,

To the Curriculum Committee, and in particular, the Fundamental Skills sub-committee,

I am writing this letter, the first in a series, in response to the solicitation of feedback by the committee.

Inspired by Nora Gayer’s excellent piece.

In her latest op-ed in the New York Times, Judith Shulevitz identifies a recent trend in colleges towards sanitizing intellectual spaces (or as she more bluntly puts it, “hiding from scary ideas”). Shulevitz is one in a rising number of voices fighting back against what they perceive to be the excessive political correctness that has the university and, more broadly, spaces for thought.

Amherst College is a place of abundance. We have a plethora of intellectual thought, an admirably high degree of social and economic diversity, a formidable endowment and a surprising number of vegan dessert options. The contrarian in me was thus tempted to look for that which we are missing. The thing that struck me was disconcerting and fascinating — we have a dearth of dreams.

Elections are one of my least favorite times of the year. They are a time when beliefs are asserted with nonchalant indifference to present and past behavior, people are uncomfortably lumped into “voting blocks” and everyone involved leaves feeling vaguely defiled. As a senator, I’ve definitely had to cope with my share of elections, so when one occurs in which I’m not a candidate, and therefore obliged to participate, I am more than happy to keep my distance. However, on the occasion of the upcoming presidential elections, I find myself compelled to participate.

One of the most difficult questions I’ve been asked during my time at the College is how I learned English and why I speak it “so well.” My instinct is to feel exasperation and indignation, which are immediately followed by guilt at my lack of generosity towards the well-intentioned asker, who was, after all, “just curious.” The residue of this amalgamation of feelings tends to stay with me, constituting a vague bother, and this is why it was of interest to me to examine this scenario and my own reaction to it.