We Are The Lord Jeffs
Issue   |   Wed, 12/10/2014 - 00:01

I am a Lord Jeff. I am a first generation Amherst student. I am not writing this because I have a long connection to the history and tradition of Amherst College. This is truly what I believe, and I think there are plenty of Amherst students who share my beliefs, but fear voicing their opinion.

I had never heard of Amherst before my brother enrolled at Williams when I was in the eighth grade. He told me that the Williams’ mascot is the Ephs and Amherst’s, Williams’ biggest rival, is the Lord Jeffs. At first I didn’t think much of either mascot. Then my brother explained that Williams was given their mascot because the benefactor of the school was named Ephraim Williams. Similarly, Amherst called themselves the Lord Jeffs because the namesake of the town Amherst where the college was founded was Lord Jeffery Amherst. I gained appreciation for both mascots, as they were both historical figures and they were both a refreshing change from the overused Tigers, Panthers, and Cardinals. Both schools having unique mascots is part of the great history of the rivalry.

Figures from history must be treated within the context of their time and circumstances. Yes, the mascot refers to Jeffery Amherst, and no one denies the fact that he treated Native Americans as enemies, which to Amherst is exactly what they were. It was during Pontiac’s Rebellion when Amherst used biological warfare against the Native Americans by way of blankets infected with smallpox. This is a fact, but we must take it with the proper perspective. Weapons of mass destruction were used by both sides in both World Wars, but we must recognize and understand that the generals in these wars were operating in a situation that had no morally correct solution. Furthermore, many of our greatest heroes, including the Founding Fathers, conducted themselves in ways that today would be considered abhorrent.

Context is important. This is true for famous figures of history, but it is also true for every single student here. Don’t we want future generations to keep context in mind when forming their opinions of us? To judge a man such as Amherst for his actions by today’s standards, more than 200 years later and in a time of relative peace, is shockingly hypocritical.

If the mascot must be changed because it is offensive to the Native American community for us to be called the Lord Jeffs, then the name of the college must be changed as well if we are to have any semblance of ideological consistency. Why stop at the mascot? This seems like a pathetic and superficial response. We are called Amherst College because of Jeffery Amherst. Changing the mascot doesn’t rid us of the association with Lord Jeff, which a few people think is a problem. Far more meaningful activities are things like the Admissions Office inviting Native Americans to the Diversity Open House and spending extra time with them, in an effort to increase the amount of Native American applications sent to the college.

The Moose? Really? We want to be called the Moose because a moose wandered onto our campus last spring? Ask student-athletes if they want their team mascot to be the Moose and you will hear a resounding no. The students pushing this change are not the ones who would walk out onto the court, field, or pitch with “MOOSE” in big letters across their chest. I’m not saying student-athletes should be the ones making the decision, but they definitely should be involved in the decision. The Moose sounds more like the mascot of a created team in a video game than a prestigious institution. Some students at Amherst get wind of the idea of change and jump on board. It seems like everyone needs to be protesting something at all times. Let’s take a step back and really think about the things we are supporting.

When I think of a Lord Jeff, I don’t think of Lord Jeffery Amherst. I think of excellence, in the humanities, science, music, theater, art and athletics. I think of all the past alumni and administrators that worked to make Amherst the great place it is today. I think of sporting events and orchestra concerts, late nights in Frost and football practice. And I think of all the students of Amherst, some of whom will be groomsmen in my wedding, and godfathers to my children. The mascot Lord Jeffs provides a common ground for all of us with past and future generations of Amherst students. Changing the mascot loses this connection. They were Lord Jeffs. We are Lord Jeffs.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/11/2014 - 12:52

The historical range of the subspecies extended from well into Quebec, the Maritimes, and Eastern Ontario south to include all of New England finally ending in the very northeastern tip of Pennsylvania in the west, cutting off somewhere near the mouth of the Hudson River in the east. The moose has been extinct in much of the eastern U.S. for as long as 150 years, due to colonial era overhunting and destruction of its habitat: Dutch, French, and British colonial sources all attest to its presence in the mid 17th century from Maine south to areas within a hundred miles of present day Manhattan. However, by the 1870s, only a handful of moose existed in this entire region in very remote pockets of forest; less than 20% of suitable habitat remained.

Amherst 09 (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/11/2014 - 13:21

Some of the points here that clearly come from students who have benefited from attending a "top undergraduate institution" ... I don't care about this issue at all, but at least have a coherent argument.

-"This is a terrible article" ... Great, I guess we'll just take your word for it.

-"Michael is a white male who comes from a town that is mostly white so he just doesn't get it" ... You may be correct about that, but this has nothing to do with the conversation. Engage in the argument, instead of being lazy and making ad hominem attacks. Does being white preclude you from having an opinion that conflicts with what is PC? Maybe it does, but if the argument is so bad, then please, attack it. Not the writer.

-"This is racist" ... How? He presents some points, but doesn't force a conclusion down your throat. He is merely presenting some thoughts about historical context and allowing you to come to your own conclusion. It is obvious that he wants to keep the mascot, but I fail to see how it is racist.

-On a separate issue, the total war comment was very helpful in my humble opinion. Let us be precise in our words. Did genocide happen against the Native Americans? Yes. Was this an example of it? I am not too sure about that. Seems like The French and Indian War is considered a "War"

Thank you to those that have lived up to some standards in voicing their opinion. Whatever side you are on, your input is extremely valuable.
Then again, I am a white male, so feel free to not take anything I say seriously.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/11/2014 - 14:03

Mike, it was brave to post this article. The backlash that you have received for speaking your mind is appalling. On top of that, the whole white privilege debate is a joke. Just because you are white and come from a nice town doesn't discredit your argument. You are an intelligent student and are not blind to the injustices that minorities face. However, what people fail to accept is that the past was drastically different from today's society, as you have stated. What I cannot wrap my head around is how people have become so easily offended to the point where stripping a school of its name and legacy is the only solution. This school has been around for decades and people have become so self ritous over the smallest of things. I understand people of minority are at a disadvantage in our society. However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that anyone who is not white believes that any white person can't have a say. I am not saying whites are being suppressed, because that is not true. But whites who stand up for what they believe are also being called out on their color. Why is that any different? And people can (and will) respond to this as ignorance. However, until everyone stops looking at who is white or black and who is "privileged" or not, arguments such as these will continue. And seriously, I'd hate to be called The moose.

Athlete (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/11/2014 - 17:28

As a varsity athlete, I actually am in support of the Moose as a mascot. Athletes at Amherst are a very diverse group, and I'd prefer if you didn't speak for us when clearly we aren't all united in opinion about this issue.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/11/2014 - 17:30

go bantams

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/11/2014 - 18:46

I think a lot of the comments attacking the article rely on a lazy and uncompelling line of argument--the reductio ad hitlerum, if you will. What they ignore is that the proposition [(1) Jeffery Amherst did bad things (2) We can't support bad things (3) Therefore, we can't support Jeffery Amherst] is not a viable standard when taken generally. For instance, most of America's founding fathers, to some degree or another, were complicit in the various problematic projects of Manifest Destiny and the American founding in general, such as the extermination of American Indians and the exploitation of black labor through slavery and its successor institutions, such as Jim Crow laws and the contemporary mass imprisonment of black men. The proposition is unobjectionable in the particular case of Lord Jeff, but the argument must have some kind of universal or general validity to really hold water--otherwise, it's little more than a subjective feeling. Because taking the argument (as it has been expressed in this comments section) literally would force us to disavow not only most of this country's patrimony and "national heritage" (itself a problematic term) I would caution using it against keeping Lord Jeff as a mascot. The world-historical figures of nearly any culture's historical inheritance have almost as a rule been as invested in murder, repression, and exploitation as they have in nation-making, reform, etc. Such is the nature of state power and, indeed, of our notions of "world-historical-importance" to begin with.

In other words, I think the argument against abandoning Lord Jeff because he was involved in the genocide of American Indians [something that historians actually debate: see gloss of different views at the top of this article from JSTOR http://www.jstor.org/stable/27774278] is problematic because it allows us to absolve ourselves of a complicity in what Lord Jeffery Amherst did that many other historical figures (and, perhaps, we too) share.

It also, I think, is a little bit condescending. I would like to think that we are mature enough to acknowledge that Lord Jeffery Amherst did terrible things, and that we can use the "Lord Jeff" name as a mascot in light of this without actively supporting what he did! Perhaps this is too hopeful, but I find assuming the best of people is a happier formula than always fearing the worst.

Donated by Anonymous (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/11/2014 - 20:23

The debate of changing the mascot has been swirling around for years, but what hasn't really gained traction is changing the name of The Amherst Student publication. The conversation on changing the name of "The Amherst Student" needs to get started immediately. Back when I was an undergraduate, I would pick up the hard copies of the paper and instantly associate the title of the aptly named "AMHERST" Student, with mass genocide. Does no one else see this? Am I the only one who is disgusted every time I see the link http://AMHERSTstudent.AMHERST.edu/? Look closely, and you will see that there are not one but TWO references to the last name of the morally reprehensible Lord Jeffrey Amherst, who as we all well know wrote a letter about distributing smallpox infested blankets to native americans. I, for one, cannot stand by this.

The debate around athletics is clear: what screams out "white privilege" more than organized competition? Athletics is an easy target, like shooting fish in a barrel. But answer me this, is it not time we start talking about the real issues? The hard questions? The main media outlet on campus is named after one of the worst perpetrators of genocide in his century. I cannot stand idly by while the sports debate takes precedence over the renaming of the student newspaper. We are fed news DAILY by a source that is named after a MURDERER. I know if "The New York Times" were all of a sudden changed to "The Hitler Times," there would be much more of an uproar. Is it the administration that is turning a blind eye? There are a lot questions as to why the on campus media has yet to embrace a name change. Take a long hard look in the mirror students of Hitler College. You may not like what you see.


Anonymous (not verified) says:
Fri, 12/12/2014 - 03:11

Students arguing to change the mascot aren't saying that we have to change the name of the college, the town, or Umass Amherst too. That kind of 'slippery slope' thinking is really unproductive. I think it's quite apparent that changing the mascot would be a symbolic act, rather than a political one, meant to express sympathy to those made uncomfortable by the College's association with Lord Jeffrey Amherst as well as to acknowledge the significance of atrocities he perpetuated. Changing the name of Amherst College or the town of Amherst is obviously a ridiculous and out of reach goal, but changing the mascot is a feasible task that convey a rejection, rather than celebration, of a man that was unquestionably associated with the oppression of native peoples. In other words, just because everything named after Lord Jeffrey Amherst won't be changed doesn't mean that changing the mascot has absolutely no meaning or value. On the contrary, it would represent Amherst's tangible and definitive stance against oppression that has otherwise gone unrecognized by this institution. If a mascot other than the Jeffs makes a population of marginalized students more comfortable and raises awareness of the significance of historical oppression, why shouldn't it be changed? Leaving behind the Lord Jeffs doesn't harm anyone, but keeping the mascot obviously does.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Fri, 12/12/2014 - 12:17

Lord Jeff is not actually our OFFICIAL mascot. Changing the mascot, then, wouldn't be so hard since Jeff was never actually officially approved in any way. If we can all agree he did morally reprehensible things that clearly make people feel uncomfortable, why not adopt a better mascot (an official one, at that)? I don't understand clinging to The Lord Jeff...is tradition really so important that you refuse to make a proactive step in making the campus more inclusive? All these people saying that this would only lead to changing the name of the school are silly...the school is named after the town and not the person, after all.

I won't attack mike for his privilege, but it's important he understands that he has it. Mike (and most of his friends) are very lucky and probably will not experience the same injustices many other students on campus have had to face their whole lives. Someone in his position should try his hardest not to be offended by angry comments (very few actually attack Mike as a person, and anyway, people who have been subject to unfair treatment their whole lives are allowed to be frustrated. Staying calm is possible only for the superhumanly patient OR people who haven't actually experienced the injustices...ie privileged people). What he (and his supporters) need to do is listen to what offended people are saying and think about it on a deeper level (a level beyond the initial "you called me a racist?? How DARE you, you sensitive liberal!"). If so many people are saying it, doesn't that mean there ought to be an inkling of validity there?

I'm didn't plan this comment, so I'm losing track of my argument (too many directions I can go from here), so I'll end it now. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself: how important is Lord Jeff to me, really? Is he so important that I am ok with making a significant portion of campus (and also, potential applicants) feel uncomfortable? Am I justified in disregarding all of these peoples feelings, just because Jeff is a tradition? And when exactly is it appropriate to change tradition, if the change will bring about a more inclusive community?

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Fri, 12/12/2014 - 12:39

Bullshit, bullshit, everywhere...

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Fri, 12/12/2014 - 12:40

Bullshit, bullshit, everywhere.

Dan Lundquist '76 (not verified) says:
Fri, 12/12/2014 - 13:29

Move the college out of the town of Amherst, just to be safe.

Sensitive Guy (not verified) says:
Fri, 12/12/2014 - 16:15

This is article is great. The students that are pushing for a mascot switch are, in my opinion, quite selfish. This is not a cause to drive diversity and sensitivity, this is a coalition of students trying to make a name for themselves through change. The cause of the day.. Tisk tisk.

What's next? Not enough women's bathrooms in the library? Lol what a joke

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 00:31

It appears to me that a small group of students have begun to push this mascot-change through in a largely undemocratic process. There seems to also be substantial support coming from the top - namely, the administration and President Biddy Martin. While this is speculative, I have several questions to ask with the hopes of someone shedding some light:

1) Where did the funding come from for the statue of the moose in Frost?
2) Where did the funding come from for the Moose portrait in Johnson Chapel?
3) Where did the funding come from for the Moose outfit which was at the Homecoming football game?

It appears that the proposition of the moose as an alternate mascot may be a strategic move to reignite debate over the topic and at the very least, get supporters of the Lord Jeffs to the negotiating table to compromise with a mascot change. A nice strategy if you ask me: Present an extremely absurd and dumb mascot to the student-body, get the attention of the student body and alumni base, and then either push the Moose through or at least force a compromise.

I would assume that if a student is offended about having a mascot named after Lord Jeffrey AMHERST, that same prospective student would be even more strongly opposed to attending an institution, which holds the historical figure's last name. The argument that the name "Amherst College" or the "Lord Jeff Inn" is detached from the historical figure Lord Jeffrey Amherst is flawed. I find it hard to imagine that a majority of Native American prospective students, ostensibly offended by the actions of Jeffrey Amherst during a time of war, would buy into this distinction that the school was named after the town. I would also question why anti-Lord Jeff students are treating Native Americans as a homogenous group in this debate. Perhaps, the people whom oppose this article should consider changing the name of the school to AmhUrst. Or if that is still too similar to a person whom committed "genocide," Massachusetts College would suffice.

As a last point, somehow this debate has also resurfaced divides within our school, and the prospect that as a white male writing this article, this man is incapable of making a legitimate and empathetic argument. It is a shame that this debate has descended into commentary about white privilege. As a student body we are all united under the name of our school and the degree, which we receive upon graduation. Most people at the end of the day choose to come to this place because if you work hard, it will place you into a privileged position in society to implement the school's motto "Terras irradient,"and truly make a difference in the world. Not everyone in the world has that privilege and it is our responsibility to use it towards good ends. By our very nature of attending Amherst College, we are all privileged.

For those "in the know" about this, I hope you would please respond to my questions. Follow the money and that will lead to some answers on this...

Rebecca (not verified) says:
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 10:16

It is really sad that instead of focusing on the related issues and engaging in dialogue and discussion, many of you have made this article an issue about athletes and non-athletes. Be careful- stereotypes are stereotypes, so practice what you preach.

I was really shocked to read one student posting something calling the writer of this article a "fucktard". Not only does that kind of language reflect poorly on the individual who used it, it is disgustingly hypocritical and insensitive.

I suggest that you each take a long, hard look at yourselves first.

Lebron (not verified) says:
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 11:37

LORD JEFFF FOR LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chief Wahoo (not verified) says:
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 11:43

As a native american jew I support the mascot being Lord Jeffery Amherst. Without history we have nothing.

Aesthetically u... (not verified) says:
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 13:19

In a rational environment the moose statue and painting would not be installed by dead of night (with what must be administrative approval or else how would they get there without signs of a break in?) in spaces such as Johnson Chapel and Frost. Also, did anyone in the administration (particularly the development office) hear the alumni at Homecoming booing the Moose whenever it came near the alumni?

Angry Alum (not verified) says:
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 15:08

This comments section just goes to show what happens when you start letting poor black (and brown) people into Amherst. Complete and total cultural decline...maybe we should go back to the good ol' days when everyone was articulate and refined (and not urban trash). Good job, Mike, for voicing your opinion! I hope you can put your classmates into place.

KG (not verified) says:
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 15:50

Literally why the fuck are all these random '76ers commenting on this? Why do they feel inclined to have any say whatsoever in what we choose is best for our community? Go back to your mutual funds and golf and stop creeping on the student newspaper of your alma mater. Your glory days are over, sorry.

Dan Lundquist (not verified) says:
Sun, 12/14/2014 - 08:45

A college is a dynamic, changing place that is "owned" by many people, who have different experiences... some are current contemporaries with their own views of what Amherst is and means to them, now, and others are faculty and staff and alumni who have passed through with their own memories of their time at the college. I haven't thought about who has the authority (right, responsibility) to choose what is "best for our community," but I do believe all stakeholders who care are entitled to express their opinions.

KG (not verified) says:
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 15:52

Worse, you decide to put "M.D." with your name in the comments like oh that would give you some kind of credibility but no literally FUCK YOU GUYS

KG (not verified) says:
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 16:01

Like I'm literally going to look all of you up in the alumni directory and send you personalized holiday cards about how you should stop.

Rick Williams MD '76 (not verified) says:
Sun, 12/14/2014 - 18:49

Public forum KG, whether you like it or not. Many alumni read the articles in the Student and still care about everything that happens at Amherst. Talk about changing the mascot to a moose gets our attention. BTW we help fund the operational budget that allows you the freedom to behave as you do. Your warm and insightful remarks inadvertently help make my earlier point, that anonymous posts aren't constructive in a legitimate debate. Show me something and sign your name the next time you make a "contribution."

Haha (not verified) says:
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 16:04

I mean, I certainly hope the "M.D." designation represents some sort of credibility. The '76ers could go back "to their mutual funds and golf" and cut ties with the school but then we wouldn't have any money to burn and buy massive moose statues to display in the library :'(

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 16:11

It is quite unfortunate that we have to walk this line with the alums.

Anon (not verified) says:
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 17:16

How would being a doctor mean you know anything about racial politics? You're aware of medicine's history or racism right...?

Anon (not verified) says:
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 17:27

I wonder if they keep commenting because they're all privileged white men who have never once been told that their opinions don't matter and they've always been validated their entire lives. Nah, I bet it's because they know more about the goings on of the school than us!!!! I can't imagine anyone more qualified to talk about this than someone who graduated 40 years ago!! And look! I'm commenting anonymously! The horror!!!! I can't imagine anything more terrifying than technology moving forward because social media is a force that can only be used for evil! How dare things not be EXACTLY like the 70s!!!!!!!!!

Common Sense (not verified) says:
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 18:21

If you don't like the mascot and are offended by it, why did you come here? If you didn't know the history, then whose fault is that.

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sat, 12/13/2014 - 19:41

@common sense that's such a weak argument. People who live and work at this institution have every right to push for changes to it. Amherst is an awesome place full of awesome people, it deserves an equally awesome and non-genocidal mascot.

Gabriela Espinosa (not verified) says:
Tue, 12/16/2014 - 20:28

Dear Mike,

I agree that The Lord Jeff mascot represents you well!

Unbridled.. (not verified) says:
Thu, 12/18/2014 - 23:19

Change the name of the Town and the College... He was Hitler of the 18th century..

Anonymous (not verified) says:
Sun, 12/21/2014 - 15:41

TL:DR. Lord Jeff was a great guy 10/10 would recommend.

David Dorwart (not verified) says:
Tue, 12/23/2014 - 10:28

When the argument has devolved to the inane point of pulling out the ultimate Hitler trump card, it’s time to step back, take a breath and look, in Hegelian terms, for a little synthesis. Reasoned and informed discussion is necessary as is an understanding of historical context so the mistakes of the past are not repeated. (As of yet, I’m not aware that any professional historian has weighed on there being conclusive proof of Jeffery Amherst’s actions (anymore than there is conclusive proof to the assertion that the Mongols introduced the pestilence to Europe in the Middle Ages.) Instead of constructively and expertly addressing issues in depth, a myopic overzealous political correctness, another form of fundamentalism, runs rampant in our current society and infuses too much of the argumentation. Should we rename the State of Washington, tear down the Washington monument, remove Washington’s visage from the one-dollar bill because our first president owned slaves? (He, of course, made provision for freeing them upon his wife’s death.) It is arrogant to think that any one faction sits in such a privileged position to have the definitive answer. Even if Jeffery Amherst could be found conclusively guilty of actions we today find unethical, it does not contradict that the present day Jeffs can now stand in opposition to such action and like society as a whole have progressed to a point of acknowledging the past mistakes while choosing to promote a different course of action, led by a more ethical and enlightened perspective.

Does It Really ... (not verified) says:
Sat, 12/27/2014 - 02:12

Just to clarify, I don't attend Amherst. My father is an alumnus and my brother currently attends. Attending a different liberal arts college named after a great man from the past, I take great pride in connecting myself to his triumphs and strive to live up to his beliefs. If he was as tainted as Lord Jeffrey, I would have no pride in that. I thought my school was having an identity crisis, but goddamn, this is sad. As the school strives to get more diverse, it must be willing to separate itself from it's past. The moose is stupid, but the Lord Jeffrey is disgraceful.