Word-Pain Rising by James Tripaldi ’19

see the abyss before me, and it glows pixelated-white. I want to reach out, caress it… caress it like I might a cat—except this cat is deranged, with the cold eyes of an unrepentant killer. I anticipated an amicable response to my offering of friendship, and now I shudder beneath the weight of lightning-bolt pangs of nerve pain. Well, I almost wrote word-pain, which feels all-too-suitable under my present circumstances. Why didn’t that come to mind sooner? Word-pain; that metaphorical noose hung ‘round my neck. Yes, I am ready to admit it to the world, to thrust myself atop a pillar of Amherstian woe.

What is word-pain? Some might be inclined to refer to it as writer’s block, and those blanketed as ‘some’ include a previous iteration of myself (present in this world about, gee, I dunno—four hours ago?). However, ‘writer’s block’ falls short of conveying the reality of my situation. For you see, dearest readers—I beg for mercy at the relentless hands and toes of linguistic trauma. The last few nights witnessed this spectacle in full force:

A man sits before a computer, his unkempt facial hair and blurred-eyes cast as a sad interpretation of the human form. His fingers—for the most part motionless—do, on occasion, twinge, as if the neural pathways that induce motion are somehow aware of their own shortcomings. However, this shan’t suffice; no subtle twitching of the fingers will complete the task at hand—the fine act of ‘indicating’ the truth. No, his is a soul consumed by a certain moral shortcoming, and his mind atrophies further and further with each minute. Yet, despite his blatant misery, he resists the temptation to end his endeavor of self-torture.

“Fuck,” he mutters, bequeathing unto the world the syllables and vibrations that constitute his last will & testament.

“Meow,” says the cat, nestled by the feet of this stagnate conduit of universal befuddlement.

I know what you want, thinks the man. His ocular imprisonment disengaged, and he dares to shoot the furry beast-creature a look of spite. “You’d slice into my jugular, if only you could reach it. It’s a good thing you’re so small; otherwise I’d assume the role of victim to your assumed supremacy. Although…”

The man trails off as his gaze is again captured and tethered to the unforgivable absence before him. His eyes, strained by hours of compulsive electro-ocular transfixion, start to emit macabre, crimson-hued teardrops.

This is how life will be now, he thinks. He shakes his head, sighs, and thumbs through his pockets for the pack of cigarettes that he bought earlier. His fingers strike gold, and he pulls his carcinogenic savior out from its denim womb.

“Meow,” says the cat.

The man caves, neglecting his instinctual fear of the fur-covered flesh demon. He reaches with his arm outstretched, catering to the cat’s whims like a modern-day Christ. 

The cat, for its part, appears satisfied…until it isn’t. For this cat is a time-bomb, mired within the cycle of a perpetual countdown. The timer strikes 0:00, and the monster within overtakes its unassuming presentation. Claws unsheathe, skin is torn, and blood splatters Jackson Pollock-style ‘cross the floorboards.

“Ouch,” says the man.

“Meow,” says the cat, falling into a familiar posture; its stomach facing skywards, its eyes glistening beneath the moody lights of Seligman, and its paws raised in mock-surprise. It is certain that the power dynamic in the room favors the cat.

After that slight detour, the man steps out to smoke. The weather is agreeable for those who desire to remain jacket-less, and so he leaves his draped over the back of his chair. Once outside, he lights up, and oh…that first exhale is bliss, offering the illusion of dissipating weight. He paces back and forth, following the outline of shadows created by the electric gas-lamp as they spread across the parking-lot. With each step, he conspires ways of shaking off his intolerable anxiety. He imagines taking it ‘round the corner and shooting it, as one might do with an ailing dog. In his head, the huddled, dying mass of anxiety oozes dark liquid disperses across a likewise-imagined surface. He grins—outside his dorm, removed from the cat-monster and away from his blank computer screen, he deludes himself with notions of a power out of reach. Alas, his grin is short-lived; his cigarette is smoldering close to the filter, and the acrid scent of tar grows. He puts it out, and pauses. Why not smoke another? He agrees with his internal monologue, and procures his lighter. Ah yes, this is power.

Cigarette no. 2 burns and burns, until at last it burns no longer. The man, reckless as he is, acknowledges this as a sign that he must return to his duties. He lets himself through the first door, swipes himself into the second with his ID, and re-binds himself into the tethers of purgatory.

The cat—greatest of enemies—stretches atop its perch on the back of a couch. Its eyes, wide and mischievous, foretell a night of unrestrained energy.

The man doesn’t notice this. He’s sucked back in, a victim to the vortex of obligation. The blank document before him glows, the mouse cursor flashes, and nothing changes. Yes, he thinks to himself, this is life now. Looking for another distraction, he pulls his backpack closer. From it, he produces a small notepad—a booklet home to the ever growing list of his oppressors. He skims through it:

  • Literature essay; due two days ago.
  • Russian homework; still four days behind.
  • Research project; still need to do actual research, then conduct a presentation.
  • The Foundation Pit; must read for tomorrow. Progress: 20 pages.
  • Russian presentation; set to occur on Friday, already was extended.
  • Russian quiz; don’t even ask about that.
  • Nationalism readings; at this point why even continue?
  • Thesis funding applications; why do I do this to myself?
  • Indicator Article; due on the 18th—it is now the 20th.

The man leans back into his chair, as so that he may face the ceiling. He sighs—not for the first time, nor for the last—and then he laughs. Subtle at first, his laughter grows, swells, and crests through reality like a misshapen swan breaching the surface of its algae-ridden pond and commencing to flight. Then, the climax—the toxic, irradiated soundwaves of a mind excommunicated from the realm of sleep.

This, my friends, is the origin, product, and final state of word-pain. The power of word-pain is immense—it spirals through the mind like a drill to a skull. It spreads, like a contagion, until every facet of life is infected with a noxious blend of apathy, distaste, anxiety, sleeplessness, and outright misery. Fear word-pain, dear cohorts. Let it not distort you as would a transcendental puppeteer. Rise above it, and when the moment presents itself, strangle the life from its metaphysical form. Yes, yes—grasp it, and twist… easy does it…

jtripaldi19@amherst.edu

Power Outage by Parker Richardson ’21

Nearly 5 months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans – American citizens – remain without power. It is the biggest blackout in U.S. History and still some homes are not anticipated to regain power until May. Emergency efforts dealing with power devastation following the hurricane were centralized, and consequently exhausted, on the mainland of the United States, leaving the island vulnerable. In times of devastation, it becomes clear just how low of a priority Puerto Rico is to the rest of the United States – out of sight, out of mind, perhaps.

It was not until a week after the hurricane hit that short-term federal aid was sent to the island and that the news cycles addressed the disaster. That week, journalist Julio Ricardo Varela commented on this neglect: “The United States may not like to see itself as the type of nation that has colonies, but if you’re not treating Puerto Rico and its American citizens the same way as you treat states and theirs, that’s the only explanation. The island always struggles to get federal aid for natural disasters that flows virtually automatically to people on the mainland. Maria is the worst example, but it’s hardly the first.” Puerto Ricans have long been reduced in the eyes of Congress and mainland citizens. In fact, according to a recent poll, only 54% of U.S. adults were aware that people born in Puerto Rico were American citizens. Author of War Against All Puerto Ricans Nelson Davis believes Puerto Rico is seen merely as “a profit center for the United States: first as a naval coaling station, then as a sugar empire, a cheap labor supply, a tax haven, a captive market, and now as a municipal bond debtor and target for privatization.” Many Americans view Puerto Rico in terms of how it can benefit the United States as a whole; it is considered a territory rather than a part of the United States or a home to 3 million Americans, Americans who are treated like second class citizens – if citizens at all.

After three months without power, Puerto Ricans took to protesting. Hundreds of citizens of Aguas Buenas and Trujillo Alto filled the public square of Aguas Buenas and demanded a restoration of power. Protesters made a banner reading “We demand light,” something taken for granted everyday on the mainland.

Existing as an unincorporated territory leaves Puerto Rico in a state of limbo, having neither the full powers of a state nor complete independence. Though Puerto Rico is subjected to U.S. Congress, the island sends a single non-voting representative to Washington. Deprived of the power to motivate solutions to $115 billion debt and to correct deeply rooted problems in government structure, Puerto Rico is trapped, confined as a territory, reduced to a colony. In times of crisis, like when hit by a Category 5 hurricane that destroyed an already faulty power grid and left the island without power, the territory is powerless in a greater sense, too.

But this does not stop Puerto Ricans from seeking change; in the wake of the hurricane, some have made a push for Puerto Rican statehood, to establish the full rights of citizenship for Puerto Ricans. In January, a delegation of politicians from Puerto Rico travelled to Washington, D.C. to appeal as voting members of Congress. Yet Alexia Fernández Campbell deemed this act “largely symbolic”because “voting on Puerto Rican statehood is nowhere close to the top of Congress’s agenda.” Members of Congress recognize the issue, but there has been little done to rectify it.

Continually neglected by disaster efforts from the mainland to restore power, Puerto Ricans have been taking the power into their own hands – literally. One woman in Coama, Carmita Rivera, unable to sit idly and wait for rescue any longer, led a local meeting to take action to restore power to her neighborhood. Rivera was no longer content with being treated like a second-class citizen. She said “Desperation set in. We all felt like: ‘What about us? We’re human beings. Enough is enough.’” Together, fifty neighbors restored a power line, laying a 300-pound electric post on top of two logs and placing the pole into a five-foot deep hole. Another group, this one composed of retired company workers and volunteers, has restored power to 2,000 homes in the town of San Sebastian.

These people demonstrate incredible resilience and care, but they shouldn’t have to in the first place. Undeniably, residents of Puerto Rico are treated unequally and unfairly; Puerto Ricans are American citizens, too, yet the United States seems to fail to acknowledge them as human beings. Disempowered by natural disaster and country, Puerto Ricans have been channeling the power within themselves to manifest the rights they deserve.

phrichardson21@amherst.edu

Letter from an Editor: The Power of Sports by Jake May ’19

My father has been a die-hard Knicks fan for his whole life. In the 1990s, when the Knicks were the second-best team in the Eastern Conference, my dad was a season ticket-holder. Unfortunately, the best team in the East at that time was the unstoppable Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan. During the 90s, my dad routinely witnessed the Knicks lose big game after big game, never quite being able to overcome the Bulls’ greatness. While occasionally the Knicks brought my father joy, for the most part, they only brought disappointment.

Upon reaching the age when I was old enough to understand sports—which for me was six years old—it was only fair that I join my dad in his Knicks-induced sorrow. During my childhood, the Knicks were an aggressively terrible basketball team. But as a kid, I didn’t harbor the animosity toward the team that many older fans did. I remember going to games at Madison Square Garden and refusing to leave early even though the Knicks were being annihilated by their opponent. I remember being confused and concerned when the Knicks were being booed by their own fans. I begged my dad to get me the jersey of the overpaid, aging players for which the team had foolishly acquired. Back then, I thoroughly enjoyed being a Knicks fan.

As I’ve grown older, this recreational enthusiasm has morphed instead into a mixture of optimistic obsession and woeful obligation. I still care deeply about the success of the New York Knicks, and I am often optimistic about the team. For example, in 2015, the Knicks used their first-round draft pick on Kristaps Porzingis, a 19-year-old, seven-foot-tall Latvian. Many Knicks fans were dismayed at this decision, as tall European prospects have a history of being draft busts. Furthermore, the Knicks have a history of completely botching draft-picks, so the fans’ concern was quite understandable. However, for some reason, I chose that moment to be optimistic. On the night of the draft, I posted to Facebook: “I don’t care what you say, I love Kristaps.” If I remember correctly, the post received zero likes, as most did not share in my enthusiasm. As the 2015-16 NBA season approached, the doubts about Porzingis continued to fester among Knicks media and fans.

By the middle of the ’15-’16 season, everything changed. Kristaps Porzingis was proving through excellent play that, even as a rookie, he was a transcendent talent, more than worth the first-round pick we spent on him. Porzingis was challenging the equally impressive Karl-Anthony Towns for rookie of the year honors. He was making three-pointers from way beyond the arc. He was actually good! His success was hard for many Knicks fans to believe; our team’s drafting history is plagued with mistakes, misfortune, and missed opportunities. But finally, we had found our home-grown savior, not an aging superstar for which we traded, but a young, exciting player around whom we could build a team. At that point, the rest of the Knicks world—from the team itself, to the media, to the fans—had joined me in my Kristaps-inspired optimism. Everything seemed to be working out nicely.

Cut to early February of this year. Things were going fine for the Knicks; they were not quite good enough to contend in the playoffs, but also were too good to “tank” (a strategy in which a team accepts that they are bad and gladly loses as many games as possible in order to get an advantageous pick in the draft). This predicament was certainly not the most desirable; however, because of our great Latvian hope, Knicks fans remained optimistic.

Then, on the evening of Tuesday, February 6th, as I casually followed the Knicks’ contest against the Milwaukee Bucks while trying to complete a physics problem set, I received an ominous text from my dad: “Oh no…Kristaps,” the blue bubble read. I sat silently, stunned. That text could only mean one thing. A moment later, my dread was confirmed. An ESPN notification appeared on my phone alongside my father’s text; “Kristaps Porzingis Goes Down with Significant Knee Injury” was the gist of it. Later that night, it was reported that Kristaps Porzingis — our great liberator, our basketball shepherd, our deliverer of optimism—had torn his ACL. Porzingis won’t play again for at least 10 months, if not more, and even when he returns, it’s likely he’ll never be the same player again. We’d lost our savior.

As a Knicks fan, I am no stranger to tough losses. In the 2000s, I watched our inept general manager Isiah Thomas make bad deal after bad deal; in the early 2010s, I watched a team that could have been great devolve into a mess of in-fighting and ball-hogging. Since I have been following the Knicks, they have only won a single playoff series. I—along with all Knicks fans—have suffered my fair share of disappointment

But this disappointment was different. This was unfair. The previous plights could be explained—incompetent management, an aging team, an inexperienced team, et cetera. This time, there was nothing to blame. Porzingis simply landed awkwardly after dunking. It could have happened to anyone. But of course it happened to the Knicks; each time our team has been surrounded with optimism, the basketball gods find a new way to spoil it.

In that moment, as I read and re-read the ESPN notification, I wished I was not a sports fan. I wished that my dad had spared me and urged me to ignore the NBA. I wished that I could disregard my deep emotional ties to the Knicks and understand that it’s just a basketball team. Here, though, is where that woeful obligation side of my fandom kicks in. I have given too much to the Knicks: too much time spent watching games when I should’ve been doing homework, too many trips home from The Garden with a hoarse voice from cheering, too many Knicks-related phone calls with my dad. I can’t just turn my back on them now, even if I tried. One day, I believe, the Knicks will deliver their end of the bargain. When the Knicks win the NBA championship, my commitment, my fandom and my obsession will all seem worthwhile. But right now, it feels awfully worthless.

jmay19@amherst.edu

Why Students Should Care About Amherst’s Climate Action Plan, by Rojas Oliva ’19, Charlotte Blackman ’20 and Bryan Doniger ’18

“Unless people are engaged in the struggle–unless they themselves have gone through the process of creating change through collective and individual acts of solidarity, reciprocity, and cooperation–they will not internalize democratic, egalitarian and ecological values or be convinced of their necessity.”[1] – Fred Magdoff & Chris Williams

It’s already been too long. In February of 2015 the Amherst College Board of Trustees released a statement acknowledging “the grave threat posed by climate change, the role in climate change played by human activity, and the responsibility we bear to confront this challenge.”[2] This was 27 years after the director of NASA’s Institute for Space Studies in Manhattan, James Hansen, came to the same conclusion in his testimony before congress.[3] As a result of the board’s rhetoric, in March of 2015 the college formed the Climate Action Plan Task Force–a group consisting of students, professors and administrators tasked with drafting a Climate Action Plan to transition the college’s energy infrastructure to carbon neutrality.[4]

After three years of planning, students will finally have the opportunity to learn about the current Action Plan on Monday, February 26th at 7 pm in the Red Room. Laura Draucker of the Office of Environmental Sustainability will help facilitate a town hall meeting, in which she will introduce the committee’s plan and offer students a chance to ask questions.

We applaud this effort to take seriously the consequences of Amherst’s energy consumption. We are pleased that Amherst has made some effort to include students in the transition. However, we remain nervous that the plan, as it stands, will do too little, too late.[5] Amherst has a long track record of dismissing student calls for greater accountability regarding the College’s environmental impact. Note, for example, the continued refusal to divest direct and indirect holdings in fossil fuels and private prisons. As Kristen Bumiller wrote in this year’s Disorientation Guide, “[a]s a general rule, when organizations are challenged, they are likely to protect their reputations, minimize liability, and address only immediate concerns.”[6] Without strong, persistent and organized student involvement, it’s likely that the Climate Action Plan will not do enough to address neither the impact our emissions have on a global scale nor our role as  energy consumers at the local level. Indeed, we worry that Amherst will do the bare minimum required to maintain a progressive image relative to peer institutions.

The implications of a carbon neutral Amherst College extend far beyond our campus. Western Massachusetts has a vibrant history of local resistance to fossil fuel infrastructure expansion. In 2016, students participated in the successful campaign to block construction of the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline.[7] This past year, during the construction of a pipeline in Otis State Forest, the Massachusetts State Police arrested over 100 people for peaceful, non-violent resistance.[8] Recently, Columbia Gas has proposed a series of pipelines in the Greater Springfield Service Area.[9] All of this pipeline expansion gives gas companies economic incentives to continue to use them for the 40 years that the pipelines will be operational, pushing the possibility of action back an untenable amount of time. If the College were to commit to a rapid transition away from fossil fuels, the arguments of energy scarcity used to justify the expansions would falter.[10]

However, the window for Amherst to implement effective policy change is closing. This is where students come in: We are only here for four years, but how we use our collective voices will determine the Amherst’s carbon footprint for years to come. Student participation is crucial to ensure that Amherst transitions to carbon neutrality with the rapidity and thoughtfulness that any response to climate change requires.

Students should care about the Climate Action Plan because we are faced with an intergenerational responsibility to move toward renewable energy as quickly as possible. The emissions released today to warm our buildings, turn on our lights and heat our water will stay in the atmosphere for the next 20 to 200 years.[11] Such emissions will eventually wreak untold violence on human and non-human communities across the globe. The consequences of inaction are already being felt through heat waves, hurricanes, wildfires, rising acidified oceans to droughts and mass extinction.

Additionally, efforts to curb climate change should be of interest to any liberal arts student who wishes to foster care and justice in an interracial, multicultural community. The damages of climate change are predicated on histories of racism and colonialism.  Wealthy countries drive overproduction of fossil fuels and overuse of land. For example, when the United States outsources manufacturing, it also outsources the pollution created by manufacturing, causing health issues and ecological destruction in poorer countries. In the early 2000s, the rate at which we outsourced carbon emissions was growing steadily at 11 percent every year.[12] Such overconsumption and outsourcing practices reinforce neocolonial abuse of poor people of color in faraway places.

Finally, this opportunity to shape Amherst’s future is a moment when students can work toward creating the fair and equitable communities we desire. Amherst has a rich legacy of student activism and commitment to fighting injustice both on and off campus. Students have leveraged their power to create the Five College Black Studies department, to divest from South African apartheid, and, during Amherst Uprising, to transform the future of our campus. Students activists, coming together to challenge and reshape institutions, are a tried and true source of radical transformation.

On a global scale, the time frame is even more urgent. In order to have a chance of keeping warming to below 2 degrees Celsius–the tepid target negotiated in Paris–every new power plant would have to be carbon neutral starting in 2018.[13] In other words, we’re already too late. Yet, it is still possible to create grassroots movements in which communities act autonomously to meet human needs within sustainable limits, mitigating the further degradation of our planet. Transforming the world’s energy basis also necessarily entails transforming of our economic and political order. In small ways, we can begin to work toward such a transformation here at Amherst.

roliva19@amherst.edu; cblackman20@amherst.edu; bdoniger18@amherst.edu

 

[1]Magdoff, Fred, and Chris Williams. Creating an Ecological Society: Toward a Revolutionary Transformation. Monthly Review Press, 2017.

[2] https://www.amherst.edu/amherst-story/facts/trustees/statements/node/600726

[3]http://www.nytimes.com/1988/06/24/us/global-warming-has-begun-expert-tells-senate.html?pagewanted=all

[4]Carbon neutral colleges make no net release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. There are different ways of defining what does and does not count as part of a given college’s “energy infrastructure.” We maintain that a carbon neutral Amherst would not increase atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration through either on site energy usage or other energy purchases

[5] Unfortunately, the draft has not yet been publicly released, so we cannot currently publish the details that we find most troubling (for instance, the sluggish pace at which the College promises to go carbon neutral—slow even when compared with many peer institutions).

[6] https://amherstdisorientation.wordpress.com/2017/09/02/what-rights/

[7]https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2016/04/20/kinder-morgan-shelves-billion-new-england-pipeline-project/iEafnAP2P41o0B9tmM0lEI/story.html

[8] Higgins, Eoin. “In Massachusetts, Protesters Balk At Pipeline Company’s Payments To Police.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 3 Dec. 2017.

[9] http://climateactionnowma.org/wp-content/uploads/CAN-comment-DPU-17-172.pdf

[10] It should be noted however that there are significant reasons to doubt these claims of scarcity: https://theberkshireedge.com/utilities-manipulated-natural-gas-supplies-causing-artificial-shortages-soaring-energy-prices-study-finds/

[11] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/jan/16/greenhouse-gases-remain-air

[12]https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2017/4/18/15331040/emissions-outsourcing-carbon-leakage

[13] https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/news/201603-two-degree-capital

We Are (More Than) The Mammoths, by Natalia Khoudian ’20

“We are the Mammoths!” has been the main headline on the Amherst homepage this week, leaving many elated, some horrified, others indifferent, and yet most are just relieved that the college finally has a tangible mascot to rally around (and I am among them). To the majority of those in the Amherst community, this year-long process to adopt a new mascot may have seemed slow, even awkward at times when my friends from back home would ask me what my school’s mascot is. I finally will be able to say “Mammoths” instead of “we’re working on it.”

However, behind the scenes, for the committee of 10 alumni and 10 students, the timing to narrow down the choices and move the votes along was a dynamic working process. After the suggestions were collected from the community in the fall, the committee spent several conference calls discussing and subsequently narrowing down the suggestions to 30 semifinalists. These were then narrowed down to the final five in a big meeting based on alumni and student delegate feedback, which were voted on by the community. And now we’ve got the Mammoths!

I spoke with one of the heads of the student committee, Alejandro Nino Quintero, to ask him more about his overall impression of the process:

“Overall I think it was really fair and transparent. I don’t think anyone in the community can say that we weren’t mostly clear in our communication, and that overall if there was a way to narrow down some 500 something options to 1, I think we really made sure we were taking the community’s voice into account, not just choosing a mascot. And so I think having that kind of traditional role of an arbiter is the most important thing to make a process like that succeed.”

When asked what he would want to share to someone at another college undergoing a similar mascot project, Quintero puts it, “I think the process is only as good as the suggestions you have. If you don’t have much interest towards the beginning, then when you’re actually getting down to the final choices you end up with people either rejecting the process or feeling particularly unexcited. ” Per the Amherst website, “There were 2046 total suggestions, 588 of those were unique.…. Class years for alumni and students [who submitted suggestions] range from 1942 – 2020.”

As a new member of the committee this year, I did more than just help narrow down suggestions and meet with the committee—a key part of my job was to help the student momentum not die down in the lulls of time when there was no result coming out of the mascot process. This included lots of tabling in Val, pestering my friends to suggest mascots, and giving away about 2000 purple plastic cups with a question mark stamped on them. Even though there are far fewer students than alumni, the student momentum felt to me a very important part of moving the process along. Without student excitement for a new mascot, adopting a new mascot into the Amherst culture for years to come would not be legitimate.

While it can be expected that the alumni were the most upset by the process of adopting a new mascot just after Lord Jeff was voted out, they can’t complain about not being included. 23,865 alumni were eligible for an equally weighted vote alongside the students, whose total population is only 1,898. When asked about something that could have been done differently in the process, Quintero’s main point emphasized the committee’s structuring of the final vote, saying, “Every vote counts the same, when students are the ones who are reshaping the culture and at the present moment, and the school is kind of in that sense theirs.” Quintero doesn’t disregard the importance of the alumni voice, but notes the final vote could essentially have been dictated by the sheer number of alumni.

So, why the mammoths? More specifically, why did mammoths win over purple and white, even though we saw a lot of general support for P&W from the alumni? Quintero explains, “I don’t think there’s a clear answer to that. I mean for one thing, you can’t really homogenize that entire group, to say ‘All the alumni like purple and white.’ It was a dominant narrative among some of the class groups. But, as mentioned, even just across the ages we were getting a pretty broad spectrum of choices and that really shows in the data, you know, it wasn’t like there was one runaway winner.” Purple and White received 4,134 (48.69%) votes, only 222 votes and 2.62% behind the winning Mammoths. Quintero notes that “[Mammoths] also stood strong against purple and white because it was tied to the college’s history, but it was a bit more exciting for a lot people.”

I have spoken with individual students who have said they voted for the Mammoths, but not because it particularly resonated with them: it was simply their preferred choice in the final 5. I suppose this is better than not voting at all, but we hope that Mammoths will be something to resonate with every student one day. Sure, saying “Amherst Mammoths” is a mouthful, but students can collectively laugh at the quirky mascot that is strong and powerful, but also shaggy haired and awkward. In the final question for Quintero, I asked him what will be essential in the coming years to get the community, primarily the students on campus, excited about Mammoths.

“… branding is the most important next step, and really making sure alumni and students have a lot of voice in what that looks like. Because I think alumni and students are going to be the ones often wearing it on their shirts or trying to identify with it.” Quintero believes the creativity and passions students have for the new mascot–such as one person he mentioned who wanted to create a two-person costume–will ultimately be what allows the Mammoth to grow as part of the culture.

Though a new mascot has been officially adopted, it is no secret that many among the alumni have shown strong disdain towards Amherst for getting rid of Lord Jeff. However, this is a college, meaning students cycle out every 4 years. The needs of a student body change over time. The alums should love this school because of their education here, the friends they made, amongst many other factors. The Lord Jeff mascot may have been an integral part of their college experience–as we hope the Mammoths will be someday–but it should not be the only reason they feel tied to Amherst. Alums should not feel completely dissociated from the college simply because we got rid of the Jeff. Supporting the place where they learned, not just for what it was in the past, but for what it is now and what it is becoming will be important to think about moving forward.

nkhoudian20@amherst.edu

Report on Athletics Raises More Questions Than It Answers by Sam Wohlforth ’17

“The place of athletics at Amherst is fucking ridiculous.”  I was halfway through my interview with a professor about faculty concerns with the recent report on the place of athletics at Amherst when she blew my hair back with this line.  I looked up from my notebook.  I expected professors to be frustrated with the failures of the athletic and admissions departments–the report itself points out some real problems with athletics at Amherst, and recommends several reforms–but not to this degree.  “The report is vague and biased,” she said, and the letter from Biddy appended to the beginning of the report is “even more of a gloss of something vague and biased to begin with.”  

Continue reading Report on Athletics Raises More Questions Than It Answers by Sam Wohlforth ’17

International Students Face Job Uncertainties, by Katherine Stanton ’18

As spring semester approaches, many Amherst students are hoping to land a summer internship or post-graduation job. While the job application process for all students is immensely stressful, international students are among the specific groups of students burdened with extra considerations for the future. In a time when immigration has focalized within political discussion, it’s incredibly important to consider how international students desiring to work in the States must navigate a complex immigration system.

Continue reading International Students Face Job Uncertainties, by Katherine Stanton ’18