Amherst College Guide Disorientation 2018: And that means there is still hope: A DACC Publication


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Amherst College Guide Disorientation 2018: And that means there is still hope: A DACC Publication




Amherst, MA

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amherst college

A DACC Publication

COVER ARTWORK: Crystal Ganatra ‘19 and Charlotte
Blackman ‘20

LAYOUT DESIGN: Charlotte Blackman ‘20
LEAD EDITOR: J.H. Rosny the Super-Senior
CONTENT EDITORS: Crystal Ganatra ‘19, Charlotte
Blackman ‘20, Huey Hewitt ‘19, and Sam Schriger ‘20

Thank you to all the students, faculty, staff , family, friends
and strangers who made this communally funded guide
possible. Thank you to Collective Copies for the
Co-Op worker power that printed the physical object in
your hands.
Check out our website,, where you can find
previous guides, detailed footnotes, and more recommendations!
If you have questions or comments, or if you would like to
submit a piece to our website, please visit the Disorientation website (listed above), DACC’s facebook page
(“DACC - Not Under My Watch”), or DACC’s official website
Images of Text on Cover and Contents Pages are from No is
Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need by Naomi Klein


A Place of Power: An Introduction to Disorientation


A Fruitful Loneliness


Banning The Box


Nishant Carr ‘21
Enoch Shin ‘21

Leah Woodbridge ‘20

A Letter To A Friend


Sexual Respect


Mental Health


An Open Letter To Students Who Wouldn’t Have Been
Accepted 100 Years Ago


Not Lord Jeff’s Amherst: Gender and Title IX


Iam Lumine Terras: The Contradictions of Inclusion at Amherst


For The Creation of a Self-Identifying Womxn Bicycle Brigade


Recommended Readings


Huey Hewitt ‘19

Sarah Wishloff ‘19
Sarah Wishloff ‘19

Sarah Montoya ‘21

Charlotte Blackman ‘20, Leah Woodbridge ‘20, Theo Peierls ‘20E,
Sarah Montoya ‘21, and Lea Morin ‘21
Frank Tavares ‘19E

Esperanza Chairez ‘19

By Nishant Carr with input from Crystal Ganatra ‘19,
Sarah Montoya ‘21, and Ana Vieytez ‘21
“Pessimism has replaced the optimism of the will that Gramsci once
said would be essential if the world is to be transformed…the beliefs
people hold about limits systematically affect what is possible.”
~Erik Olin Wright, Envisioning Real Utopias

From day one we play a balancing act at Amherst. Work.
Extracurriculars. Proving your worth to yourself, to others, to family.
Trying to make friends, to fit in, to make the most of this opportunity
for an education. We contend with both our fears and our hopes in an
utterly new social environment, sometimes thousands of miles away
from where we call home. The aim of this Disorientation Guide is to
encourage you, in the midst of this emotional whirlwind, to take the
power of your orientation into your own hands.

This summer at a meeting of local organizers in downtown
Amherst, Ana Ascencio ‘19E joked that, “Amherst College is not in the
business of training activists”. Everyone in the room chuckled – this
truth was self-evident. Many of you are likely familiar, if not keenly
aware, of the daily violences of the modern world. Some are explicit,
like the militarized brutality of the state, while others are more subtle,
from the toxic air we breathe to our personal chronic depression.
We have long been taught, through the pervasive normalization of
violence and injustice in our society, that our current realities are the
real and concrete limits to the possible. Unfortunately, such an ‘education’ continues to be reproduced at Amherst College. What is new
is that you will meet peers who cannot help but question these limits,
and professors who urge you to embrace critical perspectives. As an
introduction to this Disorientation, I explore how a search for an
emancipatory self-awareness - awareness of both our own values and
of the pervasive values that surround us - can allow us to challenge
these limits. In this, there remains the possibility not only of steadying ourselves, but also of collectively empowering and inspiring one
another, of defeating the pessimism that gnaws on our will for



An emancipatory self-awareness is a form of personal activism. To be clear1, by activism I mean a philosophy2 of action, or an
art of not succumbing to passivity. As such, ‘activism’ need not refer
only to a communal struggle but can also describe self-empowerment.
Professor Thomas Dumm addressed this personal empowerment in
the inaugural Guide, writing that,

a large part of your education should be to learn how to… cultivate a care

for yourself that is deep and abiding, a care that will allow you to live
better with the consequences of those earthquakes that have so shaken
you and that you bring with you here.3

Truly knowing and caring for ourselves is perhaps the most radical
form of activism that we can hope to achieve, for in understanding
ourselves we understand our conditioning and in understanding
our conditioning we understand the world at large. For example, in
simply finding good, strong friends with whom we can engage as real,
nuanced human beings, friends who don’t place us on a pedestal, we
encounter a jostling of perspectives that bring us to question our own
assumptions and conditioning. Such ‘selfish’ self-awareness gradually
but assuredly brings us into the wider world.

What role does Amherst play in the wider world? It is often
not until our second or third year that it becomes clear that from extracurricular to class offerings and resource centers to career centers,
the institution of Amherst practices a certain set of values and beliefs.
Amherst is an elite institution, responsible for perpetuating a class of
elites, and beholden to the hierarchical values of the world at large.4
This does not mean the ‘promise of the college’ is by any means insidious or conspiratorial – to the contrary, the college likely does wish us
well in the broad sense. Rather, we critique the multitude of societal
factors that shape their definition of ‘well’, and their imposition of

Campus activism is a fraught area, complete with its own shallow understandings and alienation of some students while occupied by others who are
attempting to cleanse their conscience of guilt. Thus, the idea of activism to many
students is often tinted in an exclusionary manner, several degrees removed from
our own lives.
Indeed, the suffix “ism” signifies a distinctive practice, system, or philosophy.
Taking Yourself Seriously, 2015 Disorientation Guide, Professor Thomas
“Contrary to Amherst’s assertion that it is now engaged in an egalitarian project,
the diversity to the student body… this introduction of ‘the best and the brightest’
of the marginalized to the top of the hierarchy reinforces that very hierarchy by
seducing many of those who would challenge it” (direct quote from Alex Diones,
“Life After Amherst,” 2015 Disorientation Guide)


this ‘wellness’ upon us. Alex Diones summed it up in her 2015 article,
“Life after Amherst”:

Amherst, like my mother, wanted the best for me, acts on this wish by

deciding for me what careers, lives, and choices I ought to value. …

[Amherst] is not a temple of learning, abstracted from a reality of op
pression and hierarchy… you must protect yourself from naively ac
cepting knowledge as abstractly given by questioning this very given
ness… Your education is too valuable to undermine by uncritically fol
owing another’s agenda for your life, even if they want only the best for

Whether it is the pressure to pursue your academic merit to the
detriment of strong friendships and community, or the pressure to fill
your free time with extracurriculars, the values of the rigorous institution of Amherst underlie the ebb and flow of daily life. To cultivate
a ‘deep and abiding’ care for ourselves such that we are aware of our
conditioning is inherently empowering as it transforms us into critical thinkers with the capacity to shape and guide our own education.

To develop a strong and abiding self-awareness and care that
frees us to be critical of the larger institutions and structures we are
a part of is as much an individual mission as it is a communal mission. This and other disorientation reflections critique and address
the underlying tensions of Amherst College and society at large not
so that we can mourn our current state, but so that we can work with
clarity to empower ourselves and one another. Take stock and care of
yourself, take time for yourself to think about why you are here and
what you truly want to get out of it. Read the articles in this Disorientation Guide, as well as past Disorientation Guides. Make friends,
talk to friends, talk to professors, and have fun. Study, by all means.
Then, join us as we collectively overcome our perceived, our ‘learned’
powerlessness. Amherst College is a place of power – we can utilize it
to reshape this world and tear down the limits to the possible.




By Enoch Shin ‘21

Set during the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath revolves around the Joad family, who flee the barren lands of the
Midwest in hopes of finding work in California. They arrive in central California only to find that work is scarce and labor is criminally
underpaid, owing to the competitive labor market caused by mass
migration of “Okies” from the Midwest. This leads to about 500 ensuing pages of endless suffering. There is literally no point at which
the plight of the Joads improves in any way, and just when you think
things couldn’t get any worse, Steinbeck roots around for that last
shred of hope you were hiding away and tears it out of you.

The ending didn’t leave me with any high hopes about the
future of the family. But despite the high probability that everyone in
the Joad family would have starved to death if there were a sequel, at
least they had each other when they had nothing to eat and nowhere
tolerable to rest. In The Grapes of Wrath, relationships between
human beings are just as important as bread and water, if not more:
while food and money are spent in a day, the bond with your family
and friendships with neighbors remain as insurance for long-term

Though bonds between humans no longer carry such importance in the average American college campus, the frenzy to make
friends during orientation certainly makes one feel like loneliness is
a death sentence. When I arrived at Amherst, the rush of orientation
reminded me that for the first time in my life, I was three thousand
miles away from home and alone in an alien environment, unless I
made some friends fast. I made some acquaintances in the beginning
of the year, but these friendships quickly dissolved, as we hardly
had any reasons to be friends except out of pure desperation of not
wanting to be alone. A few weeks later, I gradually settled into a new
normal—one in which I ate alone, studied alone, and exchanged less
than sixty seconds of face-to-face dialogue with another human being
each day.

Being constantly alone for about seventy-five percent of
the year started to whittle me down into an abysmal, neurotic, and
misanthropic monster. Loneliness warped my perception of others,
my self-esteem, and the way I responded to minor day-to-day inconveniences. I became rigid, harsh, and neurotic, constantly berating
myself and others with baseless criticisms.

The Joads might not have had food or work, but at least each


member of the family wasn’t ever lonely in the modern sense. They
might have felt like aliens whenever Californians derisively called
them Okies, but they still had each other. What are we modern humans supposed to do when faced with loneliness? I imagine that most
of us find loneliness painful; in response to that pain, we rightly wish
to eliminate it. Some of us might distract ourselves from the suffering,
while others may seek friendships and social activities. Both of these
approaches involve a sort of helplessness in the face of loneliness.
What I mean by this is that, logically, none of us wants to sit with the
unpleasant feelings of loneliness for an extended amount of time; our
goal is to bat those feelings away from our faces as soon as possible.

When wondering why I was lonely, I kept asking what I was
failing to do and what I should be doing. Even in the opinions of my
friends and family back home, there was always something that I
neglected to do— I should have joined more clubs, or been more approachable, or “put myself out there.” One of my high school acquaintances, disgusted by my gloomy demeanor, told me that I was reveling
in victimhood. In fact, I did make several attempts to get involved
and do things to stop being so lonely all the time: joining clubs that
seemed interesting and going to events on campus. But none of these
attempts became permanent solutions.

After my first semester, I was very close to simply giving up
and dropping out. I seriously considered going back home and starting over at community college. I decided to stick it out for the entire
year, though—and eventually, I made a few friends.

It might seem like I beat loneliness—or at least, I was miraculously saved from it by meeting the right people at the right time. I
was surrounded by people whose company I enjoyed for the first time
in months. Nevertheless, I was somehow still chronically unhappy
and insecure. In the span of a few weeks, my social life had taken
a drastic turn for the better, seemingly of its own accord. In other
words, I couldn’t shake the concern that I hadn’t actually made these
friends on my own, which made me wonder if I had really done anything to solve my problem of loneliness.

Many of us consider loneliness a sign that someone is flawed
or broken—something is wrong with their character (awkward, shy, or
antisocial) if they cannot make friends after several weeks on campus.
From these assumptions, we justify the idea that it’s healthy to frantically avoid loneliness and actively forge relationships whether we like
it or not. I’m not saying that we should avoid socializing and building
friendships. But before we go out and do something all the time, we
should realize that loneliness is unavoidable and normal. After all, the


era of the Joads is long since past in America. If we cannot first accept
that loneliness is a normal part of modern life, we are effectively running away from it in perpetuity rather than getting comfortable with
the fact that everyone will, at some point, be lonely.

Tom Joad asserted that “‘a fella ain’t no good alone.’” After
my first year at Amherst, I agree with the spirit of this point—to an
extent. Nobody can stay sane when they’re spending every day by
themselves. But at the same time, we shouldn’t consider loneliness
a problem in need of a solution or a disease requiring rectification.
When we consider loneliness as simply a state of being rather than a
troublesome condition, we can understand how yielding to it and accepting it might be the first step to take before trying to jump at every
chance to socialize and make new friends. To yield is to finally and
fully recognize the discomfort of your situation, quieting the self-criticism and harsh judgement that says you must do something to fix this
every time you are faced with loneliness.

This is just a fancy way of saying that it’s okay to be alone
sometimes, or even a lot of the time. A fella will still be good alone.
For me, accepting that I could be lonely in the future helped alleviate
the insecurities of my new friendships. Much of my insecurity came
from fears of the future: my friends are graduating quite soon—what
if I can’t make any friends in the future? What if I’ll be alone for
weeks on end next year? I realized that all this worrying is pointless:
I cannot control or know the outcomes of the future, and as Ma Joad
said in response to whether she was scared of moving to California,
“‘I can’t do that. It’s too much—livin’ too many lives. Up ahead they’s
a thousan’ lives we might live, but when it comes, it’ll on’y be one. If
I go ahead on all of ‘em, it’s too much.’” Yielding to the possibility of
loneliness in the future means that there is no need to wonder about
the thousand possibilities of how my social prospects will turn out
down the line.

Yielding to loneliness also meant that I grew more comfortable with doing things on my own, celebrating my solitude rather
than trying to avoid it. Things like discovering swimming spots,
getting groceries, gabbing about the Korean War with an old man at
a bus stop in the middle of a summer storm as he spat periodically
into the rain, going to my barber, running on the bike paths, reading a
book while curled up on an ergonomically awful sofa in a sun-dappled
nook in Frost—sure, I often thought about how lonely and awkward I
felt, but I wasn’t avoiding loneliness or suffering in my solitude as I
had before.

Admittedly, I am unsure if I could have learned any of these


insights without the stability and support provided by the friends
that I eventually met at Amherst. What if I’d never met anyone and
remained lonely? Would I be speaking so blithely and casually about
solitude if I knew I didn’t have any friends at the end of the day?

I do not mean to sound blithe about loneliness; I am not
encouraging everyone to pull a Thoreau and live in the woods to
isolate ourselves. As we know from the Joads, friendships and relationships are necessary for life, though not in the same way as in their
era. I wish I could give readers clear steps toward making friends at
Amherst or reassurance that things will get better within a specific
amount of time, but I still don’t have any universal answers to the
conundrum of loneliness in my life or the lives of others. All I know is
that change does not happen by maintaining patterns that minimize
all discomfort. Yielding to loneliness falls under the broader category of yielding to future uncertainties, which is quite different from
isolating yourself and settling into loneliness. In other words, to yield
is to be comfortable with the vicissitudes of social life, which could
entail accepting and fostering the formation of new relationships, or
accepting the loss of others. When I was in the throes of loneliness,
my automatic instinct was to lock down my lifestyle and avoid any
uncertain, uncomfortable, or otherwise new situations. Once I took
small steps (over a very long period of time) toward accepting spontaneity or new changes in my life, I found it easier to make friends and
accept the absence of friends.

For my lonely readers, know that you can’t and probably
won’t be alone forever. If you’ve been alone for a while because of
your circumstances, there’s no need to pressure yourself to make
friends as soon as possible. You are still a human being, and nothing
is wrong with you if you haven’t made friends in your first year of college—after all, the idea that you’ll make “lifelong friends” in less than
a year in a totally new environment, all while juggling academic life,
is a little ridiculous to me. When managing loneliness, the solution is
not to do something immediately—nor is the solution to do nothing.
Rather, yielding to loneliness and becoming fully aware of it is a way
to make peace with the situation of the present and the possibilities of
your future.


By Leah Woodbridge ‘20
I spoke to two activists from Wesleyan University, Francesca and
Lola, about their involvement in Wesleyan’s ban the box campaign.
The Wesleyan group calls itself “Students for Ending Mass Incarceration,” or “SEMI.” The “box” is a question that Amherst, Wesleyan,
and many other colleges and universities use on the Common Application. It requests for applicants to state if they have any criminal or
disciplinary history. Because of the prejudiced state of the American
prison system, this is a grossly discriminatory practice.
Can you talk a little bit about what Students for Ending
Mass Incarceration (SEMI) does, and what the group stands
L: Let’s start with the origin story. About three or four years ago,
there was a group called WesDivest that wanted Wesleyan to divest
from companies that invested in fossil fuels, companies that invested
in private prisons, and companies that invest in Israeli government
supported products. There was a huge sit-in that worked in a lot of
ways and failed in other respects. But a sub-group of the students who
organized the project to divest from private prisons formed SEMI.
For the past few years, we’ve been doing a lot of teach-ins on campus:
making zines, making a lot of educational material, but also working
with people in Middletown, like North End Action Team.
What does the North End Action Team do?
F: The north end of Middletown is an area that is majority low income
people of color, and NEAT is a group of Wesleyan faculty and residents of the North End who organize around different issues faced
by that community. Wesleyan students have done a good amount
of work with them, and members of SEMI have been particularly
helpful. Hopefully, in the future, there will be more emphasis from
Wesleyan students on working with people from Middletown, because
Wesleyan is a bubble times ten.
So is Amherst. So SEMI is a prison abolitionist group and
not a prison reform group. Can you speak a little about the
difference between the two?
F: SEMI operates under a fundamental belief that no human being is
disposable, and that goes hand in hand with why we don’t want to


simply reform the prison system, as we believe that it deems certain
people, particularly black and brown and poor people, disposable. We
view abolition as a long term vision. However, I think there are more
immediate things we can do that also have an abolitionist mission—
things that accomplish a lot toward that vision. We have a focus that
is restorative rather than punitive, and as long as prisons are still
operating, even if they are reformed, they still have a punitive focus.
What is ban the box?
L: So, ban the box is a campaign that is used nationwide, that mostly focuses on banning the checkbox that asks “are you a felon?” It’s
normally used in job applications, but a lot of schools use this box on
their own personal form of application. Other schools, like Wesleyan,
ask this question through the Common App. The Common App has
two questions, one that asks about your criminal history and one that
asks about your disciplinary history in high school. At the very least,
these questions dissuade people who have criminal or disciplinary
histories from applying, and therefore prevent students with certain
histories from getting a college education. So, SEMI has done numerous things to try and convince our administration to go to the Common App, and ask them to—what is it?—basically, if you were applying to Wesleyan, either we would wouldn’t look at it, or it could say, if
you’re applying to Wesleyan, you don’t have to answer this question,
which is something NYU (New York University) has.
What about cases of sexual misconduct? There is definitely
an argument that some people I know make that the box is
instrumental in preventing rape on campus. So does the box
actually prevent crime? What do you have to say about that?
F: Well, immediately on the note of sexual assault, it’s what we get
asked every fucking day by everyone and their mother. And like, yeah,
within reason, I understand that people want to eliminate instances
of rape and sexual assault on college campuses. However, if you want
to understand the way that the box functions you should look into
the long history of black and brown men being villainized as sexual
predators to uphold the purity of white women. Court systems focus
on those particular cases of rape and sexual assault [cases involving
people of color], while a white boy at a boarding school can literally
do whatever the fuck he wants, and it will be swept under the rug. You
know they won’t even think or worry about checking a box because
they never experienced any sort of punishment, so it’s like even
though we have this box to detect for that kind of thing, even if


you think about how many rapists are on Wesleyan College campus,
or Amherst College campus, none of those perpetrators checked that
L: The box does not filter perpetrators out of institutions of higher
education. It’s been proven time and time again.
F: We need to focus on the actual perpetrators on our campus: finding
ways to deal with them that are restorative, but that also teach them
to reckon with the pain they have caused. We want both the survivor
and the community to feel best about how this person is being dealt
with. There is currently no model in place for that. So I think it’s a
couple things: we need to focus on what to do on campus, and how,
historically, the box marginalizes certain people and creates narratives that instill a lot of fear in the white population.
L: It just creates a false sense of security, making sure that there’s another way that black and brown people cannot enter these campuses.
It’s just another message of protecting white people and their idea of
safety, another reification of white supremacy. By keeping the box, we
are complicit in these structures.
F: What we also say a lot is that people who are formerly incarcerated
are sometimes survivors of sexual assault themselves, and by not allowing them access to this institution we are just further perpetuating
the ostracization of survivors and the invalidation of their stories and
their experiences.
So you protested the box. What was that protest like?
L: Our protest came after nine months of campaigning. We had gone
through every single institutional route: we wrote a petition, went
to go speak to the president of our university, and brought it up to
numerous faculty members. So we planned a sit-in during WesFest,
which is the admissions week where people who were just admitted
into Wesleyan come and visit, and we sat in the office of admissions
from 9 o’clock to 1 o’clock.Then we walked to the president’s office.
We actually ran into the president on the way, and we read him our
manifesto and asked him a bunch of questions that he refused to
answer. He walked us through campus without responding to us, so
we followed him, and he walked us to a soccer field that was out of the
way--a move so that we wouldn’t be visible to the incoming freshman.
We asked him some questions there. It was a successful sit in because
it opened many more lines of communication. They took us way more


seriously afterwards.
F: After that we began a more serious dialogue. Our first meeting
after the sit in, the president formulated different ideas about how
they would want to reframe the question. So he presented us with two
options.The Common App has this tool in which you don’t see a part of
someone’s application until further on in the application process, so the
first option was a box-blind read of the application. Wesleyan will not
look at these questions until we deem you academically competent to
be at this university. So we were like, no, still a box. Second option was
eliminating the box, but Wesleyan asking its own more invasive questions, which poorly rephrased the Common App questions. We advocated for a third option in which there would be no box, and applicants
could explain in their own words any gaps in their transcript.
L: And he was really into the idea. One of the most important things we
learned in these few negotiations is that admissions and the administration really do operate separately, so even though we were speaking
to the president of our school and he supposedly can do whatever he
wants, he was really ignorant when it came to questions about admissions. We had to have another meeting with him and two admissions
deans, and they were like “we can’t do this; it’s just very vague.” In the
end, admissions tried to create another question which just ended up
being the Common App question in a longer paragraph.
F: Now we’re kind of in this weird place, because they wanted to go
forward with the second option which we turned down, and they wanted us to work on the language of the second option, and eventually we
all sort of came to a consensus that we were going to respond to our
president saying we don’t want to work on this language, since we still
believe that this option maintains our complicity in mass incarceration
and white supremacy, so until you actually give us what we want, we
don’t want to have our name on something we don’t fully agree with.
Now we will have a town hall potentially, which I think will be good because a lot of students will show up and shout at him, and I think that’s
what he needs. We’re going to keep fighting.
What’s the case for Amherst banning the box?
L: Does Amherst want to be complicit in structures of mass incarceration and white supremacy? I don’t think so, Amherst!
F: Yeah. Not cute.


If you have any interest in banning the box at Amherst, please email me

By Huey Hewitt ‘19

To diversify the kinds of writings/media shown in this
Disorientation Guide, and to re-orient new (and old) students to the
kind of organizing and activism which interests those who produced
the guide, the following is an abridged letter, rather than an article.
Information which can be used to ascertain the identity of the addressee (as well as sensitive information about the author) has been
redacted. All that needs to be known is that the letter was handwritten and sent via mail to a black transgender woman currently being
held in a men’s prison. The woman is a member of Black and Pink’s
pen-pal program, which connects LGBTQ+ prisoners to advocates
on the outside with whom they can write and build relationships
(political and otherwise). According to one of her advocates on the
outside, with whom the writer corresponded, the woman is radical
and radicalizing, and describes herself as “a political prisoner who is
against the plutocracy, capitalism, imperialism.”

To learn more about Black and Pink so that you can write
your own letters to incarcerated LGBTQ+ people, go to If you would like to write to incarcerated sex
workers (not all of whom are LGBTQ+), go to
-----------------------------------------------Friday, August 3, 2018
Dear Comrade,

Right now I’m reading Assata Shakur’s autobiography and am
just now learning that she was put up in a men’s prison. Really makes
you think.

I should introduce myself. My name’s Huey and I got your
address by getting in touch with [name redacted]. We met on Twitter. I’m a black trans guy, coming up on a full year post-op from top
surgery and I’ve been on T for around a year and a half. Right now I’m
going to college in Massachusetts, bout to finish up my final year here.
I’m double-majoring in History and Black Studies. I’m also a prison
abolitionist…I consider myself an anarchist, a communist, a socialist… words that seem kinda empty for me at the moment.


It’s not that I don’t think they’re valuable, it’s just that my
Granny (great grandmother) is basically on her deathbed right now. A
fierce black woman, born in 1918. Visiting family, I was misgendered
a lot (even though I pass now), and they switched between calling me
Huey and my old name. It felt bad, but my family tries to accept me,
and I couldn’t help but feel like…I was so spiritually overwhelmed…
thinking about death and cycles of life and family and kinship and
queerness and transness and…also blackness. My [family member 1]
is a manly man kinda guy, and his relationship to my being trans is
complicated, but this man has seen some of his own friends bleed out
in front of him, he’s been to prison, sold crack…I’ve never been in any
of those situations and I don’t want to lie about that. I’ve had friends
die but not in front of me, and under different circumstances. I feel
like the people I go to school with, even people who call themselves
radical—especially the white ones—have this simple notion of school/
family, oftentimes seeing school as superior and where all the woke
people are. But my Granny worked every day as a maid in a hotel,
on 3-4 hours of sleep a night for decades…only got a seventh grade
education…maybe she wasn’t what you’d call “woke” in her youth.
But I respect her more than I respect any other person on this planet. I respect everything she’s endured with resilience, the work she’s
done in life—and not just on the clock and for pay, but the service
she provided in the lives of those around her…cooking, cleaning,
providing emotional support and kindness and positivity constantly.
She’s wise as fuck. My [family member 1] says misogynistic shit all
the time, queerphobic/transphobic shit all the time… not these days,
that he knows I’m trans, although there’s subtle shit sometimes. But
what the fuck does it matter? I mean, I have friends up here who were
fed with a shinier silver spoon than my ass compared to my [family
member 1] and can probably sound “not problematic” while holding a
conversation, but what’s the point to talking in circles with them and
avoiding the hard work of talking with my family just because it hurts,
it’s painful, it’s uncomfortable, whatever? It hurts to be misgendered.
Yeah, it sucks. But I’m blackity black black and so is my family and
I was taught the same exact things as them about everything I am,
about gender and what it means to be a man/woman, that being who
I am is wrong somehow and gross. The way some folks up here talk,
you’d think I was supposed to drop my family (or “cancel” them or
call them “trash”) just because they’re not perfect. But my ass isn’t
perfect either. I’ve been struggling this past year especially, with being
a good man. It’s easy to not be like most men because most men are
really violent and fucked up to women. But I need to rise above that
low-ass bar, because people are crushing under the weight. Maybe


this all sounds unrelated or isn’t making sense, but it’s what’s been on
my mind. I strongly believe that politics and spirituality are intimately connected. I don’t know if I believe in God or whatever, but I’ve
been meditating a lot and I feel connected to life and the universe
when I do that. It also really calms me down. Thinking about my
Granny…my family, who I just visited and haven’t visited enough
lately…or my whole life since I grew up outside of the country and not
around them…somehow I know that if I can crack the code, if I can
do the work of loving and working with them so that we can resist all
this shit and tear it the fuck down because it’s destroying us inside
and out…if I can do that, I know I’ll be a much better organizer…and
a much better person…and I’ll know that we have a chance of winning
this. I mean really winning. It’ll just take time.

I know that’s a lot. Sorry. I kind of just let everything come
out. I guess I want you to feel like you know enough about me. And I
want to be honest.

I’m writing a thesis for my last year of college, and I’m writing about the imprisonment of trans black people—more specifically,
how history can tell us a lot about why so many black trans people
are in jail/prison. I’m not sure if you already know about it, but the
NTDS (National Transgender Discrimination Survey) from a couple
years ago reported that while 16% of transgender people generally
have been or are currently incarcerated in the U.S., 47% of black trans
people have been. So, like half. We have a half-chance of being stuffed
in a box.

I’ve been given access to good education since I was very
young. Some part of me knows deep in my bones that this whole
intellectual/scholar thing is what I’m supposed to do, at least for a
while…use my skills to get the wider world to think seriously about
what’s happening to us…to black trans people…and to everyone else
whose self-esteem and worth they derive from feeling better than us.
That’s no way to live, and I know they’re suffering too. So, if I can
write a good thesis, I can hopefully get into a good PhD program and
then teach and write a lot of books after that. That’s been my plan for
a while now. I’m a really anxious and depressed person, because I see
how fucked up these systems are set up and how most people in my
family/families (blood and otherwise…inclusive of you, in a sense, in
a kind of unconditional way due to our shared identities) are being
trampled on. I just want to make it better.


The last thing I guess I’ll tell you about myself in this letter is
how I chose my name—Huey. I’m sure you’ve heard of Huey Newton.
And did you ever watch that show, The Boondocks? Huey Freeman,
the radical protagonist, was named after Newton. The thing is, there
are a lot of queerphobic and transphobic undertones in the show.
There’s also this whole episode dedicated to shaming a sex worker.
Huey Freeman really disappointed me in that episode, because he
participates in the sexism around him. Huey Newton was less overtly bigoted at the height of his revolutionary consciousness—he gave
some speeches and wrote some essays on solidarity with gays and
lesbians, although he seemed to think of these categories as white by
default. When I chose my name, I was still identifying as “genderqueer” and using they/she pronouns, but experimenting more and
more with my masculinity. I thought that, by virtue of simply existing
as a gender nonconforming person, I subverted the corrosive gender
politics sometimes embodied by Freeman and Newton. Since medically transitioning and coming out as a binary man, my relationship
to the name has changed, I guess. While my masculinity will never be
cis, there are plenty of ways in which trans-masculinity can be toxic or
harmful to others. I’m watching myself on that more as of late.

I look forward to hearing from you and getting to know you. I
want to make life in there easier for you; when I think about the possibility of my own incarceration, I know I wouldn’t be able to survive
without people on the outside helping me out in some way. So I want
to be here in the ways that I can.

I happen to have a cousin who’s trans. Two black trans men
in the same family…I wouldn’t have thought that it’s possible. I found
out a couple days ago that he just got locked up for getting into a fight
with a white man who called him the N word. He fucked him up real
bad, which (I won’t lie) I was happy to hear…but now he’s in jail. Pretty sure the white man walked free.
I just want this to stop.
Endless peace, love, and solidarity.
Your friend and comrade,
Huey Hewitt


By Sarah Wishloff ‘19


By Sarah Wishloff ‘19


By Sarah Montoya ’21

Amherst College students have a certain reputation–rich,
white, prep school kids. Sitting in class, it is very easy to think that
these students are all Amherst College consists of. Or that this is who
Amherst College is meant for.
If you find yourself in class feeling unprepared, overwhelmed or not
good enough,
If you feel like you aren’t capable of doing the classwork,
If you think that everyone else is better than you,
Then I want you to know that that does not mean that you do not
belong here.

I think everyone feels overwhelmed and overworked at some
point at Amherst, but if you are lower income or went to a public
school, or if you are a first generation student, then you might believe
that this struggling is proof that you aren’t good enough for Amherst.

No matter who you are or where you come from, if you were
admitted to Amherst College, then you are qualified to be here. You
didn’t get in because you’re black or brown or low income or to fill a
quota anymore than another student might’ve gotten in because their
parents went to Amherst. And if Chad has better SAT scores than
you? His parents probably paid for a tutor. Every student at Amherst
deserves to be here; you don’t have to prove that you’re just as good
as the prep school crowd.

I know this is easier said than done. Plenty of people in my
hometown thought I only got in to Amherst because of affirmative
action, and plenty of people at Amherst have told me similar things.
My dad has always told me not to listen because people with privilege
don’t understand how easy they have it. They don’t understand how


hard you’ve worked, how hard your parents have worked, and how
much sacrifice it takes to get to a school like Amherst. I’m in the first
generation of my family that has been able to pursue my dreams, and
I feel so lucky to be here.

It’s incredible actually when you think about how we were
never supposed to be students at Amherst College. People at this
school come from all walks of life; I happen to be the daughter of a
teenage father who fought in a war at the same point when some of
my classmates’ parents were students at this college. My father was
also raised on and off the Navajo reservation by his mother, whose
only education was through the racist assimilation Indian Boarding
Schools. My Italian-American mother pushed me towards Catholic colleges because she remembers from her application days that
schools like Amherst don’t take kids with too many vowels in their
names. None of my family before me would have been let into this
school, but I think that’s the case with many of us here. If you feel
the imposter syndrome like I do, here’s a tip: when I feel not good
enough for Amherst, I like to picture good ‘ol Lord Jeff rolling over in
his grave at the thought of someone like me attending his illustrious
namesake, and I will the self doubt out of my head, because giving
into my insecurities is what Lord Jeff would want.

This school was not built for us, but hopefully we can contribute to building the lasting legacy of Amherst College–the most diverse
college in America, not a school named after the man who came up
with the idea of giving smallpox blankets as an act of genocide.

It’s hard to be in class with the prep school crowd. I remember how overwhelmed I was with the work first semester and just how
much more prepared many of my classmates seemed. I went to a good
public school, so I had thought that I’d be fine, but it turns out there’s
plenty of things that they don’t teach you in public school. Here are
some of these lessons that I hope will help you:
1. You inherently belong at Amherst College.
2. Don’t raise your hand or ask to go to the restroom. Just go.
3. It’s okay to ask for an extension. Professors are very understanding.
4. Professors are there to help you. Go to office hours with questions,
or to the writing center.
5. If you’re anxious about who you’re sitting with for meals, ask
someone in class and text them to meet you. Or just ask someone you
kinda know if you can join them.


6. You don’t have to do every single extracurricular that seems interesting. Focus on enjoying college, not building your resume for grad
7. On that note, if you don’t like a club or extracurricular- just quit.
It’s not a big deal.
8. Getting a B is not a sign of failure. You do not have to have a 4.0
G.P.A. in order to succeed at Amherst College.
9. For motivation, I keep photos of the people who inspire me on
my desk. In my case that’s not celebrities, but my overworked and
unappreciated grandmothers, none of whom were able to finish high
school. Their accusatory glares remind me to do my work or risk getting smacked for squandering opportunity.
10. You’re probably not going to be the smartest student at Amherst
College. You might have been valedictorian at your high school, but
many of your classmates were, too.
11. You should reach out to alumni or professors for help with internships or other “life” things, but always send a thank you note. You can
reach alumni through our alumni directory, which is accessible under
the person icon on the Amherst website.
12. Tell your parents about shows, concerts or game you have, and
about parents weekend. They might want to come and see you.
13. Schedule time to take care of “business” once a week. This includes laundry, cleaning your dorm room, doing dishes and paying
14. Choose your friends wisely. If they seem nice, but make you feel
dumb/poor/uneducated and shitty about yourself every time you
hang out with them then they might not be the friends for you.
15. Be smart about your shopping- you can get cereal/snacks from Val
(I have been known to bring tupperware—just don’t get caught!) via
your unlimited meal plan. Cheap places to get clothes are Goodwill
and Salvation Army.
16. Download the Amherst app and you can find out what the meal at
Val is.
17. DON’T BUY YOUR TEXTBOOKS!!! Often, you can rent online
(I’ve used Amazon. Easy and free to return). ALSO, many times you
just need the book for one day in class. Honestly, get them from the
library. The Option is also an option to buy used books.
18. Use seasoning on your food.
If you need help, please ask for it. College is hard, and you shouldn’t
be ashamed to ask for support. Plenty of people at Amherst College


have support from parents, older siblings, and friends. Here are some
other resources;
• Your RC and from there, your RCs adult bosses
• Case management
• Resource centers on campus
• Women and Gender Center
• Multicultural Resource Center
• Queer Resource Center (Would like to add that this space is POC
friendly and has a diverse staff. There is also a student group for
• Office of Campus Diversity and Student Leadership
• Center for International Student Engagement
• Religious advisors on campus. Can be found at Cadigan Center
• The Loeb Center (Career center, can help with internships)
• The Writing Center (operates through a portal to schedule)
• Quantitative Center aka Q center

Please remember- I want you to succeed and I want you to
enjoy your time here. I hope that if you’re reading this, you remember
what I’ve said in a month or so when you feel lonely or inadequate.
You can always come find me on campus and talk, or reach out to
people who love you.
Much love,


By Charlotte Blackman ‘20, Leah Woodbridge ‘20,
Theo Peierls ‘20E, Sarah Montoya ‘21, and Lea Morin ‘21
Dear Reader,

Welcome to Amherst College! Congratulations on all the
hard work that has brought you to this point, and I hope you are
excited for everything you will do, see, and learn at Amherst. Many
factors go into what experience you will have in college: your own
personal history, parts of your identity, whom you meet here, what
classes you take, and so many other things.

Gender, sexual violence, and the resources available to students in handling these issues can be formative in a student’s college
years. In this piece, we have assembled moments, thoughts, and
experiences we have had at Amherst that have been framed by our
genders, and times we have encountered the Title IX office. We hope
that in these anecdotes, you can find a sense of solidarity, useful
resources, and potentially new outlooks that can help you navigate
gender and Title IX during your time here.

Because this piece is sourced directly from our own experiences, this not an exhaustive or comprehensive list of experiences
one can have with gender or the Title IX office at Amherst College;
perhaps you will encounter none of these situations or thoughts. Perhaps you don’t identify with any of the authors of this article. Our
aim in writing this piece was to reflect on wisdom we have gained
during our time at Amherst that we wish we had before we came
here, and to share this wisdom with incoming students to hopefully
make their time at Amherst a bit easier. In the words of Janet Mock,
“I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one
another and the world, is a revolutionary act.”
In Solidarity,
Charlotte Blackman, Sarah Montoya, Theo Peierls


Processing Sexual Trauma
While the Title IX office provides many necessary services, nobody in
that office is a trauma specialist. This is simply not the title, purpose, or responsibility of anybody who works there. Healing from
sexual trauma is difficult, and if you are also looking for counseling
during this process, the Title IX office is not your place to go. This
is not something that Title IX office can legally help you with. If
you are asking yourself, “was it rape?” or “what happened to me?”
the workers in that office can’t help you process that. They can only
make a statement on whether an incident violated Title IX after an
adjudication. Filing a report or pursuing an adjudication process may
also be part of your healing; these are services the Title IX office does
provide. If that is what you are looking for, you should go to them.
This distinction was something I didn’t understand when I first went
to file a report with Title IX. After this was explained to me, I realized
that probably many others would have the same confusion I did. So,
if you think you may have experienced sexual violence and are looking for somebody to help you figure out what happened and process,
I recommend the counseling center (413-542-2354), or Safe Passage
(phone: 413-586-1125, 24/7 intimate partner violence hotline:
413-586-5066) and the Center For Women and Community (phone:
413-545-0883, 24/7 rape crisis hotline: 413-545-0800), local organizations that offer individualized counseling and support groups for
victims of abuse. I am also always willing to chat and work through
things as a friend (not a professional), and can be reached through
-Charlotte Blackman ‘20
------------------------------------------------Last year, I was an orientation leader. And as part of our training we
were given the full rundown of all things Title IX; it was drilled into
our heads that the Title IX office existed to give power back to those
that were abused or assaulted. In the back of my mind, I knew that
that summer I had lost some of my power. I was in an emotionally
abusive relationship that eventually turned physical, and even though
I had just broken up with this person, I needed clarification, retribution; I needed my power back. I filled out a report in the middle of my
training. I heard back immediately. And when I went to the Title IX
office I cried way more than I thought I was able, as the Title IX officer gave me Kleenex and tea. I thought to myself, this is what I needed. Until we began to talk about action. What do you want to do? The
officer made it clear that I could file police charges against him, but I
was viscerally against doing so because of the amount of attention it
would cause. So instead, I asked that the officer speak to him. So he


could understand that what he did was wrong. And the officer spoke
to him. And after she did, she told me that he seemed like a really nice
guy who completely regretted his actions. He said he wouldn’t do it
again. I began to feel lost. He’s a nice guy? Really? Such a nice guy
that he would be in three out of my four classes that semester, staring
at me from across the room, because he knew what that would do to
me? The Title IX office told me that they couldn’t make him switch
classes, that I should just try to ignore him, that it was probably just
a coincidence. Such a nice guy that since breaking up with him I have
heard from two other women that he has also abused, who know that
he has no intention of stopping? Nothing that the Title IX office did
made me feel safe. I have instead found safety in my peers, in those
who have also been abused by him and others, in those who listen,
those who know that he does not deserve the kindness that the Title
IX office offers to perpetrators. To all of you, thank you. You make
Amherst a safer place, with love, and without bureaucracy.
- Leah
------------------------------------------------Gendered power dynamics in the classroom

Misgendering is just as violent and dominating as it feels.
Specifically, in classroom settings. Strangely, it’s harder to engage
when you experience degradation in every interaction, in every gaze.
In each class I’ve been in since coming out, I have not had a single
interaction with a cis student where I felt anything other than cornered into a gender I don’t identify with. And sometimes, that’s okay
(we were all socialized to enforce a cisgender binary, we can’t help it if
our thoughts don’t align with our theory). It’s the classroom dynamic
itself, with inherent power dynamics favoring the professor, that has
caused me the most harm, regardless of the behavior of the students.

The professors, like the cisgender students, see me as a gender I do not belong to, and often have no comprehension of gender
outside of the binary. And unlike with students, what a professor
sees carries a weight of determination that acts as a judgement, a
sentence. The experience of being misgendered, belittled, or erased
by a professor adds a power dynamic that is hard to match within the
student body. When I am misgendered it is a command, a lesson. It’s
a naming ceremony, taking place in front of the whole class while they
discern my new name and my new position.

For a long time I told myself that these individual interactions cannot define me, that I have to toughen up against what barely
amounts to transphobia. But the deadnaming, the misgendering, the
misogyny, or the dozens of other ways I’m categorized subtly or notso-subtly are not so small when placed in a context of broader trans-


phobia, the patriarchy, and the power dynamics of higher education.
And while Title IX may say they still protect trans students despite
the laws no longer applying to gender discrimination, there’s rarely
anything they can or will do.

If you are trans, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, or otherwise not cis and reading this, know that you are not overreacting, and
that even if it “wasn’t that bad” there is so much more context and
meaning behind it. I write this not to tell you to lose hope, but to tell
you that you are not making this up, and that the experience of gendered power dynamics in Amherst classrooms is real, harmful, and
not your fault.
------------------------------------------------Sexism?? In My Good, Male-Dominated Industry??

I started playing bass about nine years ago. I joined the jazz
band in 6th grade and stayed with this until my junior year of high
school, where I was vice-president of the jazz band and president of
the jazz combo. I won awards, I did competitions and I played professional concert venues. I’m on the jazz executive board at Amherst and
you’ll probably see me play in Val sometime. I’ve studied under many
great musicians and been lucky enough to play with so many talented
The point is, I know my worth as a musician. So why is it that people
constantly assume that
A) I’m not serious
B) I’ve just started playing and
C) Am just playing for male attention.

Coming to Amherst, I had already fought tooth and nail in
middle school, in high school and at various other points in my life
to be taken seriously as a woman in jazz and as a bass player. I still
constantly feel the urge to prove myself, which is ridiculous. I’ve kind
of internalized this notion that in order to be valid as a female bassist,
I have to always be the best or no one will take me seriously. I’m hoping that no one in Jazz @ Amherst takes anything I say personally,
because while there is a lot of misogyny alive and well in the halls of
Arms music center, it’s a symptom of the overall jazz climate. I’ve also
been in the music/jazz scene for about 9 years; I’ve played with a lot
of people and seen a lot of shit. I was on the verge of quitting jazz last
year because I was so fed up with male musicians. I was fed up of


being worried about being seen as unreasonable, a bitch, or a diva if I
complained about something almost as much as I was fed up of people touching my amp, explaining to me how to play my own instrument and being talked over.

People assume a lot of things about women in jazz. Both
out in the “real” world and here at Amherst. When you’re a woman,
especially dressed femininely for a gig in say, heels and a black dress,
people assume that you’re there to look pretty and sing. Maybe play
piano too.

I am not saying that singing and playing piano are “unfeminist” to do in jazz. What I would like to point out is that these two
fields are deemed appropriate for women and is what we are pushed
towards. The amount of times I have been asked if I sing is ridiculous
but that’s usually what people assume when I say I’m a jazz musician.
I asked one of my bandmates if people had ever asked him if he sings,
and he said never.

One of the biggest barriers to women in jazz is our confidence.
I’m @ing myself here, but time and time again I see people step down
from jazz because they don’t think they belong musically. Even if
there’s an even gender ratio, most solos are done by men. I absolutely
abhor playing solos. For me, solos have always represented another
level of vulnerability. They present the risk of “exposure,” and if I
mess up, then everyone that thinks I’m just a girl who thinks she can
play jazz.

This also might come down to male musicians being praised
as genius while women get labelled divas. If you’ve ever played jazz,
think about how many “stars” of the band have been female? How
often have the “most talented musicians” been men?

That brings up something extremely prevalent in jazz (and
other male dominated fields)–the idea that women are difficult or
unreasonable for pointing things out. If you put your foot down about
bullshit, then you’re being a bitch and killing the vibe. I’ve sat through
countless rehearsals feeling uncomfortable because I was afraid to
speak up.

I feel very lucky to be a part of Jazz @ Amherst at this time.
Currently, both the President and the Vice President on the Jazz
e-board are women plus myself as Secretary. I hope that this year, the
overall vibe of department will change to be more inclusive and welcoming. It’s something that I know the department has been trying to
do for a while, but how do you change an entire culture?

This is just one step in getting to where jazz, and many other
male dominated fields, need to be in terms of equality. Even if we get
more women in jazz, gender in jazz is still restricted to a binary-


you’re either a serious male presenting instrumentalist, or a pretty
female singer. But there are more people than just that, and there are
more genders than just that. There are now very few people of color
on the executive board and in the overall program. It is my hope that
in the coming years, the diversity of the jazz department begins to
reflect the diversity of the overall college.

Even if you are not a woman or play jazz, I hope that something in here resonated with you. Maybe as an ally, or as someone in
field that was not “meant” for you. I’ll leave you with what my bass
teacher once told me–if anyone tries to tell you that you’re not good
enough, fuck em.


-Sarah Montoya
Amherst College was not created for the students that make
up the statistics of diversity proudly showcased by the institution.
Amherst was created for cis, straight, upper-class, white men and
the impacts of its creation for such people can be felt by all that the
institution was never intended to support. Throughout my first year
on campus, I have definitely felt how oppressive this institution is,
especially as I experienced classism, colorism, racism, and sexism
from fellow peers, faculty and staff, and Amherst townies. Some of my
experiences made me miserable to the point that I was sure I would
be transferring the hell out of Amherst. Even though I’ve had some
rough experiences, I have concluded my first year with more strength
and vulnerability in my identities, especially as a woman of color.

Being a woman of color, in general, isn’t easy and Amherst
is just a microcosm of all the potentially colorist, racist, and sexist
aggressions a woman of color can experience. Something particularly prevalent in Amherst as a community is the labeling of black and
brown women as “too loud”, “aggressive”, and, my personal favorite,
“out-of-pocket.” I am not too loud or aggressive and I am certainly
not out-of-pocket. I am a Chicana and my voice will be heard regardless of if it’s too loud for some lax bro’s ears, my agenda will be
pushed despite an uncomfortable white man calling me aggressive,
and I will defend myself against the men of color, especially the men
of color who are also student athletes, that jokingly, or not so jokingly, call me out-of-pocket. My time at Amherst has taught me that my
anger does not need to be tamed for the comfort of any man and that
women of color need to understand this as they navigate Amherst
and beyond Amherst. Amherst needs women of color to burst some
eardrums, make people uncomfortable, and be way the fuck out-ofpocket.

But our challenges to oppressive institutions and the people
complicit in them don’t always have to be our yells of disapproval and
shaking fists in classrooms and on campus. Our challenges are that
and so much more. I have found joy and laughter to be some of the
most potent weapons against all the looming oppressions of Amherst.
My experiences of joy on campus have provided me with strength,
space, and vulnerability and are the reasons I’m still gonna be loud,
proud, and talking shit on campus until I get my diploma. I am thankful for all of the friends who have been patient with me at the time
when all of my humor was centered on making fun of all the caucasity. I am thankful for all of the friends that were able to make me laugh
even as I was crying about some racist, sexist shit. Of all, I’m thankful
for the long days and the hella late nights in the Resource Centers
where I can be hella messy, but there are so many people there that
give me so much genuine joy by being in community with them.

At the end of it all, I hope that women of color on this campus remember that they are more than the colorist, racist, and sexist
labels that will be applied to them. You are a woman of color and your
existence on this campus is valid just as much as your emotions are.
So, throughout your time at Amherst, remember to be angry, but also
remember to find people and places that help you be joyful. Above all
else, protect your energy. You don’t owe anyone anything from your
family back home to anybody on campus (especially men). So, go off
and stay strong and vulnerable as a woman of color.
-Lea Morin


By Frank Tavares ‘19

If you haven’t already, in your first few days at Amherst, you’ll
start to get annoyed by all the hills. Though many of them are natural,
I regret to inform you that this is at least in part a self-afflicted obstacle on the part of the college. Using it as an example of the philosophy
behind much of our school’s early years, a professor once told me that
the hill on which Johnson Chapel sits is artificial, made so the central
building of the campus could sit above the rest.

Imagining your version of a better world is, I think, one of the
most important parts of being in college, and there’s an argument for
physical space being essential to influencing inner thought. (Just wait
until you hit a Massachusetts winter, you’ll see what I mean).

But what that better world looks like to me keeps rubbing up
against what that hill represents. For me, a better world is one without hierarchy. That’s not something profound or controversial, it’s
clear that hierarchy is the fundamental force behind most forms of
oppression. But hierarchy is also at the foundation of Amherst College, as an institution and a place of education, and because of that
gets wrapped up in how we see ourselves as students here as well. So,
what does it mean to actively oppose hierarchy in a place that, even in
its landscaping, is so formed by it–a place that forms us as students
by using it?

After nearly four years at Amherst College, I am more and
more convinced that the politics and values around ideas like inclusion, diversity, and access to education that I’ve developed from my
experience here–my classes, interactions and conversations with
other students, interactions with the larger Amherst and Five College
Community–in many ways contradict the fundamental structure of
an “elite” Liberal Arts institution that prides itself on a low acceptance
rate. And I think that contradiction is, in part, why it can be so difficult to form genuine community on this campus.

I should start off by saying I really believe the emphasis Amherst places on diversity and inclusion is genuine. Unlike many other
peer institutions, Amherst puts its money where its mouth is. The
failings the school has (which are many) come from a lack of diversity


in administration and faculty, issues that the school is tackling as

But there’s a larger contradiction in the very idea of what Amherst College is, and what the concept of “inclusion” means, perhaps
what “radicalism” means. Amherst is a premier liberal arts school,
where around 2,000 students attend over the course of four years,
and our 14% acceptance rate is a badge of pride. And every year, that
14% comes from a wider variety of backgrounds across all axes than
almost any other peer institution. It’s a necessary step for a school
that didn’t even let women into its ranks until just over 40 years ago.
But I think it’s worth thinking through how the impulse behind this is
brings out contradictions deeper than admissions statistics.

The philosophy of inclusion at a place like Amherst College is
that anyone, from any background or walk of life, deserves a chance
at an education at a place like Amherst. And since education is a catalyst for social mobility, these inclusive practices can ripple out and
affect our larger society. But that’s all it is, a chance at an Amherst
education, if you work hard enough. If you score well enough on their
SAT. If you stand out.

In some ways, this characterization is unfair. Most admissions
officers here at Amherst and elsewhere would describe their jobs as
more of an art than a science, modelling a class they think would be a
good fit out of far more qualified applicants than they can admit.

But at the end of the day, either you get in or you don’t, and
often it’s hard to tell why. This “mystery box” leaves swaths of students confused and feeling inadequate, as if they’re here by mistake
for one reason or another. It leaves others with a sense of superiority,
that they deservedly made it through this trial of percentiles and rose
to the top.

Either way, we all buy into the narrative given to us that we
“made it” to this exclusive place, that our diploma will set us apart, regardless of where we came from before. In other words, the project of
Amherst College is to diversify the elite, not to abolish the elite. And
it never can be in favor of such a project, or even one adjacent to it,
because of the fundamental structure of this school, this institution.

This isn’t to say diversifying the elite is necessarily a bad
thing, and it’s certainly not to say that there aren’t objectively good
outcomes to having individuals more cognizant of social issues in
leadership positions. But at this point it should be clear there are
deeper systemic issues behind inequality in the US and across the

There’s been enough written about the astronomical inequality in the US that I’d feel redundant repeating those arguments. But I


think it’s enough to say the amount of concentrated wealth in the
highest echelons of this country’s upper classes is sickening, and that
wealth is able to persist because of various intersecting institutions of
power in this country.

Higher education is one of the most powerful of these institutions, and Amherst College is a part of that. Even as one of the few
colleges that actively makes an effort to, arguably, redistribute that
wealth. But because of the size of our school, that can only work on
a small scale. It’s giving deserved opportunity to a few rather than
addressing the fundamental issue at hand.

And all of this is by design, and not a nefarious design. The
hope is that, if we cultivate a diverse student body in an elite institution, where students go on to be leaders in society, then the leaders of
society will have a wider set of backgrounds, a greater awareness of
society’s inequality, and be better equipped to fix them.

Let’s say this works. Let’s say that when our generation is
older, and in positions of power, we genuinely do build the better
world we dream and theorize about, one where education is a basic
right–affordable, and accessible to all. Where does a place like Amherst stand in that world?

I don’t know if it has one. Fundamentally, Amherst’s identity
is centered around hierarchy, and superiority. We’re better than other
schools, just look at the rankings! Even “fun” parts of our identity,
like hating on Williams, come out of this: we (even jokingly) hate Williams because they’re one peg up on the ladder than us, and so much
of our value is tied to that ladder.

A truly radical educational system, what I think a truly equitable educational system would look like, wouldn’t allow a place like
Amherst College to be recognizable as it is today. Fully committing to
the notion that everyone deserves the highest level of education (in
whatever their field of interest may be, whether that’s academic or
vocational) destroys the idea of an admissions department.

My larger point is this: even as we learn about the danger of
hierarchy in our classes, our debates, our activism, it’s an inextricable
tennant of the identity of Amherst College, and, by extension, of us as
students of that institution.

And I think that’s deeply damaging. I think it erodes us from
the inside, without us even realizing it. Even if our politics and ideals
resist it.

I’m not talking about elitism in an obvious or recognizable
form. Elitism at Amherst isn’t as pervasive on the surface as one
might expect. It’s certainly there, and if you want to find it and bask in
it, it’s very easy to do so. But I think even among the majority of the


student body, a sense of intellectual superiority manifests in ways that
can be difficult to recognize.

It’s hard to find the right words for this, but it often comes
through in snide or even innocent comments about the other 5
colleges. That’s as small as an overly hasty clarification that we go
to “Amherst College, not UMass,” or as large as actively disparaging
Hampshire. But the most damning sign of this is that we are the only
school that barely makes use of the 5 College Consortium at all.

Whether it’s conscious or not, or we want to admit it, most
of us have an underlying belief that our classes are better, or professors are better. How can we not? We all feel like we’ve sacrificed so
much to get to this place, we have to believe it’s better than any other

The idea that we “deserve” to be here–and with that, the crippling and common anxiety that we might not–does such a damage
and disservice to our ability to relate to one another. It’s so easy to let
the fact that we’re here, at “Amherst” color every bit of interaction we
have. We can’t just be people, trying to learn things, trying to figure
out our lives in this transitional period. We have to be Amherst students, either doing the most or suffering the most, or both at the same
time. And everyone has to know that, lest we be seen as undeserving
of being at this hallowed place. In this way, Amherst’s reputation gets
in the way of our learning, our ability to form community.

What I’ve learned at Amherst is that Amherst should not
exist, in the way it exists today. And neither should places like it. An
ethical and equitable system of higher education should not incentivize low admission rates that inevitably exclude by design, or socially
and psychologically damage their student bodies through a false sense
of superiority or rampant imposter syndromes.

And maybe above all, we should change our damn motto.
Terras Irradient–spread light onto the lands–gets at the crux of the
philosophy that’s still deeply ingrained in this institution. We hold
knowledge to spread to the world. We’ve cultivated an inclusive and
diverse microcosm here, and that, trickling down, will redistribute
wealth to future generations. This philosophy requires hierarchy, and
assumes we are the keepers of knowledge to be spread, and that we
are somehow separate from the lands we are spreading that knowledge to.

But the lands don’t need us to bring illumination. And we are
just as much a part of “the land” as anyplace else. The world is filled
with knowledge. The point of college is to learn the tools to bask and
glow in that light, not just for these four years, but for a lifetime. We
can’t do that if we go into the world thinking we have to always teach


it something that only we can spread.

So, instead, let us say Iam Lumine Terras–the lands are
already light. Let’s not allow our egos and insecurities keep all that
hidden, and instead learn and listen to all the illumination the world
and all the people in it have to offer.


Dear self-identifying womxn1 ,
Let’s ride our bicycles together! Let’s plot
an escape route out of the infamous “Amherst Bubble,” and learn how to navigate
through the nooks and crannies of western
Massachusetts. Let’s acquire/claim/borrow/temporarily steal the bikes necessary
for the task. Let’s learn how to change our
tires, and replace (break) our chains. Let’s
make like the Situationists2 and get lost in
the deceivingly mundane geographies of
the Pioneer Valley. Let’s cruise down the
bike path, through parking lots, to bookstores, and visit other colleges. Let’s affirm
Kitti Knox was bi-racial woman cyclist who challenged
the power of our legs by venturing out to
institutional racism, and sexism in the League of American
the peace pagoda, to rivers, to mountains.
Wheelman; in other words, she was goals.
While we’re at it, let’s gossip about self-reliance, collectives, and empowerment.
Let’s discuss sustainability, transportation, and our future. Let’s educate ourselves
on radical, intersectional feminism, and how we can embody it in our everyday lives.
Let’s actively reject transphobia, and use our bikes as tools of protest. Let’s build unity, community, and confidence. Let’s protect each other. Let’s come up with a name,
and design a patch. I’m talking about an all-girl bicycle brigade—one that we create
together. Bring your ideas, a bicycle, a helmet, some water, and yourself to the steps
of Frost Library for our first ride on Sunday, September 16th at 10:10 AM.
With much anticipation, your bici compa3,
Feel free to contact me at with any questions, call outs, or

No boys allowed.
The Situationist International were a group of mid-twentieth century avant-garde artists and thinkers who came up with the concept of the derive. By letting themselves wander through their urban
environments, they hoped to break with capitalist routines and roles. You can learn more about them
My way of saying your bike friend



Race, Gender, Class, and Sexuality
AGUSTÍN, Laura. Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets, and the
Rescue Industry.
ALEXANDER, Michelle. The New Jim Crow.
BARRETT, Michèle. Women’s Oppression Today: The Marxist/Feminist Encounter.
DAVIS, Angela. Women, Race, & Class.
FRASER, Nancy. Fortunes of Feminism.
FRASER and Boot. Revolutionary Integration: A Marxist Analysis of Afri- can
American Liberation
GOSSETT and Stanley. Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of
KINSMAN, Gary. “Trans Politics and Anti-Capitalism: An Interview with Dan
Irving.” Upping the Anti, 2007, trans-politics-and-anti-capitalism/
LORDE, Audre. “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”
MARTINEZ, Elizabeth. De Colores Means All Of Us: Latina Views for a Multi
Colored Century
PIEPZNA-SAMARASINHA, Leah Lakshmi. Dirty River: A Queer Femme of Color Dreaming Her Way Home.
RENSHAW, Kimberlé. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics,
and Violence against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review, July 1 1991.
ROWBOTHAM, Sheila. Women, Resistance and Revolution.
Spade, Dean. Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and
the Limits of Law.
STANLEY and Smith. Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison
Industrial Complex.
TURNER and DEADRICK. Gay Resistance: The Hidden History


DERESIEWICZ, William. “The NeoLiberal Arts.” Harper’s, September 2015.
DOUTHAT, Ross. “College, The Great Unequalizer.” New York Times Sunday
Review, May 3, 2014.
LAREAU, Annette. Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life

Global, National, and Anti-Colonial Struggle

CHATURVEDI,Vinayak. Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial.
FANON, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth.
PRASHAD, Vijay. The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South.
ROY, Arundhati. Walking With The Comrades
SMITH, John. “A Critique of David Harvey’s Analysis of Imperialism.” https://
WEISS, Murry. Women’s Emancipation and the Future of the Fourth International.


Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and Discrimination
Against Marginalized Religions

BURTON, Nylah. “White Jews: Stop Calling Yourselves ‘White-Passing.’” https://
JAARTE, Miikka. “Your conspiracy theory is anti-Semitic.” Varsity, 2017. https://
KUMAR, Deepa. Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire.
WEISMAN, Jonathan. (((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of

Left-Wing Theory
GRAEBER, David. Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology.
GOLDMAN, Emma. Anarchism: What it Really Stands For.
KEUCHEYAN, Razmig. The Left Hemisphere: Mapping Critical Theory Today.
LENIN, Vladimir. The State and Revolution.
LENIN, Vladimir. Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism.
LUXEMBOURG, Rosa. Reform or Revolution.
ZINN, Howard. A People’s History of the United States.

Activism, Action, and Planning
ALINSKY, Saul. Rules for Radicals.
BUTLER, Judith. “Boycott Politics and Global Responsibility.” Lecture, Tufts
University, Sommerville, MA, March 2012.
DARCY, Steve. “The Rise of the Post-New Left Political Vocabulary.” The Public
Autonomy Project, January 27, 2014.
DAVIS, Angela Y. Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the
Foundations of a Movement
KLEIN, Naomi. This Changes Everything.
RECLAIM UC. “Against Civility: Dartmouth and the Logic of Administrative
Discourse.” Reclaim UC Blog, April 28, 2013.
ROBBINS, Bruce. “The Logic of the Beneficiary.”
SAID, Edward. The Question of Palestine
TAMARA Turner, et. Al. A Worker’s Guide to the 20th Century

Pieces by Amherst Students, Faculty, and Staff
DUMM, Thomas. “Resignation.” Critical Inquiry 25.1 (1998): 56-76.
SRIDHAR, Meghna. “The Lack of Leftist Discourse.” The Amherst Student,
September 24, 2013.


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