Seal of Amherst College
|Motto||Terras Irradient (Latin)|
|Motto in English||Let them give light to the world|
|Endowment||$1.641 billion (2012) |
|Location||Amherst, MA, USA|
1,000 acres (4.0 km2)
|Colors||Purple and white|
|Nickname||The Singing College, The Fairest College, Lord Jeffs, Lady Jeffs, Jeffs|
|Mascot||Lord Jeffery Amherst|
Amherst College is a private liberal arts college located in Amherst, Massachusetts, United States. Amherst is an exclusively undergraduate four-year institution and enrolled 1,817 students in the fall of 2012. Students choose courses from 35 major programs in an unusually open curriculum. Amherst is ranked as the second best liberal arts college in the country by U.S. News & World Report, and ranked thirteenth out of all U.S. colleges and universities by Forbes.
Founded in 1821 as an attempt to relocate Williams College by its President, Zephaniah Swift Moore, Amherst is the third oldest institution of higher education in Massachusetts. Amherst remained a men's college until becoming coeducational in 1975.
- 1 History
- 2 Academics and resources
- 3 Cost of attendance and financial aid
- 4 Athletics
- 5 Student life
- 6 Music
- 7 Alumni
- 8 References
- 9 Bibliography
- 10 External links
|This section is outdated. (May 2013)|
Founded in 1821, Amherst College developed out of the secondary school Amherst Academy. The college was originally suggested as an alternative to Williams College, which was struggling to stay open. Although Williams remained open, Amherst was formed and diverged from its Williams roots into an individual institution.
In 1812, funds were raised in Amherst for a secondary school, Amherst Academy; it opened December 1814. The institution was named after the town, which in turn had been named after Jeffery, Lord Amherst, a veteran from the Seven Years' War and later commanding general of the British forces in North America. On November 18, 1817, a project was adopted at the Academy to raise funds for the free instruction of "indigent young men of promising talents and hopeful piety, who shall manifest a desire to obtain a liberal education with a sole view to the Christian ministry." This required a substantial investment from benefactors.
During the fundraising for the project, it became clear that without larger designs, it would be impossible to raise sufficient funds. This led the committee overseeing the project to conclude that a new institution should be created. On August 18, 1818, the Amherst Academy board of trustees accepted this conclusion and began building a new college.
Williams College relocation debate
As early as 1815, six years before the opening of Amherst College, the question of relocating Williams College to some more central part of Massachusetts was agitated among its friends and in its board of trustees. At that time Williams College had two buildings and fifty-eight students, with two professors and two tutors. The library contained fourteen hundred volumes. The funds were reduced and the income fell short of the expenditures. Many of the friends and supporters of the college were fully persuaded that it could not be sustained in its present location. The chief ground of this persuasion was the extreme difficulty of the access to it.
At the same meeting of the board of trustees at which Professor Moore was elected president of Williams College, May 2, 1815, Dr. Packard of Shelburne introduced the following motion: "That a committee of six persons be appointed to take into consideration the removal of the college to some other part of the Commonwealth, to make all necessary inquiries which have a bearing on the subject, and report at the next meeting." The motion was adopted, and at the next meeting of the board in September, the committee reported that "a removal of Williams College from Williamstown is inexpedient at the present time, and under existing circumstances."
But the question of removal thus raised in the board of trustees and thus negatived only "at the present time and under existing circumstances," continued to be agitated. And at a meeting on November 10, 1818, influenced more or less doubtless by the action of the Franklin County Association of Congregational Ministers, and the Convention of Congregational and Presbyterian Ministers in Amherst, the board of trustees resolved that it was expedient to remove the college on certain conditions. President Moore advocated the removal, and even expressed his purpose to resign the office of president unless it could be effected, inasmuch as when he accepted the presidency he had no idea that the college was to remain at Williamstown, but was authorized to expect that it would be removed to Hampshire County. Nine out of twelve of the trustees voted for the resolutions, which were as follows:
"Resolved, that it is expedient to remove Williams College to some more central part of the State whenever sufficient funds can be obtained to defray the necessary expenses incurred and the losses sustained by removal, and to secure the prosperity of the college, and when a fair prospect shall be presented of obtaining for the institution the united support and patronage of the friends of literature and religion in the western part of the Commonwealth, and when the General Court shall give their assent to the measure."
In November, 1819, the trustees of Williams College voted to petition the Legislature for permission to remove the college to Northampton. To this application, Mr. Webster says, "the trustees of Amherst Academy made no opposition and took no measures to defeat it." In February, 1820, the petition was laid before the Legislature. The committee from both houses, to whom it was referred, after a careful examination of the whole subject, reported that it was neither lawful nor expedient to remove the college, and the Legislature, taking the same view, rejected the petition. ... Thus the long and exciting discussion touching the removal of Williams College and the location of a college in some more central town of old Hampshire County at length came to an end, and the contending parties now directed all their energies to building up the institutions of their choice.
- –William S. Tyler, A History of Amherst College (1895)
Opening of Amherst College
Moore, then President of Williams College, however, still believed that Williamstown was an unsuitable location for a college, and with the advent of Amherst College was elected its first president on May 8, 1821. At its opening, Amherst had forty-seven students. Fifteen of these had followed Moore from Williams College. Those fifteen represented about one-third of the whole number at Amherst, and about one-fifth of the whole number in the three classes to which they belonged in Williams College. President Moore died on June 29, 1823, and was replaced with a Williams College trustee, Heman Humphrey. Williams alumni are fond of an apocryphal story ascribing the removal of books from the Williams College library to Amherst College, but there is no contemporaneous evidence to verify the story. In 1995, Williams president Harry C. Payne declared the story false, but many still nurture the legend.
Amherst grew quickly, and for two years in the mid-1830s it was the second largest college in the United States, second only to Yale. In 1835, Amherst attempted to create a course of study parallel to the classical liberal arts education. This parallel course focused less on Greek and Latin, instead focusing on English, French, Spanish, chemistry, economics, etc. The parallel course did not take hold, however, until the next century.
Amherst was founded as a non-sectarian institution "for the classical education of indigent young men of piety and talents for the Christian ministry." (Tyler, A History of Amherst College) One of the hallmarks of the new college was its Charity Fund, an early form of financial aid that paid the tuition of poorer students. Although officially non-denominational, the initial Amherst was widely seen as a religiously conservative institution with a strong connection to Calvinism, and as a result, there was considerable debate in the Massachusetts government over whether the new college should receive an official charter from the state, and a charter was not granted until February 21, 1825. As a result of the official charter being granted four years after the official founding of the college, the Amherst seal lists a date of 1825 (MDCCCXXV). A tradition of religious conservatism persisted at Amherst until the mid-nineteenth century; students who consumed alcohol or played cards were subject to expulsion, and there were a number of religious revivals at Amherst where mobs of righteous students would herd less religious students into the chapel and berate them for lack of piety. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, however, the college began a transition towards secularism, culminating in the demolishing of the college church in 1949.
Academic hoods in the United States are traditionally lined with the official colors of the school, in theory so watchers can tell where the hood wearer earned his or her degree. Amherst's hoods are purple (Williams' official color) with a white stripe or chevron, said to signify that Amherst was born of Williams.
In October 1963, U.S. President John F. Kennedy made one of his last public appearances, speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the college's new Robert Frost Library. The library opened in 1965.
The college established the Black Studies Department in 1969. In 1973, it launched the nation's first undergraduate neuroscience program. In 1983, it established a Department of Asian Languages and Literatures, which was later to become the Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations.
In 1984, on-campus fraternities were abolished. The former fraternity buildings, which were owned by the college, were converted into residence halls.
The Department of Women's and Gender Studies was established in 1987 and the Department of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought in 1993.
Presidents of the college
- Zephaniah Swift Moore, 1821–1823
- Heman Humphrey, 1823–1845
- Edward Hitchcock, 1845–1854
- William Augustus Stearns, 1854–1876
- Julius Hawley Seelye, 1876–1890
- Merrill Edward Gates, 1890–1899
- George Harris, 1899–1912
- Alexander Meiklejohn, 1912–1924
- George Daniel Olds, 1924–1927
- Arthur Stanley Pease, 1927–1932
- Stanley King, 1932–1946
- Charles W. Cole, 1946–1960
- Calvin Plimpton, 1960–1971
- John William Ward, 1971–1979
- Julian Gibbs, 1979–1983
- Peter R. Pouncey, 1984–1994
- Tom Gerety, 1994–2003
- Anthony Marx, 2003–2011
- Carolyn "Biddy" Martin, 2011–
The college was an all-male school until the late 1960s, when a few female students from nearby schools in the Five-College Consortium attended on an experimental basis. In October 1974, the faculty voted in favor of coeducation and in November 1974 the board of trustees voted to admit female students starting in the 1975-1976 school year. In 1975, nine women who were already attending classes as part of an inter-college exchange program were admitted as transfer students. In June 1976, they became the first female graduates of the college.
Academics and resources
Since the inception of the U.S. News & World Report rankings, Amherst College has been ranked ten times as the first overall amongst 266 liberal arts colleges in the United States, and in 2013 ranked second, behind Williams.
Amherst College ranked second overall in 2012, according to the National Collegiate Scouting Association's annual report, which ranks colleges based on student-athlete graduation rates, academic strength, and athletic prowess.
Amherst ranked tenth in the 2012 Washington Monthly rankings, which focus on key research outputs, the quality level and total dollar amount of scientific (natural and social sciences) grants won, the number of graduates going on to earn Ph.D. degrees, and certain types of public service.
According to The Princeton Review, Amherst ranks in the top 20 among all colleges and universities in the nation for "Students Satisfied With Financial Aid," "School Runs Like Butter," and "Top 10 Best Value Private Schools."
Amherst also participates in the University and College Accountability Network (U-CAN) developed by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU). Amherst’s sustainability efforts earned it an overall grade of “A-” on the College Sustainability Report Card 2010 published by the Sustainable Endowments Institute. No institution received an "A" or "A+."
Amherst College is among the most selective liberal arts colleges in the United States; the Carnegie Foundation classifies Amherst as one of the "more selective" institutions whose first-year students’ test scores places these institutions in roughly the top fifth of baccalaureate institutions. For the Class of 2016 (enrolled fall 2012), Amherst received 8,565 applications and accepted 1,110 (13.0%). Of the 463 enrolling, 51.0% were female; 49.0% male. In terms of class rank, 83% of enrolled freshmen were in the top 10% of their high school classes; 95% ranked in the top quarter. The middle 50% range of SAT scores of enrolled freshmen was 670-770 for critical reading, 670-760 for math, and 670-760 for writing; the middle 50% range of the ACT Composite score was 30-34.
The transfer admissions process was more selective, with 21 admitted (4.1%) out of the 509 applicants for the fall 2012 term.
Amherst College offers 36 fields of study (with 850 courses) in the sciences, arts, humanities, mathematics and computer sciences, social sciences, foreign languages, classics, and several interdisciplinary fields (including premedical studies) and provides an unusually open curriculum. Students are not required to study a core curriculum or fulfill any distribution requirements and may even design their own unique interdisciplinary major. Freshmen may take advanced courses, and seniors may take introductory ones.
Nonetheless, for freshmen, the only course requirement mandated by the course registrar is one of the roughly twenty First-Year Seminars (formerly called "Introduction to Liberal Studies"), which are often limited to no more than 15 students and, despite having varying topics, shares a common focus on critical analysis and development of written and oral argument. Besides a first-year seminar course, the other 31 courses (usually four are taken per semester) required for graduation can be elected by the students themselves. Nevertheless, to complete their major, students must still adhere to departmental course requirements, including satisfactory performance on comprehensive examinations in their major field.
Faculty advisors are committed to guiding students through the process of majoring, and each faculty advisor works with no more than five first-year students to ensure a course of study that has breadth and depth, is integrated across disciplines, and is intellectually fulfilling. Faculty advising continues for the remainder of each student's undergraduate education.
Thirty-five percent of Amherst students in the class of 2007 were double majors. A small number triple major and many create, with faculty advice, an interdisciplinary major. Fifty percent write theses during their senior year, and those students who choose to write a senior thesis have additional faculty advisors whose areas of expertise mirror each thesis topic. Within five years of graduation, seventy-four percent of Amherst alumni attend graduate school.
Traditionally, Amherst has made intensive writing for students a priority for all four years of study at all levels of instruction, throughout the curricula, and across disciplines. As a result, over the course of their undergraduate careers, students are expected to refine the form, logic, depth, and substance of their writing for a variety of audiences (in the sciences, arts, social sciences, and humanities). Amherst also has as priorities an emphasis on quantitative analysis across the disciplines and fostering global comprehension.
Amherst College has been the first college to have undergraduate departments in the interdisciplinary fields of American Studies; Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought; and Neuroscience and has helped to pioneer other interdisciplinary programs, including Asian Languages and Civilizations.
Amherst College is widely recognized for its commitment to quality teaching, with rigorous professor-student interaction, so much so that Harvard and Columbia University looked to Amherst in 2007 when they were in the throes of reviewing their teaching program.
Maintaining a student-faculty ratio of 8:1 and an average class size of fifteen students, Amherst places a high priority on meaningful interaction between students and their professors. Faculty members are leading scholars and researchers in their fields, as well as effective teachers who strive to develop better and more innovative ways to teach their students to learn, discover, and create. The historic guiding principle at Amherst is dialogue between professor and student. Amherst classes are characterized by interchanges among students and faculty adept at asking challenging and probing questions and offering alternative points of view.
A substantial number of faculty members hold appointments in two departments, a traditional academic discipline, and one of the many interdisciplinary programs and are thus familiar with, and accessible to, their students (both inside and outside the classroom). Professors have also built face-to-face, professor-to-student learning into the campus culture. To this end, professors serve as mentors and advisors, as well as teachers.
Professors have also drawn students early into independent or small group research, or creative work, which results in an original scholarly product. Under the mentorship of faculty members, science students also commonly participate in sophisticated graduate-level research, using state-of-art equipment and facilities, and are regularly listed as co-authors on faculty articles. Amherst students also often present their work, whether it is self-directed or in collaboration with faculty, at regional or national conferences.
Notable faculty members include, among others, modern literature and poetry critic William H. Pritchard, Beowulf translator Howell Chickering, Jewish and Latino studies scholar Ilan Stavans, novelist and legal scholar Lawrence Douglas, physicist Arthur Zajonc, Pulitzer Prize-winning Nikita Khrushchev biographer William Taubman, African art specialist Rowland Abiodun, Natural Law expert Hadley Arkes, Mathematician Daniel Velleman, Biblical scholar Susan Niditch, law and society expert Austin Sarat, and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Lewis Spratlan, professor emeritus of the music faculty. (See List of Amherst College people.)
Five College Consortium
Amherst is a member of the Five Colleges consortium, which allows its students to attend classes at four other Pioneer Valley institutions. These include Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Hampshire College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In addition to the 850 courses available on campus, Amherst students have an additional 5,300 classes to consider through the Consortium (without paying additional tuition) and access to 8 million library volumes. The Five Colleges are geographically close to one another and are linked by buses that run between the campuses.
The Five Colleges share resources and develop common academic programs. Museums10 is a consortium of local art, history and science museums. The Five College Dance Department is one of the largest in the nation. The joint Astronomy department shares use of the Five College Radio Astronomy Observatory, which contributed to work that won the 1993 Nobel Prize in Physics.
The Five College Coastal and Marine Sciences Program offers an interdisciplinary curriculum to undergraduates in the Five Colleges. Through active affiliations with national centers for marine study, students engage in hands-on research to complement course work. Faculty from the natural and social sciences teach courses in the program. The disciplines represented include biology, botany, chemistry, ecology, geology, physics, wildlife management, and zoology in the sciences, and economics, government, and public policy in the social sciences. Many students in the program go on to advanced study or professional work in various areas of marine science.
Among the resources on the 1,000-acre (4.0 km2) campus at Amherst College are more than 100 academic and residential buildings, athletic fields and facilities, a wildlife sanctuary, a forest for the study of ecology, and trails and areas for walking and cycling. Notable resources include the Mead Art Museum (with approximately 18,000 works); the Amherst Center for Russian Culture; four libraries (the main Robert Frost Library—having one million plus volumes, nearly 400,000 media materials, extensive Archives and Special Collections, and a media center and language lab, as well as separate libraries dedicated to science, math, and music); the Amherst College Museum of Natural History (including the Hitchcock Ichnological Cabinet, the world's largest collection of dinosaur tracks); the Basset Planetarium; the Wilder Observatory; science facilities (including the Merrill Science Center, Beneski Earth Sciences Building, and McGuire Life Sciences Building); the Quantitative Skills Center; the Writing Center; the Career Center; art studios; rehearsal and performance facilities for music, theater, and dance (including the Arms Music Center named after Winifred and Robert Arms, the Kirby Memorial Theater, and the Holden Experimental Theater); the Center for Creative Writing; the Center for Community Engagement; and a student run radio station (WAMH 89.3 FM).
Internet access is available in all student residences (one connection for each student in every room), and wireless access is available almost everywhere on campus. There are thirty-seven residence buildings, nine theme houses, and two language houses (supporting four languages). Just off campus, Amherst is caretaker and owner of the Emily Dickinson Museum in downtown Amherst, in addition to about half of the poet's manuscripts. Amherst maintains a relationship with Doshisha University in Japan, which was founded by Amherst alumnus Joseph Hardy Neesima. In accordance with the will of Amherst alumnus Henry Clay Folger, Amherst College is charged with the governance of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.; Amherst maintains a close relationship with the Folger.
Amherst College is reducing its energy consumption through a computerized monitoring system for lighting and the use of an efficient cogeneration facility. The cogeneration facility features a gas turbine that generates electricity in addition to steam for heating the campus. Amherst also operates a composting program, in which a portion of the food waste from dining halls is sent to a farmer in Vermont.
Study abroad and off-campus
Forty-two percent of Amherst students, usually juniors, study abroad and can select from more than 260 study-abroad programs in countries including Argentina, Costa Rica, Egypt, England, France, India, New Zealand, Spain, and Senegal, as well as Japan where Amherst maintains a special relationship with Doshisha University, founded in 1875 by Amherst alumnus Joseph Hardy Neesima.
Off-campus, Amherst students have the opportunity to study at a number of institutions, from the National Theater Institute in Connecticut to Amherst's own Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. The Twelve College Exchange program, of which Amherst is a member, has special exchange arrangements with Bowdoin, Connecticut, Dartmouth, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Trinity, Vassar, Wellesley, Wheaton and Williams Colleges and Wesleyan University for programs not available in the Five College area.
Folger Shakespeare Library
Amherst's relationship with the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. offers various opportunities for students and faculty to study and learn and engage in cultural and arts programs. The Folger, a primary repository of rare materials from the modern period (1500–1750), holds the world's largest collection of the printed works of William Shakespeare, as well as collections of other rare Renaissance books and manuscripts. The Folger is an internationally recognized research library and center for scholarship and learning. The Folger is also an innovator in the preservation of rare materials and an award winning producer of cultural and arts programs, including theater, early music concerts (performed by the Folger Consort), poetry, exhibits, lectures, and family programs. Each year, more than 200,000 visitors attend events and exhibitions at the Folger. Millions visit its website (www.folger.edu), which includes event listings, virtual exhibitions, access to an on-line catalog of the collection, and teaching plans for educators. The Folger produces its own scholarly journal, "Shakespeare Quarterly," and the Library continues to publish the Folger Library Shakespeare editions, which outsell all other editions of the bard's plays.
Fellowships and internships
The Amherst Tom Gerety Fellowships for Action and the Winternship program allow more than 100 students to receive funding from the college each year to do public service work around the country and the world. Students also can select internships beginning as early as the first year, opting from among 15,000 opportunities nationwide through the Liberal Arts Center Network, as well as the "Amherst 100" internships that are sponsored by alumni. Internships are available with a variety of employers in the Pioneer Valley through the Center for Community Engagement; a campus-based literary magazine, The Common (Magazine), also offers internships exclusively to Amherst College students.
In the spring 2008, the College's Center for Community Engagement launched the Active Citizen Summer Program. This opportunity allows rising freshmen, sophomores, and juniors to participate in a summer internship with a local, national, or international not-for-profit organization while receiving housing, food, and transportation funding, as well as a modest salary paid by the Center for Community Engagement.
Cost of attendance and financial aid
Amherst's comprehensive tuition, room, and board fee for the 2012–13 academic year is $55,510. Once miscellaneous expenses are factored in the total cost to attend for the 2012–13 academic year amounts to $60,809–$63,259.
Despite its high cost of attendance, Amherst College meets the full demonstrated need of every admitted student. 60% of current students receive scholarship aid, and the average financial aid package award amounts to $41,150; the average net price of attendance is $13,809 per year. College expenditures exceed $85,000 per student each year.
In July 2007, Amherst announced that grants would replace loans in all financial aid packages beginning in the 2008-09 academic year. Amherst had already been the first school to eliminate loans for low-income students, and with this announcement it joined Princeton University, Cornell University and Davidson College, then the only colleges to completely eliminate loans from need-based financial aid packages. Increased rates of admission of highly qualified lower income students has resulted in greater equality of opportunity at Amherst than is usual at elite American colleges.
In the 2008-2009 academic year, Amherst College also extended its need-blind admission policy to international applicants. As of the 2010-2011 academic year[update], Amherst remains the only liberal arts college and one of the six higher education institutions, which include Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT and Dartmouth College, in the United States with need-blind admission for both domestic and international applicants.
Amherst claims its athletics program as the oldest in the nation, pointing to its compulsory physical fitness regimen put in place in 1860 (the mandate that all students participate in sports or pursue physical education has been discontinued). One-third of the student body participates in sports at the intercollegiate level, and eighty percent participate in intramural and club sports teams. The school's twenty-seven intercollegiate sports teams are known as the Lord Jeffs; women's teams are sometimes referred to as "Lady Jeffs", though the official title covers all teams.
The school participates in the NCAA's Division III, the Eastern College Athletic Conference, and the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), which includes Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, Connecticut College, Hamilton, Middlebury, Trinity, Tufts, Wesleyan, and Williams College.
Amherst is also one of the "Little Three", along with Williams and Wesleyan. This rivalry, over one hundred years old, can be considered the oldest athletic conference in the nation. A Little Three champion is informally recognized by most teams based on the head-to-head records of the three schools, but three-way competitions are held in some of the sports.
Amherst has placed in the top ten of the NACDA Director's Cup in the NCAA Division III in seven of the last ten years, including fourth in 2007 and 2008 and third in 2009. The 2007 "National Collegiate Scouting Association's Collegiate Power Ranking" ranked Amherst College second "overall", ahead of Duke, University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Notre Dame, Stanford, Northwestern, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and MIT.
- The first intercollegiate baseball game was played between Williams and Amherst on July 1, 1859. Amherst won, 73–32.
- The first Harvard College loss on Soldiers Field was in 1903. They lost 5–0 to Amherst.
- The last scoreless tie in an NCAA football game was on November 11, 1995, when Amherst and Williams tied 0–0 on Weston Field in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
- In 1999, the Amherst women's tennis team won the Division III National Championship, by a score of 5–2, over arch-rival Williams College. It was Amherst's first team National Championship.
- In 2003, the Amherst women's lacrosse team won the Division III National Championship, by a score of 11–9, over NESCAC rival Middlebury College.
- In 2007, the Amherst men's basketball team won the Division III National Championship, by a score of 80–67, over Virginia Wesleyan College.
- In 2007, the Amherst women's cross country team won the Division III Cross Country National Championship.
- In 2009, the Amherst women's ice hockey team team won the Division III National Championship, by a score of 4–3 in OT over Elmira College.
- In 2010, the Amherst women's ice hockey team repeated and won the Division III National Championship, by a score of 7–2 over Norwich University. This was the first team in the school's history to repeat as national champions.
- In 2011, the Amherst women's basketball team won the Division III National Championship for the first time in the program's history.
- In 2011, the Amherst men's tennis team won the Division III National Championship for the first time in the program's history.
- In 2013, the Amherst men's basketball team won the Division III National Championship for the second time in the program's history, by a score of 87–70 over Mary Hardin-Baylor.
On May 3, 2009, Williams College and Amherst alumni played a game of vintage baseball at Wahconah Park according to 1859 rules to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the first college baseball game played on July 2, 1859, between the two schools.
Club and intramural athletics
Amherst fields several club athletic teams, including rugby union, water polo, ultimate, equestrian, mountain biking, crew, fencing, sailing and skiing. Intramural sports include soccer, tennis, golf, basketball, volleyball and softball.
Amherst's resources, faculty, and rigorous academic life allow the college to enroll students with a range of talents, interests, and commitments. Students represent all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and fifty countries. Ninety-seven percent of students live on campus. Ninety-seven percent of Amherst freshmen return for their sophomore year; ninety-six percent graduate, among the highest retention and graduation rates in the country.
There are more than 140 student groups at Amherst. Students pursue their interests through student-led organizations funded by the student government, including a variety of cultural and religious groups, publications, fine and performing arts and political advocacy and service groups. Groups include a medieval sword-fighting club, a knitting club, and a club devoted to random acts of kindness, among others.
Community service groups and opportunities (locally—through the Center for Community Engagement, nationally, and internationally) have been a priority at Amherst and for former President Anthony Marx, who helped start a secondary school for black students in apartheid South Africa.
One of the longstanding traditions at the college involves the Sabrina Statue. Even year and odd year classes battle for possession of the historic statue, often engaging in elaborate pranks in the process.
Amherst banned on-campus fraternities in 1984, renaming the houses after past Presidents of the College, Staff and Alumni, though some fraternities maintain an off-campus presence. In February 2010, President Tony Marx banned membership in the off-campus Psi Upsilon fraternity because of an unexplained "serious violation involving the leadership and members".
Concerns over issues of sexual respect on the campus (sparked in part by controversy over a fraternity's misogynist t-shirt design) and allegations of inappropriate handling of reported cases of sexual assault led President Biddy Martin to begin a community-wide review of the sexual misconduct and disciplinary policies at the College. In January 2013, a college committee published a report noting Amherst's rate of sexual assault as similar to other colleges and universities and making recommendations to address the problem. From 2009 to 2011, Amherst reported 35 instances of "forcible sex offenses," a term that encompasses rape, attempted rape, and lesser forms of sexual contact.
Known as the "Singing College," Amherst has many a cappella and singing groups. Student-run a cappella groups include the Sabrinas and the Bluestockings (both all-female), the Zumbyes and Route 9 (both all-male), and the DQ and Terras Irradient (both co-ed, the latter being a Christian a cappella group).
The Music Department subsidizes some vocal ensembles, providing them with a professional director and the option to gain academic credit for membership (with some corresponding academic work). These groups, under the overarching umbrella of the "Amherst College Choral Society," include the Concert Choir, Madrigal Singers, Women's Chorus, and the Glee Club, which, at nearly 150 years of age, is the oldest singing group on campus.
Similarly, the Music Department supports a 60-70 member Symphony Orchestra, consisting entirely of students, which regularly performs challenging repertoire. The college also has a Jazz performance program, with one large Ensemble and several smaller Combos.
Although a relatively small college, Amherst has many accomplished alumni, including Nobel, Crafoord Prize and Lasker Award laureates, MacArthur Fellowship and Pulitzer Prize winners, National Medal of Science and National Book Award recipients, and Academy, Tony, Grammy Award and Emmy Award winners; a U.S. President, the current Sovereign Prince of Monaco, two prime ministers of Greece, the fourth president of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta, a Chief Justice of the United States, three Speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives, a U.S. Poet Laureate, the legal architect of Brown v Board of Education, and the inventor of the blood bank; leaders in science, religion, politics, the Peace Corps, medicine, law, education, communications, and business; and acclaimed actors, architects, artists, astronauts, engineers, human rights activists, inventors, musicians, philanthropists, and writers.
There are approximately 20,000 living alumni, of which about 60% make a gift to Amherst each year—one of the highest alumni participation rates of any college in the country.
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- Claude Moore Feuss. Amherst: Story of a New England College.
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