The Amherst Student issue from February 18th, 1970
Written by Robert S. Nathan.
“At one o’clock this morning, approximately two hundred and fifty black students from throughout the five-college area occupied four buildings on the Amherst campus. The buildings were Converse Hall, the main administration building which houses the college post office and the college switchboard; the Robert Frost Library; the Amherst Science Center, and College Hall. The blacks also took full charge of their own black culture center and would not admit whites for any purpose. The buildings were evacuated at approximately 3:30 and the blacks secured themselves in the Octagon without comment… At 5:30 this morning, four black Amherst students and one black co-ed delivered the first statement issued by the Five-College Afro-American Committee… Members of the Five-College Community presented President Plimpton with their list of demands at approximately 1:20 p.m.”
“We, the Black Student Community, recognize that the College are not and have never been seriously committed to satisfying our needs and the needs of the broader Black Community. Previous efforts to implement programs that speak to these needs have led to meaningless dialogues between individuals, campus groups and the administrative structures of the respective colleges. Innumerable meetings, countless proposals and ‘advisory’ committees have continually frustrated our efforts to determine the reality of our presence. That reality demands the acceptance of our right to determine our own programs, policies and directions.”
“The following is an abridged summary of the demands and proposals by the Five College Black Community to the presidents of the respective institutions. Included here is a resume of the specific demands submitted by the Amherst Afro-Am Society to President Plimpton.
Position paper of Amherst Afro-American Society:
Admissions and Scholarships
We demand that:
- Fifteen to twenty-five percent of the class of ’74. The Afro-Am will be willing to design massive search and recruitment operation and to contact all accepted black applicants.
- The financial aid committee set aside $125,000 beginning with the class of 1975 for scholarships for black applicants, and that this amount be adjusted proportionately to the incurring changes of black student enrollment and cost of tuition.
- The admissions committee set aside $7,000 to $10,000 to be used for the recruitment of Blacks. (a) visits by Amherst black students to inner city schools. (b) trips made to Amherst by applicants. (c) the primitive and dissemination of material on Amherst. The Afro-Am will aid in raising funds for these purposes through talks with alumni both black and white, especially the former.
Black Cultural Center
The Black Cultural Center is still in its most inchoate stages of development. We demand the establishment of a budget for the Black Cultural Center for the year ’70-’71, and that funds be set aside specifically for its development in future years.
Although Amherst’s summer program has concerned itself primarily with black high school students, the Five-College black community feels that the program as its stands has failed in a significant way. Its primary orientation was plainly superficial, lacking not only real academic substance but also devoid of meaningful cultural thrust. Perceived as an overly abstract and diffuse experience, the tutorial project disintegrated into a novel sort of vacation period rather than the high-minded ideal it was originally intended to be.
In light of what we feel has been a clear demonstration of institutional indifference and carelessness, we, the citizens of the Five-College Black community, demand that:
- $95,000 be set aside by Amherst College for use in the summer programs.
- The governing board and staff of the tutorial program be black.
- The program be funded in this order and manner: (1) $30,000 – S.A.T.P. (2) $25,000-Bridge (3) $20,000-A.B.C. (4) $20,000-A.B.C. House.”
We demand that Amherst establish a Black Studies department with a Black director who has the approval of representative of the Five College Black Community. That this program follow guidelines to be presented by Five College representative; and that it become an integral part of the Five College Black Studies Department.”
Written by Robert S. Nathan.
“When the demands were finally presented, a brief introductory statement was read and a large stack of papers was handed to the President at a press conference at his house… President Plimpton took the demands presented to him at the press conference to a three o’clock faculty meeting in Kirby Theater; the faculty’s resolution is printed on this page.”
“Because the ideals of an academic institution are built upon reason and persuasion, the faculty condemns the takeover of buildings and rejects the use of force by any member of Amherst College.”
“[T]he most immediate initiative taken by white students was call for a general student-faculty boycott of Wednesday’s classes. Over half the student body participated in the boycott; since many of the meeting places were in the occupied buildings, much of the student boycott was on an involuntary basis.” Read second part here.
The Amherst Student issue from February 19th, 1970
Written by George Freeman.
“In an open College Meeting held in the aftermath of the black students’ occupation of four college buildings, Dean of the Faculty Professor Gifford made public the resolution adopted by the Faculty in their closed meeting yesterday afternoon. Gifford and President Plimpton also announced that a response to the black students’ demands would be forthcoming after the next faculty meeting scheduled for March 3.” Read second part here.
The Amherst Student issue from February 23rd, 1970
Written by Horace P. Porter.
“Reason and persuasion are not the key issues involved in these matters, for if they were, takeovers would not be necessary, for attempts at any reason and persuasion in the past several years are innumerable… [R]eason and persuasion are mere cloaks for a basic unwillingness on the part of the faculty and the administration to act, in any significant manner, upon proposals that the Black community sets forth.”
The Amherst Student issue from March 12th, 1970
“More than three weeks have passed since the Amherst building takeovers, and in that time student resentment towards that action has turned for the most part to apathy, and student support for the Five College Black Community has gone in much the same direction.
The Amherst Student issue from March 16th, 1970
Written by the Afro-American Society as a response to Dean Wilson’s letter to the faculty on March 9th, 1970.
“Why should questions like, ‘Does the faculty wish to alter its academic pace so a new set of assessments for intellectual readiness can be employed’ be asked? Do you profess to know more about the classroom situation than the professors themselves… [D]oes your statement concerning the so-called favoritism shown toward Black students, and increasing demands of organizations sponsoring other minority groups mean that the Blacks ask for too much?”
Written by Ronald Varney.
“The Amherst budget is on a very certain, if as yet unpredictable, collision course with ‘priorities.’ How do we know what these are? Well, since Amherst is concerned foremost with quality, we should list three big priorities as good faculty salaries, an exceptional program of study, and more scholarships to keep bright kids coming here. All to sustain this drive for quality, and this is where the money will go first, even when it isn’t too plentiful. So what happens to Black Demands when Amherst is short of spending money?”
Photo credit Amherst College Olio