Amherst changes school mascot

This week’s NESCAC news was dominated by Amherst College’s decision to abandon their longtime mascot, Lord Jeffery Amherst, the namesake of both the town and the college itself.

Amherst College, located in Amherst, Massachusetts, has decided to do away with their current unofficial mascot, the “Lord Jeffs”, named for Lord Jeffery Amherst, a commander during the Seven-Year’s War. Recently, letters surfaced written by Amherst that suggested sending blankets infected with the smallpox virus to Native American tribes in an attempt to further the destruction of their race. This troubling realization divided the Amherst campus, causing debates about the morality represented by Jeffery Amherst. After more than a year of deliberation, Amherst no longer associates itself with Lord Jeffery Amherst. The college released this statement on the website regarding their decision: “In line with our stance against the use of Lord Jeffery Amherst as the College’s mascot, and given the overwhelming student support for removing Lord Jeffery Amherst as the College’s unofficial mascot, the AAS [insert what AAS stands for] supports the Board of Trustees’ decision to, ‘when [Amherst’s] own resources are involved’, discontinue reference to Lord Jeff in Amherst’s ‘official communications, its messaging, and its symbolism.’ Additionally, we strongly agree with the Board’s concern for both the strength of the Amherst College community and the inviolability of freedom of expression on and off campus.” The school is now left without a mascot.

As Amherst begins a new semester without their mascot, many students are working to find an appropriate replacement. The Amherst Student, Amherst’s student run newspaper, has reported that there is no set date for a new mascot to be chosen, or even a timeline to create a committee for such a purpose. “There is no specific time frame for creating the joint committee of students and alumni to discuss the future of the mascot question, according to the board’s statement.”

Director of Athletics Don Faulstick said, “We should really take our time into thinking about a mascotThis could be a really good opportunity to really build community over something.”’ In the absence of a committee, students have taken it upon themselves to brainstorm ideas for the college’s next mascot. One of the more popular ideas is a moose. Currently, a Facebook group entitled “The Moose: A New Mascot for Amherst College” has over 1,000 “likes.” Even with a large following, the moose idea has been met with criticism.  One student wrote on the page, “Long time overdue in getting rid of Lord Jeff, but please, not a moose! How about a Purple Mountain!” Another wrote, “The moose is an interesting choice; however, it has three natural predators, the wolf, the bear, and man. The fact that the moose wandered onto the quad at an auspicious moment is intriguing, but I would hesitate to base a mascot choice on a sign. I would go for Amherst founder Noah Webster. As creator of Webster’s Dictionary, he represents the heart of Amherst’s strength. The power of words can conquer anything.” In the end, Amherst will have to choose a new mascot. Whether or not it will be a moose remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: the Lord Jeff era in the NESCAC has come to an end.