A Proposal for Amherst Uprising Moving Forward

While I am unsure of the plausibility of this plan, I just wanted to put it forth as an idea for one section of Amherst Uprising’s future: 

One point brought up during the sit-in and following movement towards equality on campus was that students should be required to take a class which teaches cultural competency. 

I do fundamentally believe that students need this course because many of the white students (myself included) come from wealthy New England prep schools or other similar environments – which often are not diverse. Personally, my school was almost completely white and coming to Amherst was a large change in that regard, even though I chose the school because I wanted exposure to all kinds of diversity (race, culture, social class, etc.). Regardless, I still grew up in a classroom atmosphere which promoted students who behaved like the “ average white male” and lacked the tools to talk about difference. 

I do not, however, think that a single info session during orientation is enough to promote a conversation about inequality or to give people the tools to have these conversations. Many students skip orientation events or do not listen and several hours cannot begin to teach people how and why to be a culturally competent person.  

Instead, I propose that students work with their freshman seminar professors throughout their time at Amherst to continually learn about cultural competency and have conversations about inequality. I think that students should work with their freshman seminar professors, because these classes are small, promote a close relationship between professor and student, and are often taught by “strong” professors, which fosters an initial sense of respect for the professor. Students should be expected to dedicate a certain number of hours each semester to spend having these small class discussions. It would be up to the professor and students to schedule these hours. In this way, the “course” would be flexible enough to extend past its scheduled hours if a conversation cannot end in the given time. This would also allow students and professors to complete the hours well before finals – as to not further burden anyone. Finally, keeping these small groups allows students to become familiar with their peers and the professor. Topics about inequality can be uncomfortable to talk about and this would give everyone involved the chance to create a safe space. 

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2 thoughts on “A Proposal for Amherst Uprising Moving Forward

  1. That’s a great idea, Kate. Another idea we talked about in the Curriculum Committee during Amherst Uprising was to just make the entire content of the Freshman seminar revolve around discussing some aspect of inequality within America. While that may be difficult, given that not all professors have the same knowledge base of social issues, I think any professor in any department could find a way to explore issues of inequality within their specific discipline. I do really like how you suggest having additional one-on-one conversations with professors, though, because talking individually with a professor would be helpful for a student who may not voice all of their questions in a group discussion for fear of looking ignorant.

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  2. I think it is important for Amherst College to enact this type of policy because it would not force unwilling students to do too much, and it would promote respectful conversation. What I noticed in social media during/after the Amherst movement, and others around the country, was that opposition seemed to lack a basis through which to have racialized conversation, so it as best to avoid the issue entirely and talk about free speech. So I agree with your post

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