Amherst College students demands college revise speech policy to address 'hate speech'

  • The Black Student Union at Amherst College is demanding that the college president revise the school's free speech statement.
  • The group also called the college president a "segregationist" for being "complicit in the institution’s inability to address racism."

A student group at Amherst College in Massachusetts is calling on the college president to address "hate speech" in the speech code, and calls her a "segregationist" for being "complicit in the institution’s inability to address racism."

After an incident in March involving three members of the Amherst College men's lacrosse team allegedly shouting the n-word outside of a Black teammate's suite, Biddy Martin, president of the college, stated in a message to the campus community that "a change in leadership for the lacrosse team will be necessary," that every lacrosse team member must complete an "educational program," and that “the team is prohibited from engaging in formal gatherings prior to November 1, 2020."

"The well-intentioned segregationist is indistinguishable from the gradual integrationist because of their shared, impossible timeline to address racial injustice. This timeline is intolerable. President Martin is a segregationist."   

Martin also said in an email dated March 12, according to The Amherst Studentthat any student “who cannot rise to the level of respect from others" will be dismissed from the team.

[RELATED: College director: 'Every white person in this country is racist']

However, the Black Student Union at the college did not think that was enough and made a list of demands in addition to writing an op-ed for the school's student newspaper, The Amherst Student. In the op-ed, the group called Martin a "segregationist" for being "complicit in the institution’s inability to address racism."

"The well-intentioned segregationist is indistinguishable from the gradual integrationist because of their shared, impossible timeline to address racial injustice. This timeline is intolerable. President Martin is a segregationist," the organization wrote.

In response to the incident of men's lacrosse players shouting a racial slur, the Black Student Union also issued a list of demands titled "We Must Integrate Amherst," which, among other things, demands that the university "better define 'freedom of expression,' 'academic freedom' and 'hate speech' with particular attention to 'speech that incites violence.'" The group demanded that by the end of the fall semester the college have "revised versions" of its policies regarding "what 'speech' means" in an effort to "address racial violence and discrimination."

The petition has been signed by various faculty members, students, and student organizations on campus.

[RELATED: RIT launches 'anti-racism' campaign aimed at white men]

According to an update on the Google Document hosting the list of demands, Martin reportedly did agree to multiple demands from the BSU, including a revision of their speech statements.

"Revisions to both our statements of Academic and Expressive Freedom and Freedom of Expression and Dissent to address hateful speech with updates before the end of the semester and over the summer," Martin agreed to, according to the group.

Martin also agreed to create a bias reporting system, "expanding the restorative practices initiative," and more training for student leaders.

The BSU did not respond to a request for comment by Campus Reform.

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Michelle Weston | California Campus Correspondent

Michelle Weston is a California Campus Correspondent with Campus Reform. She is currently attending Orange Coast College and majoring in Economics. She is a member of the school's Honors Program and intends to transfer to a university to obtain her bachelors degree in Business Economics before pursuing an MBA.