Amherst Says ‘No’ to Lord Jeff: Students Vote to Change Mascot

Rachel Farber ’16
Assistant News Editor

Amherst College’s student government association released an unofficial student poll on Nov. 19 regarding changing the College’s mascot.

The poll showed that 83 percent of the 1,606 respondents believe Lord Jeffery Amherst should no longer be the college’s mascot. Even before this most recent poll, the student government association, known as the Association of Amherst Students, voted on Oct. 5 to oppose keeping Lord Jeff as the mascot.

“Lord Jeff” was a colonial British general and the namesake of the town and, by effect, the college. Amherst supported using smallpox-infested blankets to systematically kill Native Americans in the area, most prominently in 1763 when he endorsed using this method against the Ottawa tribe.

Since September, sports teams have begun removing Lord Jeff from their athletic gear. “I said to my staff, ‘We’re moving on here; the Lord Jeff is done,” Don Faulstick, Amherst’s athletic director, told the New York Times.

Two weeks ago, a group of faculty unofficially voted to remove Lord Jeff as mascot. Catherine A. Epstein, Dean of Faculty, addressed students in a meeting after the vote. “I think you’ll be pleased to know that it was a unanimous vote against using Lord Jeff,” she announced to students at a recent meeting.

Although the vote was unofficial, Amherst College spokeswoman Caroline Hanna told the Boston Globe that the trustees will “take this information into account at their meeting in January.” Amherst College President Carolyn “Biddy” Martin told MassLive that the school must consider input from alumni before making a decision about the mascot change.

There has been pushback against changing the mascot. Amherst student Tom Sommers spoke with the Amherst Student about his support for the current mascot.

“I understand that Lord Jeffery Amherst, as a historical figure, might be an affiliation that some would take offense to. However, I don’t see our mascot as a historical figure at all. I think of Lord Jeff as a representation of Amherst College. We have a unique mascot that ties together many students and alumni, and I see our mascot as just a mascot – nothing more,” Sommers said.   

Some students have been pushing a moose as the new mascot for the college after one wandered onto campus last year.  A Facebook page called “The Moose: A New Mascot for Amherst College” has 1,190 followers. The campaign has grown since last year. In December, a painting of a moose appeared in Johnson Chapel, a moose statue appeared in Frost Library and students dressed as moose have attended athletic events.

Although the campaign to remove Lord Jeff as mascot is not new, recent student protests – such as the sit-in in Frost Library to show solidarity with black students and the list of demands developed by Amherst Uprising, an anti-racism student organization at Amherst – might be contributing to the acceleration of the fight against Lord Jeff. No decisions will be made until at least January, when the Board of Trustees will next meet.

Leave a Comment