Amherst students choose between list of potential mascots


The number of potential mascots for Amherst College has been narrowed down to 30 semifinalists from an initial 2,045 suggestions.

Lord Jeff, short for Lord Jeffery Amherst, was Amherst College's unofficial mascot for approximately a century, according to Amherst College's website. Amherst, who also founded the town of Amherst, is known for advocating giving smallpox-infected blankets to Native Americans. In a 1763 letter, Amherst wrote, "You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race," according to the New York Times. 

Calls for the mascot's removal came during the 2015-2016 school term, when students decried the use of Amherst's image as a symbol of racial oppression. According to the Boston Globe, 83 percent of Amherst students agreed that Lord Jeff should be removed as a mascot.

The Amherst College Board of Trustees voted in January 2016 to remove Lord Jeff as a mascot. In a statement on the college's website, Chair of the Board of Trustees Cullen Murphy wrote, "Lord Jeff as a mascot may be unofficial, but the College, when its own resources are involved, can decide not to employ this reference in its official communications, its messaging, and its symbolism (including in the name of the Inn, the only place on the campus where the Lord Jeffery name officially appears). The board of trustees supports such an approach, and it will be College policy."

"To those who argue that stepping back from Lord Jeff as an unofficial mascot takes us down some sort of slippery slope that calls into question the name of the town or the College,∫ Murphy continued, ™the board would respond that you can find slippery slopes anywhere you look, that real life isn't a philosophy class or court of law, and that people long ago figured out the common-sense way to deal with slippery slopes: just draw the line. Amherst College will always be the name of the school."

In the wake of Lord Jeff's removal, Amherst College has undertaken a search for a new mascot. The Amherst College Mascot Committee accepted submissions from current Amherst students and alumni, and narrowed down the 2,045 submissions to 30 semifinalists. 

The semifinalists include the A's, Aces, Amethysts, Beacons, Blaze, Dinosaur, Falcons, Fighting Poets, Flame, Hamsters, Hawks, Irradients, Luminaries, Mammoths, Mastodons, Moose, Oaks, Octagons, Owls, Phoenixes, Poets, Pride, Purple, Purple & White, Purple Aces, Purple Rays, Radiance, Rays, Valley Hawks and Wolves.

According to the Amherst College website, the criteria for mascot submissions was that they must "be unifying for the Amherst campus and larger Amherst community; represent positive qualities, ideals or associations around which people can rally; be broadly relevant across the Amherst community, the student body and generations of alumni; be representative of the Amherst experience or history, either generally or specifically; work equally well for women's and men's sports teams; and have the potential to translate in a visually pleasing manner."

In February, according to the Amherst College website, the Mascot Committee will invite alumni and student representatives to rate the semifinalists according to alumni feedback and its submission criteria. The Mascot Committee will then use these ratings to determine the top five candidates, and according to MassLive, students, faculty and staff will then vote on the top five from March 20-31 to determine the overall winner, which will be announced in the spring.