Amherst trustees have voted to stop using Lord Jeff as the school’s unofficial mascot and nickname because of “its negative historical connotations,” according to the Associated Press.
The mascot was initially named for 18th-century British Gen. Jeffery Amherst, who was allegedly known for hatching a plan to deliver small pox-infected blankets to Native Americans.
Here is an excerpt from a statement released today by the school’s Board of Trustees chair Cullen Murphy:
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. The Inn’s new name will reflect its deep connections with Amherst College and the town of Amherst. Beyond that, people will do as they will: the College has no business interfering with free expression, whether spoken or written or, for that matter, sung. Period. We hope and anticipate that understanding and respect will run in all directions. 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, 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.
Murphy added that the mascot is “driving people apart because of what it symbolizes to many in our community” and while many students and some 23,000 living alumni are attached to the mascot, Murphy said surveys found that most faculty and students favored dropping the Lord Jeff name.