Amherst College Walks Back Controversial ‘Common Language Document’

Last week, Amherst College’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion sent out a campus-wide email sharing their “Common Language Document.” Now, the college’s president is apologizing for the controversial document.

The Daily Wire reported that the document attempted to “define” several words including “capitalism,” which it called an “economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. This system leads to exploitative labor practices, which affect marginalized groups disproportionately.”

Shortly after the controversy, the document was removed from the website and Amherst College’s president Carolyn “Biddy” Martin claimed the document “takes a very problematic approach.”

“The job of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion is to support students in their academic aspirations by helping create a welcoming environment, one in which members of the community understand and respect one another’s backgrounds and perspectives,” Martin said. “But when the approach assumes campus-wide agreement about the meaning of terms and about social, economic, and political matters, it runs counter to the core academic values of freedom of thought and expression.”

Martin concluded by claiming that “prescribing a particular language and point of view is anathema.”

Following Martin’s statement, fliers of the statement appeared around campus with it crossed out in red marker.

One flyer had “#NotMyPresident” written across it.

Several copies of the language guide were also seen posted around campus.

In a second statement to the student body, Martin called the conversations sparked by the document “ample proof that we do not need an executive order to ensure freedom of speech or diversity of viewpoints on our campus,” referring to the executive order President Donald Trump signed last week regarding free speech on campus.

Martin said the document was sent out to the entire campus “without proper vetting and without approval to be circulated,” adding that the document is “not an official college guide.”

While Martin said she appreciated those who made the document, she said the document did not “protect freedom of expression” or “promote differences of perspectives” because it was in an “absolute and declarative tone.”

Martin also said the controversy over the document displays political polarization because of the media coverage over the document, “with some sites cheering our removal of the document from the website as a win for conservatives and a loss for ‘biased liberals.’”

“Mistakes will be made, as they are made everywhere—on campuses and off,” Martin added. “All we can do is acknowledge missteps and work to do better. I hope everyone on our campus will renew efforts to learn more about one another’s histories, circumstances, and points of view.”

In a statement to The Daily Wire, the Amherst College Republicans said they were invited to meet with the school’s administration following the circulation of the document.

“We appreciate the administration’s willingness to listen to our concerns and we look forward to working with them to ensure those with a conservative viewpoint have a voice on campus,” the statement said. “As for the fliers posted, it only confirms what we already know, that some students at the college who proclaim to have inclusion as their ultimate goal are in actuality opposed to such a thing for those who believe differently than they do.”

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