Amherst College Drops Controversial “Lord Jeff” as Mascot

Molly McGuire '18Contributing Writer

The trustees of Amherst College announced last week that the school would no longer use Lord Jeffrey Amherst to represent their institution as the unofficial mascot due to his racist actions.

English General Lord Jeffrey is seen as problematic because of his proposal to give blankets from smallpox patients to Native Americans.

In a postscript to a letter written in 1763, he 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.”

General Amherst led key British victories in the French and Indian War, and the town of Amherst, Mass., along with several other towns across New England, is named after him.

The college will no longer use references to “Lord Jeff” in their official merchandise or sports teams and will change the name of the campus hotel, the Lord Jeffrey Inn.

The change comes after several protests against racial insensitivity on campus last semester, an unanimous vote by the school’s faculty to remove the mascot in November and a poll that showed that 83 percent of students were in favor of disassociating from Lord Jeff.

Amherst College, founded in 1821, was named for its host town rather than the military commander, and the figure only became a campus symbol in the 20th Century. He is the star of a beloved and traditional campus song, and most of Amherst’s sports teams are referred to as the “Jeffs.”

Amherst College student Maximos Nikitas ’17 explained how he was initially “really opposed to the mascot change, for the sake of tradition.” However, he ended up supporting this decision once he decided that a mascot’s purpose is to be unifying and that this is not possible when people are offended by it.

“I think this is an example of how the college can take small steps to make Amherst a more inclusive space,” Nikitas said.

Many opponents of the change worried that by changing the mascot, Amherst would be ignoring, or even revising, its own history.  Conversely, Morgan McGann ’19E, said that by making this change, the college is “not ignoring history but putting it in the past.”

“Amherst is in transition and is reconciling [its] past with its future,” McGann said. By parting ways with Lord Jeffrey Amherst, McGann said, the college is implying that it is “no longer an institution for the white elite.”

While the vast majority of students at Amherst seem to support this change, some resistance emerged from alumni who were disappointed to see the end of the use of “Lord Jeff” as their unofficial mascot. In a recent New York Times article, Donald MacNaughton, a member of the class of 1965, was quoted as having said, “We think of ourselves as Jeffs, and we always will.”

The shifting viewpoints among alumni and current students regarding the value of traditions that many perceive as problematic has become a theme throughout the year, as student efforts to recognize institutional racism continue.

Since Amherst College shifted to being co-ed in 1974 and took several steps to become more accessible to students of various socioeconomic backgrounds, the college has evolved into a more diverse place.

The college is unsure of what will replace Lord Jeff as their mascot.