106 more alumni push back against Arkes’s views

The following letter was sent on Oct. 28, 2013, to Cullen Murphy, chairman of the Amherst College Board of Trustees, and to Biddy Martin, the college president.

Cullen Murphy (Gasper Tringale photo courtesy of Amherst College)

Cullen Murphy, chairman of the Amherst College Board of Trustees (Gasper Tringale photo courtesy of Amherst College)

Dear Cullen Murphy:

When we wrote you on September 28, we promised to send you a list of co-signers of our petition requesting that Amherst College “dissociate itself from Professor Hadley Arkes’s divisive and destructive views and his intellectual dishonesty” and our further request that “Professor Arkes be asked either to refrain from citing his association with Amherst College in his extracurricular writings or that any such association be accompanied by a disclaimer stating that his views do not represent Amherst College.”

Since then, 101 [now 106-plus] Amherst alums have joined us:

Doug Abernathy, physicist, Oak Ridge, TN, ’84

Elizabeth Hauser Abernathy, Oak Ridge, TN, ’83

Bud Alpert ’70

John Anderson, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, ’70

Elliott Arkin ’83

Mitch Ash ‘70

Jay Ashman, Senior Lecturer, Burlington, VT, ’70

Robert Bernstein, South Orange NJ, ’70

Chett Breed, Prof. Emeritus, Ph.D., AAUP 1981-2013, BA and PBK, ’69

Steve Cadwell, Ph.D. (Smith ’90), Boston, MA, ’72

David H. Cahan, M.D., ’70

Charlotte Canning ’86

Jerry Carl, Northbrook, Illinois, ’70

Robert Carlone ‘70

William Carter ’70

Carolyn Chernoff ’98

David Cichon ’70

Tim Clegg ‘70

Robert Collier, Berkeley, CA, ’83

Harold Dash ’70

Barry DeLapp, retired computer consultant, Hendersonville NC, ’70

Ron Dewdney, Waltham, MA, ’70

Dave Dorwart ’70

Rob Duboff ’70

M. James Egan, Professor Academy Arts University, ’72

Jon Einhorn ’70

Elisha M. Ignatoff Eli-Tables, Bronx NY, ’71

Paul Farrell ’70

Thomas P. Gilliss ’70

Joseph W. Gordon, Woodbridge, CT, ’70

Marvin M. Gross, Rabbi, Pasadena, CA, ‘70

Peter Hansen, M.D., ’83

Mark P Harris ’70

Richard P. Hauser ’56

Bill Hayes ’70

Mark A. Hoffman, M.D., Columbia University; J.D., University of Pennsylvania; LL.M., Temple University; M.Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania; M.B.A. Candidate (2014) Drexel University, ’72

Anthony J. Hom, NY, NY, ’71

Peter Howland, Portsmouth, RI, ’70

David Hunt ’70

James Andrew (Drew) Kalter, Teacher, NY, NY, ’70

Richard Kellogg ’70

Stephen Kent ’70

Doug Lane, Los Angeles, CA, ’70

Peter Livingston, attorney, Portland, OR, ’73.

Ron Marinucci ’71

Scott McGee ’70

Tom McKitterick, New York, NY, ’70

Richard Meeker, City of Roses Newspaper Company, Portland OR, ’70

Louis Miles, retired attorney, Portland, OR ’74

Dave Miner, Esq., Bradenton, FL, ’70

Paul Mintzer, M.D. Ph.D. ’70

Jennifer Moore, Prof. of Law, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, ’83

Michael Naughton, ’70

James Parakilas ’70

Rebecca Stewart Persson, graduate student, Arlington, MA, ’01

Brock Putnam, II, Litchfield, CT, ’70

Daniel Quinn, Colliers International, Boston, MA, ’70

Tom Reicher ’70

Bob Reichert, London, UK, ’70

Ian Reichert, London, UK, ’12

David Rimmer ’71

Whit Rutter, Newport News, VA, ’70

David Sanger, Photographer, ’70

Peter M. Sarafan, Acton, MA, ’70

Ken Sayle, real estate broker (retired), Rye, NY, ‘70 (deceased)

Fritz Schwentker ‘84

Michael Secondo, Santa Monica, CA, ’83

Steve Seward, Scarsdale, NY, ’70

David L Silverman, St John, USVI, ’70

Wylie Smith ’70

Bob Spielman, Retired, ’70

Colin Stewart, Editor/publisher Erasing 76 Crimes blog, Laguna Niguel, CA, ’70

Matthew Stewart, Fall River, MA, ‘96

Robert G. Sweeney ’96

Doug Swift, M.D., ’70

Steve Swigert, West Hartford, CT, ’70

Rebeca Torres-Rose, farmer, Cambridge, NY, ’97

Esther S. Trakinski ‘83

George Triano, Danville, CA, ’70

Jocelyn K. Vande Berg ‘83

Rasheda J. Vereen ’10

Thomas Radford Viall, Assistant Attorney General, Vermont (Ret.), ’70

Tina Villadolid, artist, educator, Santa Barbara, CA, ’83

Philip Ward ’70

Patricia Ware, Juneau, Alaska, Co-Vice President, Class of ’83,

David Wase, Arlington, VA ’70

David Watkins ’84

Alan Webber, Santa Fe, NM, ’70

Eric Weber ’70

Richard Weinhaus, M.D., Watertown, MA, ’70

Claude R. Williams, Jr., D.D.S., Dallas,Texas, ‘78

Russell Wise ’70

Ronald Wold, Retired, Eugene, OR, ’70

Ping Chang Wood, Glastonbury, CT, ’86

Stephen Wood, Glastonbury, CT, ’86

Burt Woolf, Ed. D., ’70

Robert J. Yamins, Great Neck, NY, ’72

Amy Ziering, Filmmaker, Los Angeles, CA, ’83

Jeff Zimmerman, lawyer, Washington DC, ’70

George Zoulalian, Trial Court of the Commonwealth (retired), Boston, MA, ’70

Lanny M. Zuckerman, Pittsfield, MA, ’70

[See below for additional names, added later.]

As you will see, only a few classes are represented here because we were able to access only a small portion of the College’s alumni/ae despite our best efforts. We continue to have little doubt that if more alums knew about this issue, far more would sign up.

We have recently created a website and a Facebook page, and when we get more co-signers, we will forward their names to you.


John Greenberg for

Ronald Battocchi ‘70 (battocchi@comcast.net)
Ernest Craige ‘70 (etacraige@mindspring.com)
John Greenberg ‘70 (jsg1@copper.net)
Warren Mersereau ‘70 (warren.mersereau@gmail.com)
Robert Nathan ‘70 (wkbenchinc@aol.com)
Eric Patterson ‘70 (epatterson@hws.edu)

P.S. On October 11, I sent you and Biddy Martin a detailed analysis of the statement which you told me “speaks for the College.” In it, I note that Professor Arkes violates 3 of the 4 specific criteria of the rules for academic freedom to which the College subscribes, the last one of which requires that professors “should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution,” which is precisely what our second request demands.

I have received no response, but I assume that both of you got the email. If not, please let me know.

The following 5 alums signed after this letter was sent:

Amanda Bass ’10

Doug Clark ’70

Miles Herkenham ’70

Matt Rawdon ’79

Jeff Southworth ’70

See also the names of those who signed the related online petition “Oppose Amherst College’s Tacit Support of Hate Speech.”

Posted in Biddy Martin, Petition to trustees | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Q&A with college president on anti-gay professor

Amherst College President Biddy Martin in Q&A session. (Click image for video of the Martin's remarks and Q&A session. The Yamins-Martin exchange is from 25:00  to 32:00.

Amherst College President Biddy Martin speaks to alumni. (Click image for video of her full remarks and the Q&A session. The Yamins-Martin exchange is from 25:00 to 32:00.)

In an question-and-answer session on Oct. 19, Amherst College alumnus Rob Yamins ’72 challenged President Biddy Martin’s position on the anti-gay writings of Prof. Hadley Arkes.

Yamins noted that several alumni have asked for a public statement from the college that Arkes’s views “are inconsistent with the values and stated policies of Amherst College.”

Martin replied, referring to a blog post that she wrote, “I think my statement does that. … It makes it explicit that Amherst’s values are at odds with the positions that Prof. Arkes took.”

Yamins called for a more public statement than a personal blog, to which Martin replied, in part: “It’s not appropriate for a president to go public with some kind of debate with one of the faculty members.”

Here is a transcript of the questions from Yamins and the answers from Martin:

YAMINS: Biddy, thank you for your remarks and also for your blog of a couple of weeks ago which attempts to respond to the controversy surrounding Prof. Arkes.  However it seems to me … your blog was principally a defense of the important value of academic freedom, which I think everybody agrees with.

However, as I understand it, it didn’t address the issues that were actually put to you by the alumni in question.  Those alumni did not ask that he not be allowed to express his views or that the College condemn or denounce those views.  They asked for a statement along the lines of what Johns Hopkins made with regard to Ben Carson, a statement which, on the contrary, affirms his academic freedom to express himself however he wishes and whatever his views are, but asked [sic] for a public statement that those views are inconsistent with the values and stated policies of Amherst College.

Those policies require the “respect for all the rights, dignity, and integrity of others” and states that the lack of such respect “is damaging to Amherst College.”

Can you explain precisely  how such a statement would impinge on Prof. Arkes’ academic freedom in the slightest?

MARTIN: Thank you. Thank you, Rob. This is a difficult issue. I have a pretty brief answer and that is that I think my statement does that. I think my statement makes it very clear. It makes it explicit that Amherst’s values are at odds with the positions that Prof. Arkes took in that article.

I talk about the college’s commitment to respect for persons. I talk about the support of our queer community, which is strong.
I talk about, in my earlier responses to the Class of ’70 — a group of members of the Class of ’70’s requests for such a statement about having talked with our students to make sure that those students who would be most affected feel the way that I felt about defending academic freedom.

So I perhaps did not succeed, which is always the risk in doing anything, I suppose. But I thought the piece I wrote showed balance, that is that Amherst College stands for respect for persons, it opposes homophobia, it supports a vibrant queer community on campus. And I think my reputation precedes and follows me, one could even say on these issues.

My wording was not the same as the wording in the Johns Hopkins statement, but that statement was also released at a different point in the history of that incident.

It’s also true, I think, that the faculty member at Hopkins who made those comments was a public figure of a different sort, but I don’t want to get into all the contextual issues. I really feel strongly that the college has taken a position that is the right position to have taken, and that our support for our gay and lesbian, transgender students, faculty and staff is established, well established, on the campus and beyond. If I didn’t think that, I would be even more aggressive in my pronouncements.

Rob Yamins '72 questions President Biddy Martin at Q&A session. (Click image for a video of just the Yamins-Martin exchange.)

Rob Yamins ’72 questions President Biddy Martin at Q&A session. (Click image for a video of just the Yamins-Martin exchange.)

YAMINS: May I have just one quick follow-up? We’re all happy to hear about the support for gay and lesbian students here.  We applaud that.  But again, that also is not really  the issue. The issue that brought this on was his effect beyond the campus.   Among other things … just to keep this brief … one difference between your statement and theirs is, their statement was public and Amherst’s was not.  This was your personal blog, which really is not going to reach the larger community that Prof. Arkes affects. He is read nationally, he has provided intellectual fodder for some very hateful and damaging things.  So that’s one major difference between your blog and their statement. [a few inaudible words here]

I would hope at least … if we can find some common ground that … you ended your blog with:   we need to foster critical dialogue about the difficult issues in our society.   I hope we can agree that this is one of those critical issues, both for Amherst and for society, and that this dialogue needs continue, and not be kind of “OK, we’re done, let’s move on,” which is the impression that some people have gotten from your blog.

MARTIN: The issues are extraordinarily important. It’s good that they have been raised. Neither the issue of academic freedom nor of homophobia and advocacy for gay rights are going to go away as issues. And, again, I have a long history of advocacy on these issues.

As president of this institution, I think that the statement I made is the right position for the institution, and I’m sticking with it. That doesn’t mean that I will never again speak about gay rights publicly. I’ve done it most of my life, actually, over many decades, and taken quite a few risks to do so.

So I don’t think anyone needs to worry that I’m (A) afraid or (B) reluctant to advocate for the rights not only of our students, staff and faculty here on campus but for the rights of people everywhere. I think I have a strong record there.

But it’s not appropriate for a president to go public with some kind of debate with one of the faculty members. I don’t think that’s appropriate and I won’t do it.


Posted in Arkes publications, Biddy Martin | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

New commentary by Arkes, new criticism by alumni

Prof. Hadley Arkes (Photo courtesy of Pew Forum)

Prof. Hadley Arkes (Photo courtesy of Pew Forum)

The latest commentary  by Prof. Hadley Arkes of Amherst College, published in The Catholic Thing, has provoked a new round of criticism from Amherst alumni who say that Arkes continues to use his affiliation with the college to help spread distorted views about homosexuality and same-sex issues.

In his commentary, Arkes described a New Mexico court ruling against a photographer who refused to work at a same-sex commitment ceremony as an example of fanatical demands that religious people renounce their principles.

To that, alumnus Robert Nathan ’70 replied, “No one any longer has the right in this country to tell anyone that they can’t shop where everyone else shops. Thank god for that.” Nathan also said that Arkes’s earlier writings about homosexuality qualify as hate speech:

“Hate speech is speech that has as it sole purpose the incitement of violence against a class of people. Comparing an entire class of people to “pedophiles” is, whether [one] likes it or not, not an opinion. It’s first of all, a lie, and second it’s hate speech designed to incite violence. …

If I were Matthew Shepard’s parents, I’d sue Hadey Arkes for damages just to get the hate speech question in front of a judge.”

The latest writing from Arkes also attracted some support, such as the comment from James Cabot ’70 that “One person’s hate speech is another person’s ‘affirmation of a deeply held belief.’ ”

New Mexico Court of Appeals sealArkes commented on action last May by the New Mexico Court of Appeals, which upheld a ruling that the refusal to take photos at a same-sex ceremony was a violation of the state’s  Human Rights Act, which requires that companies serving the public not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

In his Catholic Thing commentary titled “Compelling the Faithful to Recant,” Arkes stated:

In the case of Elaine and Jonathan Huguenin in New Mexico, there was no need to punish them for declining to take photographs of two women arranging what they regarded as their wedding. There was no want of photographers willing to have that business.

But it turns out that the people who have been arguing for years that there are no moral truths have absorbed the “logic of morals,” along with everyone else, and apply it now with a vengeance: The good is that which should be commended, encouraged, rewarded; the bad and wrongful is that which should be condemned, discouraged, punished.

Elaine Huguenin (Photo courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom)

Elaine Huguenin (Photo courtesy of Alliance Defending Freedom)

It was critical to stamp the Huguenins as “wrongdoers.” Lincoln remarked on the partisans of slavery in his age that silent acquiescence would not be enough. One had to be “avowedly with them,” he said.  For “this, and this only [would assure them]: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right.”

The activists for abortion and same-sex marriage have identified their adversaries as the religious, and they will not feel unthreatened until the teaching that animates the religious is renounced at the core. The Huguenins … must be compelled to confess … the rightness of same-sex marriage.

The libertarian professor of law, Eugene Volokh, likened this case of the Huguenins to the case on compelled speech under the First Amendment. Professor Volokh surely appreciated that the Huguenins were not strictly being required to speak words, say as the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses were once compelled to speak and perform the pledge to the flag.  But what Volokh apparently noticed here was that the moral insistence on punishing could be explained mainly by the desire to humble these people before a new orthodoxy, demanding now its place as a principle commanding reverence.

But the religious, with a certain sympathy and humility, steer away from demanding that their adversaries abase themselves in this way. The passion to demand that abasement marks an unlovely expression of fanaticism in our law.

And for the judges, it should mark a telling sign of the intemperate passion that the Founders were seeking to avert on either side – on the side of irreligious no less than the side of the religious – as they became untethered from an anchoring prudence.

What was working among the Founders was a religious and constitutional temperance as they sought to put the levers of official power at a more salutary distance from our religious life.

The full commentary is available on the Web site of The Catholic Thing.

Below are excerpts from the recent comments of alumni from the Class of 1970 about Arkes’s latest commentary and about his earlier writings, especially his remarks in March 2013 about sexual orientation, pedophilia, necrophilia and bestiality:

‘Bizarre and loathsome’ but ‘only opinions’


Actually, I half agree with Arkes on this one.  While I agree with the court’s ruling, I still think that any one has a right to think what they think, teach what they teach, love or hate whomever they wish, and announce that love or hate to the world.  That announcement —”hate speech”  it’s sometimes called — might cause people deep distress, and influence them to do things we’d rather they didn’t do, but if we value freedom of speech and freedom of thought, we have to put up with this as the cost of living in a free society.  One person’s hate speech is another person’s “affirmation of a deeply held belief”.

And this is true about just about everything I’ve read from Arkes.  As bizarre and loathsome as his opinions are, they are, first and last, only opinions.  Even when they are all tarted up in the language of “first principles” and “natural law” and backed with quotes from extremely old and famous people, they are only exercises in nomenclature.  Equating homosexuality with bestiality, necrophilia, pederasty, or what have you, is only one man’s opinion, no matter who else might share that opinion and what kind of robes they wear. Arkes’ saying it (or the Pope, for that matter) doesn’t somehow make it empirically true.

As the old song says, “Brother you can’t go to jail for what you’re thinkin’.”  On the other hand, you can and should go to jail for what you do.  If someone spouts hate, we have the perfect right to disagree with them and denounce their opinions, oppose them politically, and even shun them.  But the penalty of the law (“punishment”) needs to be reserved for what people do (or don’t do).  And the court’s ruling against the photographers wasn’t about what they believed or said, it was about what they did, which was to refuse a service that they had implicitly promised by putting out a shingle — i.e., they discriminated.

‘It’s an incitement to violence and Mr. Arkes knows it is’


We have laws in the Unites States that define certain things as “public accommodations.” There’s a reason that grocery stores can’t tell black people that they can’t shop there. This is the price we pay for democracy. Everybody gets access to whatever is deemed to be a public accommodation — basically meaning anywhere the public shops. No one any longer has the right in this country to tell anyone that they can’t shop where everyone else shops. Thank god for that.

Jamie accepts that the photographers went beyond speech. It could just as easily be argued — and it has — that all they did was speak and say, “No.” Why should they be punished for hurting someone’s feelings? Go find another photographer. We punish them as a society because we no longer tolerate that kind of speech. Arkes isn’t half-right. He’s just plain wrong, Jamie, and you can half-agree with him all you want. He’s still wrong.

2. It is more than disingenuous to say that “hate speech” is about distasteful opinions. Hate speech is speech that has as it sole purpose the incitement of violence against a class of people.

Comparing an entire class of people to “pedophiles” is, whether Jamie likes it or not, not an opinion. It’s first of all, a lie, and second it’s hate speech designed to incite violence.

3 Saying that all gay men are “diseased” and “will live foreshortened lives” (I may have the quote wrong, it’s from memory) isn’t an opinion. It’s a lie. Unless by foreshortened Mr. Arkes means 65, and I’m already past that. Mr. Arkes lies. Mr. Arkes argued that all high school students should be taught this “fact,” which isn’t a fact but a lie. Would Jamie prefer that high school students be taught creationism? Teaching high school students that gay men are disease-carriers is guaranteed to inflame students to beat up gay kids, It’s an incitement to violence and Mr. Arles knows it is. He’s nobody’s fool. SPEECH IS AN ACT. Words are not spoken in a vacuum. If you stand in front a crowd with ropes in their hands and say “lynch them” you can be arrested. Thank god for that.

Now here’s where the pedal hits the metal, and so turn your dials because here comes the moment when everyone says, “How dare you speak to Jamie like that? This is a civil discussion among classmates.”

No, it ain’t. It stopped being truly civil a long time ago, and not just because of me.

There is a famous Nora Ephron essay about her breasts. Everyone tries to convince her that having small breasts isn’t a big deal. At the end of the essay she says something like, “I’m here to tell them they’re all full of shit.” Jamie, if you insist on calling lies opinions, if you insist on this preposterous notion that equating homosexuality to three heinous crimes is not an incitement to violence, if you insist that saying “Lynch them” or “fire” in a crowded theater fall within the parameters of acceptable speech that cannot be punished, then I have a Nora Ephron message for you. To quote Nora, I’m here to tell you that you’re full of shit. And by the way, the courts agree with me a lot of the time. If I were Matthew Shepard’s parents, I’d sue Hadley Arkes for damages just to get the hate speech question in front of a judge.

‘The court was right and Arkes is dead wrong’


As for me, I entirely DIS-agree with Arkes on this one (and on a multitude of others).  In the not-too-far-distant past, it was quite common to see public facilities with signs pronouncing “No Jews Allowed”, or signs which pointed people of color to entrances in the rear.  This was wrong then, and it is wrong now.  If a private individual wants not to attend a homosexual wedding, it is their loss, and their right.  However no public enterprise has such a right, to serve only those they please, or to offer different services to different classes of individuals based solely on their race, religion, gender, or sexual preferences.  This is the law, and the court was right and Arkes is dead wrong.

‘Laws hate speech put us on a slippery slope’


On this point, David, I completely agree with you, as I stated in my previous posting. On the point that Arkes wrongly sets up as his justification, that people should not be punished for what they believe — or what they express — I tend to agree with him.  But, as you and other rightly point out, this is not what the court’s decision was based on.

And on Bob’s point, that we have laws in this country against “hate speech”, he may be right, but in my opinion, it puts us on a slippery slope.  Indeed, when he says that speech is an act, he is giving voice to a half-truth that much of the world believes, insofar as in many cultures, if a person insults you, you are honor-bound to exact blood-vengeance.  But if we in this country are going to value and protect free speech and still hold the line against anarchy, we’re going to have to maintain a pretty strict distinction between speech and action, assigning legal and moral responsibility to the latter, and making individuals answerable for their own actions, whatever vile and provocative inducements are thrown their way.  Because once you accept the actionability of “inciting to violence”, you open a whole can of worms, encapsulated by the question, “Sez who?”

Because “incitement” is very open to interpretation, and the interpretation that matters will be the one holding the political reins, be it a dictator, a mob, or a court.  Indeed, it’s basically the same justification that dictatorships all over the world habitually use to muzzle speech and peaceful political action.  Of course, they might call it something else, like upsetting social peace, or subverting the rightful order.  But once you start punishing statements the might cause some undesirable outcome, rather than or equally with actions that concretely lead to that outcome, you’re opening the door to censorship and killing free speech.

So let’s hate the speaker if we want to, oppose his ideas, shun and boycott him, and if we’re an employer who doesn’t have to maintain principles of academic freedom, fire his sorry ass (though this is a gray area I would approach cautiously).  But let’s punish (as in, use the coercive power of the state) the perpetrator — the one who acts.  And let’s teach our children to know right from wrong, distinguish truth from garbage, and be responsible for their actions, no matter what kind of vile noise they’re being subjected to.

‘It isn’t his right to hide behind the college’s name’


Jamie, I fear that you have gotten yourself trapped in Arkes honeypot trap, or his muddled thinking.

There is no evidence that the photographers were constrained from  “a right to think what they think.” There is no evidence provided by Arkes that the individuals committing had any alternative available to them. The photographers were merely prevented from acting in a way that discriminated against others, in a public enterprise. Is that wrong?

It was their actions that were found illegal. Arkes is arguing that their actions should not have been affirmed to be illegal.

As for the rest of Arkes piece, he was so busy setting up straw men about us “moral relativists” and equating homophobia with Lincoln’s (well-intentioned but failed) attempt to hold together the union before the civil war (WTF, should we go back to being silent about slavery?), that I merely shut him off. It is his right to be as much of an ass as he wishes, as long as he doest shout fire in a crowded theater, but it isn’t his right, imho, to hide behind the college’s name while doing it. That remains my objection regarding the lack of action by the college.

Posted in Arkes publications, Commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shining light on dark words

Tito Craige

Tito Craige

Tito Craige ’70, commented on the writings of Prof. Hadley Arkes for The Amherst Student. Excerpts below:


As an older alumnus, I guess I should be musing about the good old days at Amherst and making payments on a cemetery plot, but, honestly, I find myself distracted about something that I have to get off my chest. It bothers me so much that, for the first time in my life, I have written something for The Student.

You see, I get angry when I read that Professor Hadley Arkes compares same-sex marriage to bestiality. To be honest, I don’t like a whole bunch of things that Arkes has written and then he makes things worse by attaching “Ney Professor of Jurisprudence at Amherst College” to his name. Arkes’s words are circulated nationally and they affect people I care about. For my sister, her partner of 30 years and their daughter, I need to stand up. For the gay students in my high school’s Queer Club, I need to stand. For my gay Amherst classmates, I need to stand. Until now, many have been silent about Arkes’s words, and now I think it is time to speak.

Professor Hadley Arkes (Photo courtesy of FedSocBlog.com)

Professor Hadley Arkes (Photo courtesy of FedSocBlog.com)

Imagine if you were a gay teenager and you read the following lies about death and conversions: “Do liberals want to break through conventions with ‘sex education’? Then education it should be: The life-shortening hazards of homosexual behavior should be conveyed, along with information about the other hazards of incautious sex; the record of conversions from homosexual life should be put in texts along with the inconclusive arguments over the ‘gay gene.’” (Arkes in The Weekly Standard, May 23, 2005)

Some of Arkes’s earlier contentions are just plain ridiculous. Here is an assertion he made in 1986, but it is still paraphrased by politicians: “… the number of pregnancies resulting from rape in this country is miniscule … (since) … the fear induced by rape may interrupt the normal operation of hormones in the body of the woman which in turn may prevent ovulation and conception.” (Arkes, “First Things: An Inquiry into First Principles of Morals and Justice,” 1986.)

I defend Arkes’s right to speak and I reject censorship. However, his comments that are racist, sexist or hateful should be criticized. If the writings are damaging to the College, then let’s say so. If Amherst stands for something better than bigotry, then it needs to separate itself from Arkes’s destructive claims. Amherst’s motto is Terras Irradient. Let us cast the light of truth on dark words.

Tito Craige (etacraige@mindspring.com) is a retired history teacher from North Carolina. In mid-career, he quit teaching so as to investigate massacres of civilians for the Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace in the Philippines. Four years ago, he wrote about ecology v. tourism for the Darwin Station in the Galapagos. On Sept. 13 he and five of his classmates met with President Martin concerning the writings of Hadley Arkes.

For more information, read the full text of the commentary.

Posted in Commentary | Leave a comment

Petition to the Amherst College board of trustees

“We request that the Trustees, acting for Amherst College, explicitly dissociate the institution itself from Professor Hadley Arkes’s divisive and destructive views and his intellectual dishonesty.  Further, we request that Professor Arkes be asked either to refrain from citing his association with Amherst College in his extracurricular writings or that any such association be accompanied by a disclaimer stating that his views do not represent Amherst College.”

If you want to add your name to this petition, do so at “Join Us: Oppose Amherst College’s Tacit Support of Hate Speech.”

[As of February 2014, the petition had been signed by more than 100 Amherst College alumni from 17 classes communicating by e-mail. As of Feb. 20, 2014, the petition is now online at The Petition Site.]

Letter to Cullen Murphy, chair of the Amherst College board of trustees, explaining and containing the petition

Dear Mr. Murphy,

In early April, Tito Craige ‘70 and Warren Mersereau ‘70 sent a letter to President Martin (Attachment #1) asking her to dissociate Amherst College from Professor Hadley Arkes’s defamatory comments about homosexuals, and after reading it, John Greenberg ‘70 sent her another (Attachment #2) challenging Professor Arkes’s intellectual honesty. Both of these letters were then circulated to the Class of 1970 listserv and were cosigned by over sixty members and friends of the class.  These letters grew out of an extensive, often passionate conversation on the 1970 listserv, which began with an email from Robert Nathan (Attachment #5) following 2010 reunion events.

Over the subsequent months, a correspondence ensued between President Martin and the letter writers (Attachments #1 and #2), which culminated in an invitation from President Martin to meet her on campus to further discuss the issues raised.

That meeting took place on September 13 at the President’s house.  The President shared the steps she has taken to make the campus a welcoming place for GLTBQ students. We applauded these ON campus changes.  However, we explained to her that our primary concern is about how Professor Arkes’s statements continue to affect lives, including OFF campus. We asked President Martin to explicitly dissociate Amherst College from Professor Arkes’s bigoted statements about rape and same-gender relationships that affect political and social life throughout the United States and other countries.

President Martin told us that she sees “no context” requiring her to act. We respectfully disagree. We think that the disappointment and anger expressed by over 60 alumni in one class IS the context.

Since President Martin declined to act, we respectfully ask the Trustees to do so.  We believe that the reputation of Amherst College, its academic integrity as an institution, and the value it assigns to human dignity are all at stake.

This is not just a gay issue or a philosophical debate between liberals and conservatives. Amherst College cannot credibly maintain its professed commitment to be an inclusive community as long as it chooses to remain silent while a sitting professor disparages members of its community in media of worldwide circulation and accessibility.  We attach comments from Dr. Eric Patterson ‘70 (Attachment #3) discussing the destructive impact of Professor Arkes’s writings on members of the GLBTQ community and explaining how heterosexuals can begin to understand the profound distress caused by Professor Arkes’s hate language.

Dr. Patterson and other members of our class have written to the alumni fund and to the 1970 listserv announcing that they have begun to suspend contributions to the annual fund pending favorable action by the College. We have little doubt that other alumni will do the same as they become aware of the situation.  Dr. Patterson’s  email on this topic is appended as Attachment #4.

We do not pretend to speak for the class of 1970. However, the attached communications and the just mentioned actions clearly demonstrate that many in our class find Professor Arkes’s views abhorrent, his intellectual integrity wanting, and his lack of support for the College’s values troubling.  Indeed, a number have expressed substantially harsher views.

We intend to disseminate this letter and the accompanying documents to Amherst College community listservs immediately.  We believe that many other alumni will want to join the requests we are making to you because they, too, will be offended and appalled when, to cite just one example, they become aware that Professor Arkes has likened homosexuality to “sex with animals, pedophilia, even necrophilia”.  http://www.thecatholicthing.org/2013/03/26/the-supreme-court-hears-the-cases-on-marriage/. Everyone is well aware of repulsive falsehoods that have been propagated against Jewish people and African-American people and used to justify discrimination and worse against them.  We have no doubt that if an Amherst faculty member publicly articulated these falsehoods, the College quickly, publicly, and rightly would reject such views. Why should it be any different when a faculty member reiterates the falsehood that homosexuality is somehow analogous to illegal and abhorrent acts such as pedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia? We will send you the list of additional co-signers within a few weeks.

John Greenberg’s analysis (Attachment #2) is a detailed and damning indictment of Professor Arkes’s lack of intellectual integrity, concluding that Professor Arkes has either engaged in a conscious design to deceive naïve readers or that he is incompetent.  Neither reflects well on Amherst College as an esteemed institution of higher learning.

Suggestions that the usual peer review process should be allowed to deal with these issues are unavailing. Many, if not all, of Professor Arkes’s offending statements are published in non-peer-reviewed outlets, some of which have far wider public circulation (e.g. The Wall Street Journal) than any academic review.  In each instance, Professor Arkes identifies himself with Amherst College.

In addition, Professor Arkes’s views are disseminated to and through politicians (Rick Santorum, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, and Trent Franks), and even a Supreme Court justice (Antonin Scalia).  Professor Arkes’s influence is not small, not confined to academic circulations, and hardly parochial.

Moreover, Professor Arkes’ flawed views are longstanding and have been deservedly ridiculed. In 2012, USA Today specifically cited his Amherst College connection when it referred to Professor Arkes’s 1986 book as a source for the discredited proposition that the incidence of pregnancy following rape is low:

“Mecklenburg’s article, and the statistics cited in it, have been used again and again in the decades since. Hadley Arkes, Amherst College political science professor and senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, cited the Buffalo statistic in his 1986 book, ‘First Things: An Inquiry Into the First Principles of Morals and Justice.’

‘The number of pregnancies resulting from rape in this country is minuscule,’ Arkes concluded, adding, ‘In addition, the fear induced by rape may interrupt the normal operation in hormones in the body of the woman, which in turn may prevent ovulation and conception.’”


Professor Arkes is to scholarship and sound scientific methodology what astrology is to astronomy.

In the spring of 2013, Professor Arkes’s comparison of homosexual relationships to bestiality was repeated on Fox News by Professor Ben Carson of the Johns Hopkins Medical School.

March 26, 2013 statement by Professor Arkes: “…as long as there are human beings there will be men and women. That is the meaning of sex. And one doesn’t have to read the Bible to come up with that one. But the key abstraction, settling (sic) off ripples of self-deception, is that term ‘sexual orientation.’ The term is broad enough to encompass sex with animals, pedophilia, even necrophilia.” (The Supreme Court Hears the Cases on Marriage in The Catholic Thing, March 26, 2013)

April 10, 2013 statement by Professor Ben Carson:  “[Traditional marriage is] a well-established, fundamental pillar of society and no group — be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are — they don’t get to change the definition…” (Washington Post, April 10, 2013)

The response to Professor Carson was rapid. Dr. Paul Rothman, Dean of the School of Medicine and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine stated that the university respected the professor’s right of free expression and simultaneously condemned Professor Carson’s “hurtful, offensive language.” Dr. Rothman’s statement goes on to find that the comments so remarkably similar to those articulated by Professor Arkes are “inconsistent with the culture of our institution.”

The Craige/Mersereau letters (Attachment #1) and the Mersereau essay (Attachment #6) show that the concepts of academic freedom and free speech do NOT preclude taking action to institutionally dissociate the College from the abhorrent views expressed by Professor Arkes, and that raging homophobia is a form of hate speech, which should not go unanswered.

Professor Arkes elects to publish his views under the rubric of Amherst College, signing his commentaries as a chaired professor, without any disclaimer that his views do not reflect those of the College. By doing so, he explicitly engages the College on an ongoing basis.  In addition, the “Committee for the American Founding”, which Professor Arkes chairs and which supports his work, has its homepage on the Amherst College website: https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/colloquia/americanfounding

We, therefore, request, at a minimum, that you disseminate this petition to the Trustees, and that the Trustees, acting for Amherst College, explicitly dissociate the institution itself from Professor Arkes’s divisive and destructive views and his intellectual dishonesty.  Further, we request that Professor Arkes be asked either to refrain from citing his association with Amherst College in his extracurricular writings or that any such association be accompanied by a disclaimer stating that his views do not represent Amherst College.


Ronald Battocchi ‘70 (battocchi@comcast.net)
Ernest Craige ‘70 (etacraige@mindspring.com)
John Greenberg ‘70 (jsg1@copper.net)
Warren Mersereau ‘70 (warren.mersereau@gmail.com)
Robert Nathan ‘70 (wkbenchinc@aol.com)
Eric Patterson ‘70 (epatterson@hws.edu)


1. Craige/Mersereau Communications with Martin

2. Greenberg Communications with Martin

3. Patterson Testimonial

4. Patterson Email Declining Participation in Annual Fund

5. 2010 Nathan email

6. Mersereau Essay: “Amherst College Time to Step Up: September 2013”

7. Cover letter to President Martin in preparation for the September 13 meeting.

cc: President Martin

      Professor Call, Dean of the Faculty

      Professor Arkes

Posted in Arkes publications, Biddy Martin, Petition to trustees | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Contents of appeal to Amherst College alumni

Letter to alumni: Please sign and share

Amherst College Trustee Petition

Supporting documents:

Posted in Petition to trustees | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Letter to alumni: Please sign and share

Dear fellow Amherst alum:

The attached package of materials is hopefully self-explanatory.

After considerable discussion on the Class of 1970 listserv, six of us corresponded with President Biddy Martin and, having first provided her a list of some 60 co-signers to two of our letters, eventually met with her on September 13. We requested that the College dissociate itself from both the homophobic substance and the intellectual dishonesty of Professor Hadley Arkes’s writings in non-academic publications, in which he regularly chooses to identify himself with the College.

When President Martin declared that she had no “context” for such a declaration, we told her that we would consult a wider cross-section of the Amherst Community, which is what we are doing here.

We sent the attached cover letter and package of materials to Cullen Murphy, chair of the Board of Trustees of the College, on Saturday evening asking him to issue a statement in the name of the College.  His response to me and mine to him are included below.

As stated in the letter to Mr. Murphy, we are soliciting co-signers and asking them to contact Ron Battocchi, who will compile a list and forward it to Mr. Murphy and the other trustees.  If you’d like to co-sign, please identify yourself to Ron as to profession (if you wish), geography, and Amherst class: e.g.  John Greenberg, Bear Bookshop, Marlboro, VT, ’70.

We have contacted every listserv on the alumni directory page, but many classes do not have listservs and many alumni do not join those which do exist.  We therefore solicit your assistance in helping us further distribute this letter to the Amherst College community.  If anyone knows a better way to reach the wider Amherst community (only), we would appreciate any leads.  Otherwise, we would appreciate your sharing this material with members of the Amherst College community who may not have received it.

Questions and comments can, of course, be directed to any of us.

Ronald Battocchi ‘70 (battocchi@comcast.net)
Ernest Craige ‘70 (etacraige@mindspring.com)
John Greenberg ‘70 (jsg1@copper.net)
Warren Mersereau ‘70 (warren.mersereau@gmail.com)
Robert Nathan ‘70 (wkbenchinc@aol.com)
Eric Patterson ‘70 (epatterson@hws.edu)

Post Script: Exchange between Cullen Murphy and John Greenberg

From: Cullen Murphy
Sent: Tuesday, October 01, 2013 7:53 AM
To: John Greenberg/The Bear Bookshop
Subject: Re: Request to Amherst College Trustees concerning Professor Hadley Arkes

Dear Mr. Greenberg,

Thank you for your letter. I wanted to let you know that, as requested, I have circulated it to the members of the board of trustees. I hope that you saw Biddy Martin’s statement, which she put out yesterday. It speaks eloquently to the issue, and it speaks for the College.

Cullen Murphy

From: John Greenberg/The Bear Bookshop
Sent: Wednesday, October 02, 2013 6:27 PM
To: Cullen Murphy

Subject: Re: Request to Amherst College Trustees concerning Professor Hadley Arkes

Dear Cullen Murphy:

I’m delighted to read that you received our letter and circulated it.

At the same time I sent it out, I attempted to begin distributing it to the wider Amherst College community.  The result, in briefest terms, was email pandemonium.  In fact, I’m still in the process of sorting it all out.

I won’t bore you with the details, but for now, what you need to know is that the only listserv to have received our materials is the one for our class: 1970.  That too was blocked and therefore ended up reaching members only on Sunday afternoon, and only after considerable confusion (another long story).  As of this writing, I believe I have successfully sent the materials to the managers of three other class listservs, but have not received any notification that they received what I sent.  I therefore assume that the materials have NOT been distributed to the listservs.

All six of us have read the President’s statement (https://www.amherst.edu/aboutamherst/president/blog), which your message appears to suggest will put an end to the issue.  In due course, we will respond to it in detail.  It suffices at this time to tell you that we see this as the beginning, not the end, of our struggle for justice.

Given that our attempts at distribution to the alumni have failed, the opportunity now presents itself to append your email and this response to the letter we had originally intended to send, so that alums from classes other than ours will see both our materials and the President’s at the same time.  You will then know that any members of those listservs who choose to sign on did so AFTER reading all of the materials (except, of course, our future response to President Martin).

We will also post your email and this reply to the Class of 1970.  Since almost 40 members of the listserv had already signed up as of last night, we invite any who feel that the President’s statement resolves the matter to ask that their names be removed from the list, which we have promised to submit to you in the coming weeks.

Finally, you should know that we are also working on distribution to current students.

We have tried very hard to keep this matter confined to the Amherst College community in the largest sense of the term.  But if the issue remains unresolved long enough, it seems to us inevitable that it will invite attention from the world outside of Amherst College.  In our view, that would reflect badly on the College.

Best wishes,
John Greenberg ‘70

Posted in Petition to trustees | Tagged , | 1 Comment