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UMass Amherst seeks feedback on school seal and motto change

UMass Amherst is looking to change its seal and motto, which is the same as the state's seal and motto. University officials are looking at different symbols and are asking for faculty and student input.

Vice Chancellor for University Relations, John Kennedy, said this symbol isn't representative of the campus.

"'By the sword, we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.' That's the motto on the state seal. It's a motto that doesn't speak to our academic mission necessarily," Kennedy said. "The iconography perhaps doesn't connect to the campus in a way that's meaningful."

The university's current flagship seal depicts an indigenous man holding a bow and arrow, with a disembodied arm floating above him clutching a sword.

"We moved away from the seal about a decade ago and now the state is actually moving away from the seal, which is interesting," Kennedy said.

Some students like Evan Naismith want to go a step further and get rid of the name Amherst, after the town's namesake, Lord
Jeffery Amherst, from the seal.

"[Jeffery Amherst's] main claim to fame was the originator of biological warfare against the Native American tribes that were indigenous to our area," Naismith said. "I think that we need to have the moral courage to say that that was an extremely morally wrong thing to do, and we should not be honoring that by attaching his name to our university in any way."

University officials say they'll be holding another feedback session on Thursday, November 3rd.

Full disclosure: The license for NEPM’s main radio signal is held by UMass Amherst. The newsroom operates independently.

Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.
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