Amherst Life Blog

Welcome to the Amherst Life Blog! Here we will be posting information on activities, events, arts, community concerns, local business, and a variety of other topics related to life in Amherst, Massachusetts. If you are new to the area and looking for housing, please check out our other blog too ------------>> Amherst Housing Blog ::.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Land and Rights: Spread the Word

We at Amherst Life have been covering local Pioneer Valley events for several years. Occasionally we look at national and international news. In this series, Land and Rights, we are going to document the struggles and heroic activities of people across the Americas who are engaged in a very real war against powerful multinational corporations, governments, private military forces, and much more. We feel that these stories mist be spread. We live in a town that is quite safe--our duty is to use that safety. People must know about what is happening on the continent. If that means taking some time to document the unjust activities and human rights violations that make other areas unsafe, it is a cause worthwhile. Sometimes all it takes is a few words, a persuasive sentence, an image for voices to be heard across time and space.

PBS did a remarkable job documenting the struggles in Cauca, Colombia, where an Afro-Colombian community continues to battle massive multinational corporations who, backed by the government, have been trying to remove people from their homes for the past decade. It is a civil war. People are being murdered. Look here at the work of brave women warriors in the community who face death threats daily, have watched all of their male colleagues be murdered, and still fight:

Women, War, and Peace (PBS)

We would like to know what is happening NOW. The PBS special ends in 2011. We will be following this and we hope you will too.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Amethyst Brook

Well, we are more afraid of downtown Amherst when everyone is out of town (notice we've don 5 blog posting is one day?) than dogs running around the Amethyst Brook
(See:, but we do have a few questions for people. We see "no trespassing" signs in a few areas across from the newly constructed greenhouse. Is the private property the river itself? We can't figure out if the river and river bank are privately owned now. We do know, however, that nobody has listened to us about the dangerous barbed wire fence remains that innocent deer probably don't see at night and get cut up by. This fencing is still up and needs to be removed before more humans and animals get hurt.

Protest: The Test in Pro-Test?

Amherst and the valley is known for resistance and protest. We walked around the UMass campus recently and saw two tents set up near the main strip on campus. The vibration of such an encampment looked pitiful. In truth, it looked like those two tent-owners had been paid by higher-up people to make the protest movement look ridiculous. And so, we'd like to hear from our local readers: is this movement CIA funded, an attempt to make a mockery of what it means to resist and protest? The media clearly focusses on the stories of priveleged, mainly middle-class white kids who don't seem to really know what they are doing. Head to areas hard-hit by capitalist greed and the stories that these college kids are telling simply make the harder-hit angry. Is this one of many ways of undoing any effort to resist: show the resistors as a bunch or unorganized, spoiled brats? Make their movement, which is needed and deserved, appear to be a movement of whining adolescents suffering from arrested development? We want to hear your views! Comments please!

LIT: a new posh nightclub-lounge in Amherst?

The folks at Moti's are aesthetic geniuses and they serve a mean plate of food. You will pay handsomely for that plate, but, compared to the choices in the downtown area, your getting your dollar's worth. The owners are also hiring geniuses. They gave managerial responsibilities to one of the most dynamic figures in Amherst and she is shaping a space with multiple trajectories in mind. For now, it seems to be a place for slightly-better-dressed college kids to hear some of the best music in the area in a clean, nicely decorated, beautifully lit (yes, lit) environ. Yet with staff members, the crew at Moti's has privately suggested interest in a Lorca-Rummi poetic exploration night, not necessarily limited to those two giants of the literary world. And so, publicly, we at Amherst Life want to make this clear: you open the stage and mic for poetry, connected to the Silk Road, Spain, the Medditeranean, North Africa... We will get your joint filled. Nightly. Words, thoughts, perspectives will be lit up--and the "downtown" scene will also be alight. We make this public too: get some more non-drinking involved in your space, and we will help fund your endeavors.

Unemployed with Four Diplomas in My Pocket

We put the word out as a basic email to our readers---"highly educated, living in your car?" was the subject heading--and the result was an outpouring of stories. Ph.D.s living in their cars? Is this true? "They must be dealing with other issues, their are jobs on this very campus," a staff member at University Career Services stated. This is true. And so we inquired with our readers. "Anyone try to get a job at UMass with your Ph.D.?" Listen to this one: we got a letter from a young doctorate holding, star of the department, teacher extraordinaire with so many amazing letters written by students about her teaching performance that the university gave her a wonderfully written one-sentence letter with her name mis-spelled, naturally... Yes, we received word from this gifted scholar/educator who received B.A.s and a Ph.D. from UMass, who successfully advised hundreds of students, that not even a single response was elicited by her graceful cover letter (we saw it) and remarkable resume to the Honor's College and university advising services. She sent two emails. Nothing. She decided to apply her vast knowledge of international education and went ahead and applied for multiple study abroad positions in UMass's IPO office. Nothing. Not one word. She contacted numerous departments. Nothing. Blank space. Her own university wont even respond to her. So, we have this to say to university advising, academic departments, and study abroad advising: are you prepared to tell your students that you won't even respond to their emails and employment inquiries as you advise them through their fields of studies? Are you explaining that you yourselves wouldn't even hire them?

New Low for Ph.D.'s looking for work: Harvard University

This just in from one of our readers, a guy with a Ph.D. in literature with, oh dear, a social consciousness. That combination is lethal, we have found. Let me get this straight: "you did seven years of M.A. and Ph.D.
studies at one of the top public universities in the U.S. (UMass), you scraped by on 12,000/year for six years before they kicked you out of funding even though you were consistently rated one of the top instructors in the entire university (I'm paraphrasing his email) and you still have a desire to "help out" in the public education system? Well, if we didn't have the same goal, we'd think you had lost it in Ph.D.-land. But no, there are may of us, and there are many places like Harvard who recently turned down our colleague, mostly because he had the audacity to question their salary.

Like me break it down. Harvard's Placement Specialist Position, advertised publicly at 47-74K/year, a position in which, as Harvard HR unabashedly states, requires 50 plus work weeks between November and March, weekends and nights often. Sounds fairly normal. But when our dear UMass grad inquired about the wide range--commonplace now--he was told "high 40s." FYI: Harvard understands high 40s as 42,000/year, before taxes of course. The highly visible pay range for a "055" position, 35 hours per week, is beyond what they were going to pay for this 50 hour/week job. Harvard is fairly well endowed. Yet, they get away with this because "this is a mission-driven position." Mission driven is the new word for under-compensating. It is the new catch phrase for traps for socially conscious, highly motivated, highly qualified people.

Unemployed, Depressed Ph.D.: My Education is Getting in My Way

We have a hard time sympathizing with people who dedicate their lives to research and writing yet can't seem to figure out that universities are basically factories that do not care about the folks on the assembly line unless they bring the university prestige and money. Humanities: unless you are Noam Chomsky, forget about it. Lowest on the assembly line. They are cutting entire language and literature programs daily.

Yet... the number of people we know who are walking around with advanced degrees in the humanities, unemployed, is staggering. We are now collecting stories from these people who are basically saying that entry-level they are only eligible for entry-level positions yet entry-level positions won't hire them.

Check out this guy's story:

"I write to vent. Nothing more. Do you know what it means to work at $12,000-14,000/yr in Amherst, high rent, high cost of living, for five years, while defending myself from a university that took away my outside merit-based grants because they said I didn't have financial "need" (UMASS said this to me as they handed me one of 1000 tiny sheets of paper with the address of the localsoup kitchen) to earn the highest degree possible in my field after dealing with horrific committee interference with my development as a human being, while being a grad student teacher--the folks that run the UMass campus and actaully care about their students... Yes, all of this.... to then graduate and loate academia so thoroughly that I want a non-teaching job even though I won teaching awards... yes... I continue... to the apply to study abroad programs because I believe in the power of study abroad to help transform students' experiences... to be then harassed and questioned, and have my recommnders contacted MULTIPLE times by some insane director at the University of Miami... a lady who told them she thought I was using her for transitory work even after she questioned me over 15 times, hous on the phone, hours of skype interview, demanding answers about using her office as a stepping stone... to then speak badly about my candidacy to my recommenders.... I had to write this email to her...

And now I have to say, I'm angry that offices like this can be run so horribly and I think parents should know their kids have absolutely no organizational structure behind them, and the type of people running these programs are insane... So I found the UMiami provosts information and may even write to him."

Our reader withdrew his candidacy with an email that we have urged him to publish on his own. It is so critical of the state of study abroad and the way administrators are abusing their power that it deserves its own blog.