School takes aim at figure who came up with smallpox blankets

Jeffrey Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst by James Watson, published by John Boydell, published by Josiah Boydell, after Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1766. Image NPG D7002 from National Portrait Gallery, London

Students and faculty at Amherst College in Massachusetts are speaking out against the school's unofficial mascot.

The college takes its name from Lord Jeffery Amherst, a British military commander who advocated the use of biological warfare -- in the form of blankets infected with smallpox -- during Pontiac's War in the late 1700s.

"You will Do well to try to Innoculate [sic] the Indians by means of Blankets, as well as to try Every other method that can serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race. I should be very glad your Scheme for Hunting them Down by Dogs could take Effect, but England is at too great a Distance to think of that at present," Amherst wrote in a letter to one of his subordinates, according to research compiled by retired professor Peter d'Errico.

Students voted on Tuesday in a poll that calls for the removal of "Lord Jeff" as the school's unofficial mascot. The results will be announced tomorrow, The Amherst Student reported.

Faculty members took their own informal vote and agreed with eliminating the unofficial mascot, The New York Times reported.

Get the Story:
Students Vote On College Mascot (The Amherst Student 11/18)
Amherst Mascot Gets Thumbs Down From Faculty (The New York Times 11/18)
Smallpox general in US university row (BBC News 11/18)
At Amherst College, Some Say It’s the Mascot’s Turn to Embrace Diversity (The New York Times 11/1)