January 7, 2021
Dear UMass Community,
What we witnessed yesterday in Washington, D.C. was shocking and deeply disturbing. The storming of the U.S. Capitol by a mob incited by lies and anti-democratic propaganda is something that most of us could never have imagined. It was a boiling-over of a dangerous, truth-denying movement that has been simmering unchecked for far too long.
The impulses of the mob that attacked the Capitol are antithetical to our most deeply held American values. By every objective measure, and as adjudicated by courts in more than 60 cases around the country, the presidential election was free, fair and devoid of any significant voter fraud. Attempts to disrupt the peaceful transition of presidential power, long a hallmark of our democracy, are un-American and seditious. The escalation to violence in the building that represents the heart of American democracy made yesterday one of our country’s darkest days.
Another deeply distressing aspect of the day’s events was the striking contrast between law enforcement’s apparent lack of preparation for and reaction to this violent attack on one of our most cherished institutions and the show of force and aggressive response we witnessed during last summer’s peaceful Black Lives Matter protests. This juxtaposition is suggestive of the deep-seated institutional racism that our country must acknowledge and strive to overcome, as we have rededicated ourselves to do on our campus.
Delegitimizing and dehumanizing our political opponents (or more generally, people different from ourselves) is corrosive, un-democratic, and a mark of ignorance. When an election doesn’t go one’s way, the way to change hearts and minds is through reasoned, fact-based argument, not violence. The embrace of reason and the advancement of knowledge, key elements of our mission as a research university, are central to ensuring that an educated populace can employ critical thinking skills to participate in and strengthen our republic. Democracy is fragile and its preservation can never be taken for granted. We must seize this moment to recommit to our essential educational work and strive to foster a better, more just and equitable world.
We must also support one another and come together as a community – even if we can only do so virtually. For those seeking additional support, I have included a list of available campus resources following this message.
Let us not lose our optimism and our faith that together we can make the world a better place. Despite the efforts of those who tried and failed to overrun our democracy yesterday, there is ample reason for hope: last night, democracy prevailed and Congress affirmed the results of our presidential election; with the development of new vaccines, the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is in sight; and through all the turmoil of the past year, our UMass Amherst community remains strong.
Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy