Back to top

Around the Pond


A group of people on a lawn wearing inflatable flamingo rafts.

Photo: John Solem

Flocking Together

A casual observer walking past on a sunny Saturday might be stunned by the sight: dozens of performers wearing bright flamingo-shaped pool floats zigzagging across the Metawampe lawn. What’s going on with this witty pink flash mob?!

Provoking that question is just what Flamingo Murmuration is all about. Assistant Professor of Scenic Design Anya Klepikov and graduate student Rudy Ramirez ’25MFA collaborated on the performance inspired by starling murmurations—when huge groups of the small birds move together as one large mass. Klepikov says, “There’s whimsy and delight to be found … but there’s a thoughtful inquiry for audiences to ponder as they watch: Are we humans capable of acting in concert for our evolutionary benefit?” As we flock together, we might just find our common ground.

Get a bird’s-eye view of the event:

Flamingo Murmuration concept and design by Anya Klepikov, directed by Rudy Ramirez ’23MFA, production coordinated by Fleur Kuhta ’23, drone video captured by Chris Rucinski ’16




Workers in orange outfits and hardhats sit on scaffolding.

Photo: Chris Kaempfe

Fighting wage theft and tax fraud

A recent study by the UMass Amherst Labor Center provides evidence that wage theft and tax fraud are business as usual for much of the residential construction industry in Massachusetts. Each year, the center discovered, as many as 1.2 million workers are “off the books” and another 300,000 are illegally classified as independent contractors. In this model, workers—many in precarious financial situations—lack health care and benefits, work overtime for no pay, and receive no workers’ compensation or paid leave. And the costs to state and federal taxpayers add up to an estimated $2.6 billion a year.

The findings are part of an ongoing effort by the center as well as UMass unions and alumni leaders to help cities and towns in Massachusetts put teeth into existing wage theft protections. “The goal is to build on existing local laws to create statewide legislation,” says Eve Weinbaum, associate professor of labor studies and a former director of the center.

Weinbaum says this study, and the center itself—known nationally for placing an emphasis on racial, social, and economic justice—seeks to expose information with the aim of promoting “what every worker deserves—fair and equitable treatment.”



Sacred smoke

On many college campuses, burning candles, incense, or other items is restricted due to fire safety regulations. But what if those activities are part of a spiritual practice? A new policy at UMass seeks to balance safety concerns with religious respect—and offers a blueprint for how other places of learning can be more inclusive.

The Policy for the Burning of Material Offerings for Ceremonial, Cultural, Traditional, or Religious Observance is more colloquially known as the Smudging Policy—a reference to the practice common among Native and Indigenous communities that links smoke with spirituality through the burning of botanicals, or medicines. The UMass Native Advisory Council worked with the university’s Office of Environmental Health & Safety to create the new guidance, which Assistant Vice Chancellor for Shared Services and Native Advisory Council Co-Chair Sara Littlecrow-Russell says is likely to be “the most inclusive” in the country. The policy supports not only Native and Indigenous students, faculty, and staff but also Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu, and other campus community members who burn incense or other materials as part of a spiritual practice.

“A lot of institutions talk about inclusion but have policies that create barriers for people to engage in practices of cultural tradition and well-being,” says Littlecrow-Russell. “This policy is an explicit statement that UMass Amherst is different.”

Hear more about the new policy and what it means for our students.