Old Chapel viewed through pine tree branches on a snowy winter day. Credit: John Solem
University News

Chancellor Javier Reyes: A Look Toward the Spring Semester

On Dec. 15, Chancellor Javier Reyes sent the email below to the campus community looking ahead toward the Spring 2024 semester.

Dear Campus Community,

With finals wrapping up and the semester concluding, many of us are looking forward to spending time with our friends and families. I hope each of you can take time to pause and recharge in your own ways.

While holidays are often a time of joy, I want to acknowledge that many on our campus and in the world are facing heartbreaking conflict, which has led to rising tensions within our community. The intense public demonstrations that we’ve experienced over the past several weeks are characteristic of UMass Amherst’s long history of activism.

Though some demonstrations this semester have been respectful and civil, others have been more confrontational and polarizing. Demonstrations that engage in bullying and intimidation, or interfere with the operation of the university, including at least one demonstration that occurred in an academic space, are unacceptable, run counter to our values, and are in violation of both our Code of Student Conduct and the campus Picketing Code.

As a public university we have a deep commitment to academic freedom and a responsibility to uphold the First Amendment, which safeguards the exercise of free speech. Additionally, we are committed to inclusion and belonging, and have a responsibility to foster an environment where all members of our community feel welcome and are treated with dignity and respect.

Under the leadership of Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion Nefertiti Walker, we recently convened an advisory working group on campus climate named Community, Democracy, and Dialogue (CDD) to begin looking at how our community can engage and respond to complex issues in meaningful, respectful, and productive ways.

This CDD is composed of a diverse group of faculty, staff, and campus leaders with expertise in a range of disciplines including geopolitics, communication, and civil discourse. This group, which will solicit input from graduate and undergraduate student leaders, is currently developing a series of spring programs and events geared toward using the university’s educational mission to promote engagement in civil discourse, create opportunities for relationship and bridge-building, and educate and inform the campus through dialogue and knowledge-building activities. The CDD will encourage a variety of activities, including keynote lectures, panel discussions, dialogue or healing circles, and the development of informational toolkits. There will also be grant funding available for students, faculty, and staff who would like to create opportunities for engagement on these topics.

We will share more details about the CDD, including how you can be involved, as we move closer to spring semester.

Strategic Planning Process

This spring we will also begin the next phase of the strategic planning process. I am pleased to share that we are making progress. Under the leadership of co-chairs Professor MJ Peterson and Dean Anne Massey, this fall we held listening sessions with each of our schools and colleges, Student Government Association, Graduate Student Senate, and major business units. Through these listening sessions we learned about the mission and strategic goals of each area and what they perceive to be the biggest challenges and the most promising opportunities facing UMass Amherst. Surveys have also been sent to the Faculty Senate, Rules Committee, and the Campus Planning and Resource Committee for their reflection and input.

The listening sessions have revealed commonalities in how we seek to harness the energy and promise of UMass to make the world a better place through our teaching, learning, and research. Thank you to everyone who participated for your thoughtful and open discourse.

There will be further opportunities to engage as we form working groups to explore the findings in more detail and share next steps through a Strategic Planning website.

Thank You

As I reflect on the fall semester, my first as chancellor of this amazing institution, I would like to say thank you for being part of the UMass Amherst community.

Thank you to our faculty for your commitment to advancing knowledge, innovation, and student success.

Thank you to our staff for your support of our students, our institution, and each other.

Thank you to our students for your perseverance, your curiosity, and your spirit.

I look forward to seeing you in the New Year and coming together to shape the future of UMass Amherst.

Wishing you happy holidays,

Chancellor Javier Reyes