University Statements on War in Gaza and Campus Protests

University Statements on War in Gaza and Campus Protests

Frequently Asked Questions about May 7 and 8, 2024

Why were police called to the fortified encampment on May 7?

Nobody’s right to free speech or right to peacefully assemble was infringed upon. The university’s decision to engage law enforcement was based entirely on safety.  

The construction of an unauthorized, fortified encampment in the center of a university campus is not protected speech. The university’s responsibility is to ensure the safety of the entire community; unilaterally walling off a section of our campus is disruptive and prevents the university from meeting that obligation. Even before the police were called, a counterdemonstrator was reportedly assaulted on the periphery of the encampment. 

The university followed its standard, viewpoint-neutral policy when responding to unauthorized structures – demonstrators were given three warnings to dismantle the structures by the Demonstration Response and Safety Team (DRST), including a warning that the UMass Police Department (UMPD) might be called. Demonstrators rejected the warnings and were told they were trespassing; police arrived and gave multiple, additional lawful dispersal orders. Those that refused that order were fully aware that they were subject to potential arrest. 

While the university has consistently and vigorously defended the right to free speech, the construction of a fortified encampment is not protected speech. The university’s actions have been and must be viewpoint-neutral; the goals and advocacy of those participating in this fortified encampment did not factor into the university’s decision. 

Why were police on campus before negotiations had finished on May 7?

In the university’s response to both encampments, UMPD, a small number of Massachusetts State Police, and facilities staff were asked ahead of time to be on site and ready to support the removal of unauthorized structures if needed. This was identical to the university’s response to the first encampment only as a precautionary step, and only if needed.

The Massachusetts State Police, in response to their assessment of the situation during the May encampment, requested further assistance.

Chancellor Javier Reyes met with students from 4:30 to nearly 6 p.m. He did not ask UMPD to disperse the encampment until after 7 p.m. Before that request, other than two UMPD officers who spoke with demonstrators, police did not enter the encampment area.  

Was the administration’s response to the encampments different than responses to previous demonstrations?

Every chancellor, including Chancellor Reyes and the 30 campus leaders that preceded him, has a responsibility to enforce the university’s policies in a consistent and entirely viewpoint-neutral manner over the course of their administration. Chancellor Reyes has been clear that he takes this responsibility seriously. 

Why were non-UMass police present at the demonstration?

Given the size of the demonstration, including the presence of fortified barricades, UMPD worked with outside law enforcement agencies. The initial call for outside law enforcement support during the May encampment was identical to the April encampment. 

Was the university response on May 7 quick to include police presence compared to the week prior?

It was not. The university followed the same protocol as during the first encampment; protesters were given multiple warnings and notices by the Demonstration Response and Safety Team. It was a full seven hours until after the first of six warnings (and a 90 minute meeting with demonstration representatives) until police issued a dispersal warning.

In both instances, UMPD requested the same initial level of support from outside agencies. UMPD (along with facilities staff) were prepared to respond if needed to dismantle the barricades. Additionally, approximately 18 members of the Massachusetts State Police (MSP) were initially on site for both the May and April responses. As the crowd grew surrounding the May fortified encampment, MSP made assessments on-site and called in additional support.

How many people were arrested on May 7?

A total of 134 people were arrested. Of those, approximately 70 have been identified as UMass students and 6 as faculty. Nearly 60 of the arrested individuals were neither students, faculty, nor staff of the university.

What was the basis for the arrests?

Law enforcement gave multiple dispersal orders to clear the South Lawn so that employees could dismantle and remove the barricades and tents. Anyone who chose to remain against those lawful orders was subject to arrest. 

How many law enforcement officers were present on campus in response to the May 7 encampment? 

The full response, by the time the fortified encampment was cleared, included approximately 160 MSP officers, 35 UMPD officers and 14 local officers. 

Were tear gas, tasers, or any other crowd-dispersal tools used on May 7?

No. 

Did the Chancellor meet with demonstrators to discuss their demands?

Yes. The Chancellor and members of his leadership team met with three students and a faculty member representing demonstrators at the encampment for more than 90 minutes on the afternoon of May 7. Demonstration representatives ended that meeting. As the Chancellor wrote in his campus message,

Earlier today, members of my leadership team and I met with representatives of the demonstrators who have established an unauthorized encampment on the South Lawn of the Student Union. Over more than an hour and a half, we discussed a series of demands ranging from financial divestment to the status of students’ civil court cases following the October 2023 Whitmore arrests. I also assured the student protest leaders that I am actively reviewing the cases submitted for Code of Student Conduct appeals related to the arrests that have come before me as of today.
 
I impressed upon the student protest leaders that their encampment must be removed and offered to continue ongoing discussions in the weeks and months ahead to bridge our differences. I also shared with the students that the Board of Trustees has agreed to consider the UMass Amherst student trustee’s petition calling for divestment from defense-related firms at their next board meeting in June. The UMass Foundation Board, which manages the university’s endowment, also received a request to consider divestment. The students rejected these offers from the campus and the Board of Trustees.
 
Additionally, in response to questions from the students at the meeting, my team was able to clarify that there are no criminal cases pending against students arrested in October; all infractions have been reduced to civil penalties. We also agreed to seek clarification on the status of those civil proceedings.

 

 

 

 

May 8, 2024: A Message from the Chancellor

Dear Campus Community,

As Chancellor, ensuring the safety and well-being of our students and other members of our campus community is one of my most important duties. A safe and respectful learning environment is foundational to enabling free expression and the exchange of ideas – including through peaceful demonstrations. Guided by these values, I made the difficult decision last night to ask the University of Massachusetts Police Department to clear the site of an unauthorized fortified encampment that had been erected on the South Lawn of the Student Union.

Last night, and into the early hours of this morning, the University of Massachusetts Police Department, assisted by Massachusetts State Police and other agencies, arrested 132 people. Of those 132, approximately 70 are UMass Amherst students and 6 are UMass Amherst faculty. 

Over the course of today, I have met with students, faculty, staff, as well as campus stakeholder groups. In these meetings, we discussed the events of last night and the previous encampment, along with processes and policies related to student discipline. Reflecting on the viewpoints I heard, I ask that SGA and GSS convene a special meeting where my leadership team and I can engage in dialogue and answer questions about this challenging episode.

I also had a very constructive meeting with the Faculty Senate Rules Committee today at which we agreed to call a special meeting of the Faculty Senate next week to discuss the events of last night.

Again, I know how challenging these events have been for everyone. Safety, wellbeing, and a sense of belonging are paramount for our community’s ability to thrive, and I recognize that there is work to do as we restore trust with those who feel harmed by the university’s actions.

I have also asked my colleagues on the Community, Democracy and Dialogue (CDD) initiative to help chart a course forward through these contentious issues. My greatest hope is to continue dialogue, even – and especially – with those who disagree with or question the university’s stances and actions.

Chancellor Javier Reyes

May 7, 2024: A Message from the Chancellor About Today’s Campus Disruption

To the UMass Community:
 
Earlier today, members of my leadership team and I met with representatives of the demonstrators who have established an unauthorized encampment on the South Lawn of the Student Union. Over more than an hour and a half, we discussed a series of demands ranging from financial divestment to the status of students’ civil court cases following the October 2023 Whitmore arrests. I also assured the student protest leaders that I am actively reviewing the cases submitted for Code of Student Conduct appeals related to the arrests that have come before me as of today.
 
I impressed upon the student protest leaders that their encampment must be removed and offered to continue ongoing discussions in the weeks and months ahead to bridge our differences. I also shared with the students that the Board of Trustees has agreed to consider the UMass Amherst student trustee’s petition calling for divestment from defense-related firms at their next board meeting in June. The UMass Foundation Board, which manages the university’s endowment, also received a request to consider divestment. The students rejected these offers from the campus and the Board of Trustees.
 
Additionally, in response to questions from the students at the meeting, my team was able to clarify that there are no criminal cases pending against students arrested in October; all infractions have been reduced to civil penalties. We also agreed to seek clarification on the status of those civil proceedings.
 
While we may not agree to all the demands presented to us today, including those which would violate the university’s founding values of the free and open exchange of ideas, today’s meeting could have been a significant step forward in in establishing a meaningful dialogue. 
 
I asked the students to help UMass Amherst set a model for how civil discourse can progress by dismantling their encampment and engaging with us in constructive discussions – not further confrontations and outright violations of university policy and the law. 
 
We have provided many paths forward for a resolution, including in our discussions today with protest representatives. Our message to this effect was delivered to the demonstrators in the encampment by the Demonstration Response and Safety Team. Demonstrators rejected our offers for continued civil discourse to help bridge our differences and refused to dismantle their encampment.
 
While we have told demonstrators that failure to remove the tents and barriers may result in arrests, this is not the outcome we had hoped for.
 
Moments ago, I asked the University of Massachusetts Police Department to begin dispersing the crowd and dismantling the encampment. Let me be clear – involving law enforcement is the absolute last resort. 
 
It saddens me to send this message tonight, but I am hopeful that our campus community will persevere to find common ground and come together in these challenging times. 
 
Chancellor Javier Reyes

May 1, 2024: A Message from the Provost on Recent Campus Events

Dear Colleagues, 

Over the past several months, UMass and higher education institutions across the country have responded to political pressure and activism in ways that have dominated headlines and both curricular and co-curricular discourse. 

As leaders in our institution, your connections with students and colleagues are invaluable as you provide guidance, support, and knowledge to our community. In a commitment to transparency and to ensure you have the most accurate information as you address these issues, I write to share several updates. 

First, several documents with proposals and demands related to the university’s partnerships have been circulating. On April 25, Chancellor Reyes officially responded to these demands in a letter to Students for Justice in Palestine, Faculty for Justice in Palestine, and the Prison Abolition Collective. I invite you to read – and share – his response clarifying UMass Amherst’s official position. 

Second, I want to address some of the questions coming out of the university’s response to this week’s encampment. Colleagues have shared several concerning inaccuracies with me, and I want to ensure our conversations are grounded in facts – even if we do not all agree with the positions and actions of the university as it enforces its policies. 

What was the difference in the university’s response between this demonstration, the 2023 housing demonstration, and previous occupations?

Last year’s housing encampment and previous Whitmore occupations are largely irrelevant since Chancellor Reyes is not required to enforce policies in a manner identical to the 30 chancellors who preceded him. Regardless of their leadership style, however, the one principle that all chancellors must adhere to is a viewpoint-neutral application of university policy. Chancellor Reyes has been, and will continue to be, viewpoint-neutral in the consistent application of all campus policies.

What is the status of the encampment?

Demonstrators cooperated with the university and removed all unauthorized structures without incident on Tuesday, May 30. Demonstrators were reminded that they could remain on site so long as university policies were followed (no amplified sound, no unauthorized structures, etc.) Demonstrators applied for and received a land use approval for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Friday, May 5. 

Was there a large police presence at the encampment?

No. Only a small number of UMPD officers were near the demonstration. To our knowledge, only two of those officers interacted with demonstrators and their representatives. 

Were Massachusetts State Police officers present on April 30?

Massachusetts State Police were available for mutual aid but remained in a parking lot more than a quarter mile away from the demonstration. These officers were not called on for support and did not leave that parking lot.

Did officers wear riot gear?

No. Neither UMPD officers - the only officers anywhere near the demonstration - nor the mutual aid officers who were available but not called on for support, wore riot gear. UMPD officers wore standard uniforms. 

Did police block or restrict access to the encampment?

No. UMPD only blocked off the portion of the DuBois Library terrace overlooking the encampment to ensure safety. There were no restrictions to the encampment itself.

Were demonstrators threatened with academic sanctions? 

No. Academic sanctions are an academic matter solely based on GPA. 

Were student conduct staff present at the encampment?

No. Student conduct staff were not present at and did not engage with the demonstrators in any way.

What did the Demonstration Response and Safety Team say regarding the presence of police? 

Staff members on the Demonstration Response and Safety Team read the following notices on Monday and Tuesday: "We support your First Amendment right to free speech. While you can remain in this space to demonstrate, you are directed to take down tents immediately … Please dismantle your tents and structures now. Any unclaimed tents and gear will be removed by the university. Should you continue to not comply with university directions, UMPD will be notified, which may result in your arrest."

I hope this information helps provide a factual, shared basis for our continued conversations and work.

Sincerely,
Mike Malone
Interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs

April 30, 2024: A Message from the Chancellor — Tent Encampment Peacefully Dismantled

To the UMass Community:

I am pleased to share with you that after the intervention of our campus demonstration response team, protestors who had established an unauthorized tent encampment beside the campus pond have peacefully dismantled it. We are fully in support of the right to free expression and conveyed to participants in the encampment that their protest could continue so long as their tents and structures, which are in violation of the campus land use policy, are removed.

As I said in my campus email yesterday, the land use policy ensures that spaces on campus are made available equally and fairly and that “Activities, programs or events [do] not interfere with official University functions.” In this instance, in addition to there having been no request submitted for the use of this property by those occupying it, the space had already been reserved for a university event, which we were forced to cancel.  

I am grateful to the student activists at the encampment for their cooperation this morning and am also deeply appreciative to the student government representatives (SGA and GSG) and faculty leaders with whom campus leaders and I have consulted over the past 24 hours. This type of consultation and cooperation is emblematic of the robust dialogue and respectful exchange of views that we seek to promote on our campus.

We have and will continue to defend free speech and the free exchange of ideas on this campus. In this instance, once the encampment was dismantled, students gathered and resumed their peaceful protest without incident. This is the sort of outcome we strive for as we navigate these challenging times.

Javier Reyes
Chancellor

April 29, 2024: A Message from the Chancellor on the Encampment

To the UMass Community:  
 
This morning, an unauthorized encampment was established on university property in violation of several campus policies, including the Land Use Policy, which requires prior approval for the utilization of university property. 

This policy, along with ensuring “Activities, programs or events [do] not interfere with official University functions,” ensures that spaces on campus are made available equally and fairly. In this instance, in addition to there having been no request submitted for the use of this property by those occupying it, the space was already reserved for a university event. We were forced to cancel this event.  
 
This encampment is in violation of university policy and those present in it have been notified multiple times and have been asked to dismantle the encampment. Those who continue to not comply will be trespassing. 
 
In all instances, the University of Massachusetts Amherst strongly supports the rights of its students to demonstrate peacefully and exercise their protected rights to speech and assembly.  

The presence of unauthorized structures, including tents, is not protected speech. Disruptive behavior is not protected speech. Activities that violate university policy or the rights of others on campus to participate in the regular business of the university are not protected speech. 
 
The university’s policies do not bar lawful demonstrations; to the contrary, they protect the rights of the UMass community — regardless of their political views — to participate equally in the free and respectful exchange of ideas. As we have shared with the demonstrators today, full compliance with university policies, including the removal of tents and other unauthorized structures is required. 

We can, and must, be able to disagree with each other and take principled stances while understanding the law and policies that govern our university. 


Javier Reyes
Chancellor
 

 

April 25, 2024: Response to Public Meeting Objectives

To: UMass Dissenters, UMass SJP, UMass FJP and Prison Abolition Collective

I want to start by acknowledging your response to my office on April 23 clarifying your proposals. 

The University of Massachusetts Amherst has a commitment to social justice and a long tradition of activism — activism that has been front and center on our campus this past year. 

I recognize that each of us is driven by deeply held beliefs, and that at times those beliefs conflict with those of our friends, our colleagues, and even the university itself. It is your right (and our responsibility to protect your right) to question the systems around you, to seek change in the world, and to dissent.

We hoped — and repeatedly offered — to work collaboratively with your organizations to develop the framework and agenda for a meeting with me and my senior leadership team. Our goal in doing so was to lay the groundwork for a constructive exchange of ideas that would lead to greater understanding. Unfortunately, we have been unable to reach consensus on even the format of that meeting.

One of our greatest responsibilities at UMass Amherst is to share and advance knowledge, and in that light, I want to provide a substantive response to your proposals so that you have the full context of how our policies are informed by our values. These are complicated issues, and members of our campus community, including many of your fellow students and colleagues, may disagree with your proposals. I hope this letter forms a foundation for shared understanding.

Student Consultation and Shared Governance

Broadly, you ask that the university provide a platform for sharing input on UMass Amherst’s operations. 

As you may know, the University of Massachusetts is guided by the Trustee Policy on University Governance, commonly known as the Wellman Document. Under this model, campus governing bodies, including the Student Government Association, Faculty Senate, and the Graduate Student Government, are consulted and “shall have the privilege of recommending policies and procedures affecting the campus as the University as a whole.” We take this obligation to consult with governing bodies seriously.

While you have made a series of proposals reflecting the point of view of your organizations, and while we are always open to hearing the diverse viewpoints of our campus community, we remain committed to working with duly elected campus governing bodies who are charged with representing the campus as a whole. We are also mindful of the fact that not all of the student organizations that have signed your most recent letter are recognized as registered student organizations (RSOs) by the Student Government Association. 

University Partnerships

As a public, land-grant university, UMass Amherst is dedicated to advancing knowledge and opportunity in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the world through teaching, research, and service. In accordance with this mission, UMass Amherst maintains numerous partnerships with entities including, but not limited to, educational institutions, non-governmental organizations, and private industry.

These partnerships, whether they are manifested through internships, recruitment events, or collaborative research, provide our students and faculty with the widest possible range of opportunities to engage in research, scholarship, and employment that align with their individual personal and professional values.

As you yourself have noted, a significant number of students have chosen to explore defense-aligned career paths in research, engineering, and management. These companies also have a large portfolio of non-defense work, including decarbonization, civil aviation, and more. 

It is up to each student to make their own choice to engage or not engage with an employer; it is not the role of the university to make that choice on their behalf. Therefore, the university will not take actions that limit opportunities for its students and faculty. To do so would be counter to our core values.

The university, as a public institution constitutionally bound by the First Amendment, is, and will remain, content-neutral on which companies may join career fairs or host informational recruiting sessions so long as they meet our non-discrimination and recruiting guidelines. For these reasons, the university does not support your call for disassociating with industry partners.

Recently, you also wrote that “The UMass Endowment – Our Tuition Money – is hidden from us. We have no clue where our tuition money is invested.” I would like to clarify that none of your tuition money is invested in the endowment; your tuition only funds the annual operations of the university. 

You shared that you wish to increase the number of employers visiting campus dedicated to a “demilitarized and sustainable future.” If there are specific employers you would like to build engagement with at the university, please let us know so that we can connect with them and share information about on-campus recruiting. 

Academic Boycotts

The university’s stance in opposition to academic boycotts and the BDS movement more broadly remains unchanged. UMass fundamentally opposes academic boycotts of any kind. Such actions are antithetical to the concept of academic freedom and inhibit the free flow of ideas that is essential to fostering greater understanding among peoples. 

Rejecting Hatred

You also ask that I, and the university, “reject hatred and discrimination on campus and support Palestinian, Arab, Muslim, and Jewish students.” Members of my administration and I have made our stance clear, publicly and repeatedly — we stand against all forms of hate and will provide support to every student no matter their background or beliefs. Any form of discrimination in our community is unacceptable and against both our values and our policies

One way in which we aim to advance dignity and build understanding in our diverse community is the Community, Democracy, and Dialogue (CDD) initiative. The initiative was launched to help our community navigate complex, challenging, and controversial subjects. I hope you will engage in this shared work.

Student Conduct

You ask that UMass “drop the charges” for students who were arrested in October of 2023. I find it important, again, to recognize that the students were not arrested or sanctioned for exercising their right to demonstrate. They were arrested for refusing a lawful order to vacate a closed building. 

The Code of Student Conduct outlines the procedures for sanction appeals. Any appeals, like the initial conduct cases themselves, will be handled in a content-neutral manner aligned with our policies and practice.

I want to reaffirm my commitment to leading and supporting a campus dedicated to advancing justice and equity. I also want to reaffirm our commitment to free expression in all forms; as a public institution guided by our values and bound by the First Amendment, UMass firmly believes that challenging ideas should be explored and debated within a space of civility and inclusion. 

As outlined in our Picketing Code, while every student has the right to free expression, that right does not extend to behavior that, “for any reason of time, place, or type of behavior materially disrupts class work or other university business, or involves substantial disorder or invasion of the rights of others.” This policy, like the Land Use Policy, ensures our community can foster mutual respect and expression of divergent views under the protection of the First Amendment. These policies, by necessity, are blind to politics or beliefs — they protect all equally. 

There may be some among your organizations who may feel these policies have been used to censor you; it is the opposite. These policies have been used, repeatedly, to defend your rights to free expression and deny calls to censor your protected speech. 

In that spirit, I hope we can continue to model civil discourse for a world all too familiar with louder, less nuanced, and less effective means of persuasion. 

Javier Reyes
Chancellor

Dec. 15, 2023: A Look Toward the Spring 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

 

Nov. 5, 2023: A Message from Student Affairs and Campus Police Leadership

Dear UMass Amherst Community,  

We are writing today to share information on a deeply disturbing incident that occurred at the conclusion of an otherwise peaceful event on campus on Friday.

UMass Hillel organized “Bring Them Home: Solidarity Walk and Installation,” which featured a Shabbat table set with empty seats representing each of the 240 hostages taken during Hamas’ October 7 attack in Israel. As the gathering was concluding, an individual approached participants and made aggressive and rude gestures. Later, this person returned, assaulted a student who was holding an Israeli flag, and proceeded to steal and spit on the flag. Fortunately, the student who was assaulted was not injured. 

UMass Police investigated and arrested a suspect, identified as a UMass Amherst student, that night. The individual was released on bail, with conditions prohibiting them from returning to campus. The student will be subject to the legal consequences of their actions as well as the Student Code of Conduct.  

What this student is accused of is reprehensible, illegal, and unacceptable. Let us be clear, these were the actions of an individual who did not speak for nor act on behalf of a group or anyone other than themselves. Peaceful advocacy and protest must and will be protected on our campus.

Since October 7, faculty and students have held film screenings, lectures and demonstrations meant to bring perspective to one of the most complex and polarizing conflicts of our time. Let us take the opportunity to support one another and our community through this incredibly challenging time. 

Antisemitism, Islamophobia, or any form of bigotry have no place in our community, and we are committed to ensuring that our community’s engagement with opposing viewpoints is maintained in a respectful manner. 

While there are no indications of any credible threats to the UMass community, UMass Police continue to be vigilant in ensuring the safety of our campus and our students. If you have concerns about safety, contact UMPD at 413-545-3111, or 911 in an emergency. Support is also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, through the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health at 413-545-2337.  

Sincerely,

Shelly Perdomo-Ahmed
Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life

Tyrone Parham
Assistant Vice Chancellor and Chief of Police

Oct. 26, 2023: Campus Activism at UMass Amherst

Dear Campus Community,

The University of Massachusetts Amherst has a long-standing history of respecting and valuing student activism. Last night hundreds in our community came together to peacefully exercise the right to demonstrate and seek change. Today student leaders met in the Chancellor’s Office to continue this dialogue with senior leaders of the university.

Activism such as what we’ve experienced here over the last week lies at the heart of free speech and vigorous, public debate. The university stands by its commitment to protect that right even, and especially, when some pause to speak in a tense atmosphere, or people are made to feel invisible in the public square.  

At the same time, we also emphasize the responsibility that comes with exercising these rights. All members of our community are expected to engage in conversations about sensitive topics with respect for the perspectives and experiences of others. The reach of advocacy protected by free speech on our campus is not limited to our campus, and actions and words may draw the attention and engagement of those who do not share our points of view.

We protect the rights of our community to hear and be heard without harassment or threats. We will not tolerate any member of our community threatening the safety of another; if you or someone you know has been the target of such behavior, please make a report so that the appropriate office may follow up. Islamophobic and anti-Semitic attacks are beyond unacceptable in our community.

We know, too, that we are grappling with the arrest of more than 50 members of our community for refusing a lawful order to depart a university building after it was closed. Members of the Student Affairs and Campus Life team were at the Whitmore Administration Building until 2:30 a.m. this morning to provide support and guidance to every student, no matter what brought them to that space. Everyone who was arrested has been released, and we will reach out to them individually as they navigate the next steps of both the judicial process and the university’s Code of Student Conduct process.

To be clear, no one was arrested for their views, and everyone was provided multiple opportunities to leave well after Whitmore officially closed. As stated in our Demonstration Guidelines, “Demonstrators entering campus buildings to conduct orderly and peaceful demonstrations may not … remain in buildings after the close of regular hours of operation.” Our policies, like our commitment to support, apply to every member of our community without regard to their beliefs.

The last few weeks have seen long-active conflict in the Middle East develop into open war. With thousands of Israeli and Palestinian casualties, our hearts break for those in the region, across the globe, and here in Amherst affected by this violence. As a community, we are committed to the care of every one of our students, and we know that events such as these can take a toll on one’s mental health and wellbeing. Finding the opportunity to be connected to university resources and with peers may be helpful in the days and weeks to come. Students: Please communicate with your faculty if you are facing new challenges related to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, or the subsequent events and actions here on campus. If you are experiencing distress, the Center for Counseling and Psychological Health (CCPH) offers online resources, same-day consultations, and other opportunities for conversations that provide emotional and mental health support.

The Employee Counseling and Consultation Office (ECCO) offers free and confidential counseling to staff and faculty.

We know that it feels like there is little room for dialogue on the heart-wrenching issues we are facing. The public debate and social forums, both virtual and in person, can feel less like an open square and more like a divide that can only be yelled across with increasingly loud voices. This is where UMass, and where higher education, has a critical role – by making room for the necessary work of teaching, learning and dialogue.

Sincerely,

Javier Reyes
Chancellor

Shelly Perdomo-Ahmed
Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life

Oct. 10, 2023: Statement on War in the Middle East

Dear Campus Community,

Like so many of you, I have watched with horror and despair as the violence across Israel and the Palestinian territories erupted this weekend. The attack on Israel by Hamas, with the kidnapping and murder of civilians — acts of terror which we vehemently condemn — and the escalation of the conflict to all-out war have led to untold suffering and tremendous loss of Israeli and Palestinian life. 

At this challenging moment, our primary focus is to support our students, faculty and staff affected by these tragic events, regardless of their views on the underlying conflict. The effects of this violence reach beyond any border, nationality or identity, and I want to ensure that every member of our community knows that UMass Amherst is here to support them. Over the weekend, my team has been in touch with members of our community studying in the area to ensure their safety and assist in evacuation. We will also make every effort to reach out to international students from the region and students with families in the area to offer our support. Resources for students, faculty and staff are listed below.

I fear that the humanitarian crisis that is unfolding as the violence intensifies will deepen scars across the region and the world. Yet I am hopeful that in our own university community, through civil and respectful dialogue, those individuals who hold opposing views on the causes of the conflict can work toward greater understanding rather than division.

As an institution devoted to teaching, research and scholarship, UMass Amherst has a responsibility to resist the call of polarization. We are committed to building a community of dignity and respect where opposing viewpoints can be shared in a safe, respectful environment.

What we strive to do, as difficult as it may be, is to move forward as a learning community and to listen, to learn, and, through better understanding, to find compassion for those with whom we may deeply disagree. Our university community is drawn from every corner of the globe. We take pride in this, and look to our student, staff and faculty diversity as a means to bridge divides, to seek solutions, and to make the world a better place, even as we cope with momentously tragic events such as the one unfolding before us today.

Sincerely,
Chancellor Javier Reyes
 

CAMPUS RESOURCES
For Students

For Employees
The Employee Counseling and Consultation Office (ECCO) offers free and confidential counseling to staff and faculty. Please reach out if you would like support for yourself or if you want a confidential space to discuss how to offer support to students.