UMass students, faculty press for more pushback on government actions

  • KumbleSubbaswamy

Staff Writer
Thursday, February 16, 2017

Continuing concerns over whether University of Massachusetts officials are acting swiftly enough in making the campus a safe place for all students, especially non-citizens, are prompting a series of actions by students and faculty.

The Student Government Association is considering sending a letter to Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and President Marty Meehan, as well as the board of trustees, after what it describes in a resolution as “constant calls and threats for racist, xenophobic orders and policies” under President Trump.

“Every day we are facing a new threat,” reads a resolution that was withdrawn from consideration by the elected student leaders, but is expected to be brought back after it is rewritten and discussed further.

“The lives of our brothers and sisters are being ripped apart. These times call for courage that resonates with our deeply held principles, above and beyond conformity to unjust laws.”

In the letter, the SGA would demand that UMass become a sanctuary campus system, commit to not complying with Immigration and Customs Enforcement under any circumstances, and work toward making Amherst a sanctuary city.

In addition, UMass would be asked to provide assistance to refugees seeking asylum, and establish an action plan for supporting Muslim students, faculty and staff, and others racially profiled in connection with the ban and at risk of deportation or losing their immigration status.

Subbaswamy already has stressed UMass’ commitment to protecting all staff and students. In January he sent a letter to remind students, faculty and staff of the campus commitment to free speech, diversity and social consciousness.

Subbaswamy wrote that the university would “pledge to do everything within our legal and moral authority to protect (the campus community), no matter their national origin, race, religion, socioeconomic status, sexual identity or immigration status.”

In that email, Subbaswamy reiterated that the university will not tolerate the noticeable increase of “hate speech” following the 2016 election, and cited the Bridge Act, a piece of legislation introduced in Congress by a bipartisan group that would offer temporary relief from deportation to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients. Those are students who came to the United States as undocumented children and have remained in the country.

Meanwhile, the Faculty Senate is set to vote Thursday on a resolution, proposed by the Rules Committee at its Feb. 8 meeting that would take a stance on “Recently Adopted Additional Restrictions on Certain Individuals’ Ability to Enter the United States of America.”

The resolution expresses “outrage at recent Trump administration actions imposing additional and severe restrictions on the ability of individual nationals of certain countries and religious backgrounds to enter or return to the United States.”

That action not only undermines American values, but “we at the University of Massachusetts Amherst are directly affected by these measures because, as is true at colleges and universities across the country, faculty and students on our campus benefit greatly from being able to study, teach, and conduct research with students and scholars from all parts of the world. We believe it is critical that our country continues to welcome students, scholars, scientists, and engineers of all backgrounds and nationalities.”

The UMass Amherst Sanctuary Campus Movement is also continuing its focus on aims to have UMass declare itself a sanctuary campus system, with the possibility of a student strike Friday.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.