UMass: Police probing racist act College of Engineering

  • The University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) campus. Courtesy photo

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

AMHERST — A student organization’s bulletin board at the University of Massachusetts Amherst was vandalized earlier this month in what school officials are considering a racist act.

Pictures and bios for two students of color were removed from a bulletin board at a College of Engineering building, while those of white students were left untouched, according to school officials. The targeted removal, which was discovered on Oct. 17, has been reported to the dean of students and campus police, and university spokesman Daniel Fitzgibbons confirmed that police are investigating the incident.

“We do not know if the individual or individuals responsible are members of the Engineering community,” Tim Anderson, dean of the College of Engineering, said in a statement. “Such acts of bigotry are not acceptable within our community and will not be tolerated. Individuals committing such acts are not welcome within our spaces.”

The act of vandalism is the latest in a series of bias incidents at local institutions of higher education. Authorities said two juveniles left a noose on Amherst College’s football field earlier this month, and black students at Westfield State University were targeted with racist and sexist vandalism at their dorms last month. This spring, a white supremacist organization’s fliers were placed on vehicles in a UMass Amherst parking lot.

“I think that there’s so much going on across the country right now that these issues are very present on a lot of campuses, because it’s where a lot of this discussion happens,” Paula Rees, the engineering college’s assistant dean of diversity, said in an interview. “The college just wanted to make sure we’re in front of it and we’re trying to promote a dialogue.”

Rees declined to specify which group’s bulletin board was vandalized or which building it was in, but said that there are no surveillance cameras monitoring the building, which is open to the public.

As a response to these types of incidents, Rees pointed to the “Hate Has No Home at UMass” campaign that the university launched this year to push back against bigotry.

“It’s just something that the college does care deeply about, that our students do feel welcome — all of our students,” Rees said.

“So much of our college is made up of white males that we have to be able to have a discussion, we have to have allies to support a culture that’s welcoming and inclusive of diversity in all its forms.”

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.