To the editor:
Beginning Sunday, Jan. 29, a University of Massachusetts student distributed a letter to several thousand members of the campus community. In the letter, the student expressed very real sentiments about loneliness, isolation and his angst about the compartmentalized nature of social circles on most college campuses. There were no explicit threats and after several days of investigating the matter, we now know there were no threats implied. It is clear, however, that the letter was disruptive and unsettling. Well-intentioned students called and emailed several offices on campus en masse, concerned about the welfare of the writer and the safety of the campus.
In response, the University took compassionate, quick-moving and thought-out steps to assess the situation with two goals in mind: (1) support a member of the community obviously in distress and (2) identify and then mitigate any potential threat to the UMass community. We believe that we achieved those goals. That work is nuanced and despite our best efforts we realized we would not be able to assuage every concern while maintaining confidentiality standards. The shared commitment we’ve made to creating a holistically safe living and learning environment was our guiding standard.
I know the letter triggered concerns and a flood of emotions across campus. The general themes that the student identified in his letter – loneliness and isolation – are very real issues. If the letter raised those concerns for you or a friend, please reach out to the various offices dedicated to supporting students, including, Counseling and Assessment Services, Dean of Students Office, Residential Life, Religious and Spiritual Life, Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success, Center for Student Development.
Thank you for proactively and sensitively reaching out to University officials to express your thoughts in this matter. Ultimately, the health, welfare and security of our campus is a shared responsibility and in the past few days UMass has demonstrated a sincere commitment to those common goals.
Dean of Students and Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and
University of Massachusetts Amherst