UMass CRC loses office space after vandalism

By Aviva Luttrell

The University of Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition could be facing a year without an office.

Matthew Harrison/Collegian
Matthew Harrison/Collegian

The Student Government Association rescinded the CRC’s new office space in the Student Union earlier this month after a marijuana leaf was found painted on the wall of its former space sometime during the weekend of Sept. 7.

“It was more than just an office to us,” CRC President Erin Ackley stated in an email interview. “Most of our members joined simply by walking by the office and talking to people inside.”

The Cannabis Reform Coalition had occupied the same space in the Student Union for at least the past 10 years, according to Ackley. However, this year when Nick Barton took the reins as Secretary of the Registry for the SGA, he decided to change prior practice and reallocate office space.

In an email interview, Barton said he made the decision to encourage other registered student organizations to apply for office spaces. He said that allowing registered student organizations to stay in the same space year to year deters other student groups from applying, because these groups assume that the spaces are unavailable.

“I want groups to think of their office like students think of their dorm rooms,” Barton said. “I want them to make it home and a productive place for their group, but to also be prepared to leave it at the end of the year.”

After Barton made the change, he received a record number of applications for the 39 available spots, he said. There are about 250 RSOs on campus.

The CRC applied and was moved to an office space on the fourth floor of the Student Union. The weekend of Sept. 7, according to Barton, as the organization’s former office was being prepared for its new tenant, someone vandalized the newly painted walls and, as a result, the SGA revoked the group’s new office space.

Ackley maintains that the CRC is not responsible for the vandalism. She said there is only one key to the room, which had been turned in before the incident took place.

Ackley said the organization was treated unfairly because the SGA did not warn or consult them before taking action, adding that the vandalism cannot be directly linked to the group.

“I felt blindsided by the SGA’s actions because there were no warnings or discussions before the actions were taken,” Ackley said.

Barton claims he consulted with advisors from the Student Activities and Involvement office, who encouraged him to “freeze” the group, which would have prevented officers from accessing their funds or holding any events. Barton said that he has no interest in stopping the group from being active, and decided to go with the lesser sanction of voiding the CRC’s office space for this year.

Without a space, Ackley said the CRC’s belongings are now spread out across several places in the Student Union.

Barton stated that the organization would be given priority access to new storage lockers, though Ackley has not yet seen them and is unsure that they will be able to accommodate the club’s needs, she said.

Ackley fears that without an office, membership in the Cannabis Reform Coalition will not be as strong as previous years.

She added that having a physical presence on campus helped the organization attract members and was a “tremendous advantage” in organizing Extravaganja, one of the largest events put on by any registered student organization on campus. The annual political rally and music festival attracted nearly 10,000 people to the Amherst Town Common last April, according to the CRC’s website.

The CRC will be eligible to apply for office space in the Student Union again next year.

Aviva Luttrell can be reached at [email protected]