UMass Divest and proponents of sanctuary campus will not be allowed to speak at Board of Trustees meeting

By Stuart Foster

Collegian file photo
Collegian file photo

The University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees will not allow the UMass Amherst Sanctuary Campus Movement and UMass Divest to provide a public comment at their meeting on Friday, according to a press release sent by the two excluded groups.

Hundreds of UMass students and faculty members demonstrated in support of the University being deemed a sanctuary campus – colleges that protect undocumented immigrant students from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement –  at the Whitmore Administration Building on Nov. 16.

“The Board of Trustees has a responsibility to the international members of the UMass community who are vulnerable, under threat and in need of protections from the fascist and unjust deportation practices of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement,” said Ghazah Abbasi, an organizer in the UMass Amherst Sanctuary Campus movement and a sociology Ph.D student, in the release. “The Board also has a responsibility to duly listen to and fully incorporate the demands of student groups – that is how democratic governance works.”

The press release implied that publicly speaking at such a meeting could be an important step toward the reclassification of UMass, saying that Divest UMass had been allowed to speak at five such meetings since 2014. The release said consistent participation at these meetings was “crucial” to convincing the Board of Trustees to divest from direct holdings in fossil fuels.

Divest UMass had requested time to speak at Friday’s meeting to ask for public accountability on their decision to divest.

“Given the historic struggle that is taking place at Standing Rock, with native people defending their water and sacred land against the relentless violence of the fossil fuel industry, it is crucial that our university publicly ensure that they are divested from the corporations building the Dakota Access Pipeline and all corporations perpetuating climate injustice and environmental racism around the world,” said Sarah Jacqz, an undergraduate organizer of the Divest UMass campaign.

Anna-Claire Simpson, an English Ph.D student and organizer with the UMass Sanctuary Campus Movement, said in the release that the incoming presidency of Donald Trump necessitated immediate action from the Board of Trustees to ensure enactment of divestment from fossil fuels and to protect people on campus targeted by Trump’s promises of mass deportation.

“Our university leaders have a responsibility to listen to the voices of students, faculty and staff who are working towards justice for the most vulnerable people in our community and in our country,” Simpson said.

The Board of Trustees will meet in the Old Chapel at UMass at 9:00 a.m. this Friday.

Stuart Foster can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster.