A linen banner hangs above the Campus Center. Flyers lay alongside the napkin dispensers in the dining halls. Buttons sit in bowls on library tables. This time it’s not to remind the students that the University is indeed rated number one in campus dining, but instead to say “Hate has no home at UMass.”
This is not the first campaign to focus on creating a campus community of care, compassion and active engagement. Last year “UMatter at UMass” was plastered on the walls across campus. But, what is the meaning behind this campaign? Does UMass really believe that “UMatter” or is it simply another public relations stunt?
“I think it’s BS. If they really cared they would do more than just talk about it. They’d take action. They’d restore the gender neutral bathroom in Baker. They’d make UMass a Sanctuary Campus. The administration is covering their asses,” said sophomore psychology major Akira Rose.
According to UMass spokesperson Edward Blaguszewski, the idea for the campaign came from the statement Chancellor Subbaswamy released to campus following the alt-right riot in Charlottesville, Virginia mid-August.
“The horrific events that unfolded over the weekend at the University of Virginia and the surrounding community of Charlottesville make it abundantly clear that we are living in a time when bigotry, racism, anti-Semitism and hatred have found their way into our mainstream social discourse,” wrote Subbaswamy.
“We condemn the actions of these white supremacists and neo-Nazis and we reject the false equivalence that suggests there are ‘many sides’ to this sort of hate,” he continued, referencing President Trump’s initial statement to the riot.
He finished with one simple statement: Hate has no home at UMass.
According to Blaguszewski, the Chancellor’s statement was the founding framework for the campaign, underscoring UMass principle values of diversity, inclusion and respect for all people, regardless of viewpoint or background.
Aliza Yaillen, a senior Hillel student double majoring in animal science and English was happy to hear about the campaign on campus, but believes it’s implementation could be better.
“As a Jewish student, and someone who believes in goodness in people, I wanted to see how the campaign would help people on campus feel more comfortable on our not-very-diverse campus…Sadly, I think while the campaign itself is a great idea, the implementation so far has been sub-par,” Yaillen said.
Alongside banners, the University made a web package to follow their campaign. The site lists events, their values and progress, action students can take, latest news following the campaign, a digital and social media toolkit, student resources, bias reporting and crisis support systems.
“We have for some time been very focused on building a diverse and inclusive community,” Blaguszewski said, referencing last year’s Campus Climate survey in which the results have helped the University see where they are doing well and where they need to improve. He said that the results of that survey would be provided in more detail over the course of the semester.
When asked about certain policy in place against the racism and bigotry on campus, Blaguszewski recommended to look at the website.
He also recommended resources for students for dealing with and confronting incidents of disrespect and hate, which, along with the campus climate survey, will be distributed to all of the colleges and administrative units over the course of the semester.
“This will help at the grassroots level. What are the concerns, what is the climate at these individual levels and how can we address them? If you don’t have that solid data, you really can’t take those steps,” Blaguszewski said.
Anthony Vitale, Student Government Association president, viewed the campaign as beneficial to the campus community.
“First point, I think the initiative is legitimate…I think the slogan is more than just a slogan because it is backed up by actionable standards,” Vitale said. He listed the angel fund and the task force behind the slogan as two examples. He also added that some responsibility lies on the students.
“The power comes down to students on this campus. The university can only do so much and us as students can really do more. We can live that message and really put in that practice,” Vitale said.
Caeli Chesin can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @caeli_chesin.