Bigotry-fueled vandalism at the College of Engineering

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Called an act of bigotry by University of Massachusetts Dean at the College of Engineering Tim Anderson, a bulletin board for one of the college’s student organizations was vandalized; the photos and bios of the organization’s members of color were removed.

According to an email sent out by Anderson on Oct. 27, the incident occurred the week prior and was reported to both the Dean of Students and the UMass Police Department. Anderson also noted how the photos of white students on the bulletin “were left untouched.”

Since the incident occurred in one of the College of Engineering’s buildings, it is considered an act of vandalism according to Paula Rees, director of the Diversity Programs Office (DPO) of the College of Engineering. Rees further described the incident, stating that two of the removed bios and pictures were of officers in one of the DPO’s professional organizations — specifically, a core discipline organization associated with the engineering major.

Additionally, Rees said the College of Engineering does not know who committed the act, as non-engineering students and staff frequent the halls where the incident took place.

“Such acts of bigotry are not acceptable within our community and will not be tolerated,” Anderson stated in the Oct. 27 email to students, staff and faculty in the College of Engineering. “Individuals committing such acts are not welcome within our spaces. UMass and the College of Engineering stand united in defense of diversity and inclusion, and we reject all forms of bigotry and hatred.”

Anderson continued, “College of Engineering members wishing to discuss issues related to harassment, diversity, equity, and inclusion are welcome to talk with trusted staff and faculty members or with Dr. Rees.”

According to Rees, DPO works with the College of Engineering’s multicultural community to determine the resources they need. The office also works with the University to create a culture of inclusivity. DPO’s website states that the office “provides academic and non-academic support to increase enrollment, retention and graduation among under-represented minorities and women.”

DPO’s over 20 student organizations and programs include the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers and the Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers, mentioned Rees.

“We support all of our students,” Rees told the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, emphasizing the College’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. “It’s not okay to target any group of individuals.”

Rees also said, “We’re not trying to infringe on anybody’s free speech rights.”

Anderson’s message was later reaffirmed by Daniel Fitzgibbons, associate director at the University’s Office of News and Media Relations.

“Dean Tim Anderson’s statement reflects the stance of the university regarding the incident,” Fitzgibbons said.

News of this incident comes less than a week after a racially discriminating message was written outside of a UMass professor’s office. The UMass police are investigating the incident at the College of Engineering, and urge members of the campus community to come forward with any information that could lead to identifying those responsible, Fitzgibbons said.

Jackson Cote can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @jackson_k_cote.