Hundreds of UMass students march to protest campus racism

The march was also intended to call for further action from the University

By Alvin Buyinza, Assistant News Editor and Assistant Photo Editor

Hundreds of students from the University of Massachusetts marched from the Whitmore Administration building to the Student Union on Sept. 27 to spread awareness of the racist incident that occurred in Melville Hall.

Last Saturday, the message “Hang Melville n******” was written on a bathroom mirror in the lobby of Melville Hall in Southwest Residential Area, prompting the University to hold a meeting in the residence hall responding to the incident. Many students from several cultural organizations have pressured UMass to take further action.

Earlier in September, an anonymous call to police about claims of an “agitated Black male” was made, but it turned out to be a University employee who had been walking to work.

“There have been several racial incidents—hate crimes—against people of color on campus,” said Nuha Futa, president of UMass Amnesty International. “We don’t feel like it’s been getting enough awareness or enough action from the administration, so we are all calling together on campus to march to bring awareness to those who may have not known and to let the administration know that we’re serious about this.”

Around 12:30 p.m. a large group of students led by Futa and Co-President of UMass Amnesty Ivis Batista began marching from Whitmore to the Student Union. Many of the students wore black and several carried signs reading, “Stand with Melville,” “We will be heard without a choice” and “Accountability is only the first step.” As the crowd marched toward the Student Union, people chanted “We won’t stand still, we stand with Melville” and “UMass face it, it was racist.”

Nuha Futa, center, holds up her megaphone and cheers. (Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

At the Student Union, Batista spoke in front of hundreds of marchers to call for more administrative action.

“Today we speak about how important it is for this University to make this campus a safe place for everyone,” Batista said. “We will no longer allow for the administration to send their thoughts and apologies with no action.”

“Accountability is not only about what you will do, it’s also about what you do not do,” she said, speaking specifically about the University-wide email about the racial profiling incident sent out on September 16 titled “Campus Incident and a Cause for Reflection,” which she said was “invalidating” to the experiences of students of color by using euphemisms to describe the incident.

Ana Dolan, a resident assistant on the third floor of Melville Hall, spoke about how the incident affected her and her residents.

“[This incident] has affected students across this campus. These hateful words were a direct threat to people’s lives. As a result of this person’s actions, students across campus are living in fear. Residents in my building have come to me saying ‘I can’t sleep at night,’ ‘I can’t walk around this campus by myself,’ ‘I don’t feel safe anywhere.’”

Ana Dolan, a Melville resident assistant, speaks to a crowd of marchers. “March on UMass” protest, Sept. 27, 2018. (Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

Dolan also criticized a campus-wide email sent out by the administration after Reginald Andrade, an African-American employee of the University, had the police called on him while he was walking to work. In the email, the University calls for “everyone’s participation in this most important undertaking.”

“My question is ‘Where is the University’s participation and acknowledgement of this incident?’ This University has yet to publicly and directly address this issue, by taking this approach the University sends one message: ‘this issue isn’t important enough,’” Dolan said.

Kiara Batista, a freshman resident of Melville Hall, spoke about her experience since the incident, as her floor mates stood beside her.

“I have to walk on this campus with a guard up now, because it is hard to trust anyone I come by. I don’t like living this way and I don’t think anyone here agrees that anyone should live this way. However, despite all the horrible things that have happened, the incident and the way the University is handling this… I am optimistic.”

Kiara Batista, first-year Melville resident, center speaks to a crowd of protestors. (Caroline O’Connor/Daily Collegian)

“As a member of this community I would like to feel at home again in my own home, to truly be safe in this place that this University calls home. If I truly matter at UMass, this has to be done,” she said. “They keep telling us that Melville is our home and that we’re going to be safe, but you know we’re the ones that have to live there and it doesn’t feel safe, so all I want is for it to be safe again.”

Batista then reminded everyone at the protest to attend the Student Government Association forum at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in Bartlett Hall where the UMass Police Department will be discussing the recent incidents of racism with students.

Later on, Thursday afternoon, the Chancellor’s office sent a campus-wide email titled “United Against Acts of Hate.” The email said the racist incident is “being thoroughly investigated by UMPD,” and that the University is “fully committed to ensuring a safe and welcoming environment for every member of our campus community.”

The email invited the community to attend a discussion called “The Problem of the Color Line: A Discussion of Racism and Racial Profiling on Campus” on October 2 at 5 p.m. in the Cape Cod Lounge.

Alvin Buyinza can be reached at [email protected] and followed on twitter at abuyinza_news.