Nearly 190 Residential Life staff members declare ‘no confidence’ in Chancellor Subbaswamy’s administration

RA/PM Union publishes open letter to Chancellor Subbaswamy

Collegian+File+Photo

Collegian File Photo

By McKenna Premus, Collegian Staff

The University of Massachusetts Resident Assistant/Peer Mentor Union published an open letter to Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy Monday afternoon stating that “nearly 190 Residential Life staff members, comprising more than two-thirds of all RAs and PMs have voted to declare no confidence” in the chancellor’s administration.

“We tried to warn you,” the letter began. “Yet you, in your desire to collect dining and housing revenue, decided to open campus without the proper safety precautions, leading to the present coronavirus outbreak.”

The letter states that confidence among Residential Life staff can be restored so long as the University meets the Union’s demands calling for increased safety measures and assurance of economic security.

The Union is demanding that the University hire “enough” residential hall security staff and contact tracers as to ensure 24/7 residence hall security and that students are quarantined within hours of testing positive.

The letter also addresses recent reports of student socialization, calling for “all fraternities and other student organizations that host parties and flagrantly flaunt COVID guidelines — such as Theta Chi — [to] face immediate sanctions, up to and including the suspension/revocation of their status as a student organization.” All students found in violation of COVID-19 guidelines “shall be removed from campus and educated about the seriousness of COVID-19 once they are off campus,” per the letter.

Regarding economic security, the Union demands that “UMass shall continue to employ and fully pay all student workers, and shall reimburse students for lost wages — both from on-campus and off-campus employment — due to the present and all future self-sequester, isolation, or quarantine orders.”

Additionally, the Union demands that the University continue to fully employ and compensate student workers, staff and faculty for the entirety of the spring 2021 semester, even in the event of a campus-wide shut-down due to COVID-19.

Members of the RA/PM Union remain hopeful that the University will consider the proposed demands and make efforts to introduce increased safety measures.

“RAs and PMs gathered together rapidly, and demonstrated strong support for positive change,” said RA/PM Union member William Cole in an email. “We are eager for UMass to make the correct decisions this time around.”

University spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski asserts that the University remains committed to working with residential staff amid the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.

“UMass Amherst is working closely with the campus community to address the current surge in COVID-19 cases. Our extensive planning process anticipated the possibility of this occurrence, and we have been taking swift and decisive actions to protect our community,” Blaguszewski said in an email Monday night.

“Resident assistants and peer mentors play a vital role in the community’s efforts to deter the spread of the virus, and the university believes their engagement with students is instrumental. We have ongoing discussions with the RAs and PMs and remain committed to working with them to have protocols followed that protect our community’s public health, so that we can return to normal operations, including a resumption of in-person classes and organized student activities,” he continued.

“Although the worst of the outbreak seems over, it is clear that changes must be made to prevent future outbreaks,” the Union’s letter stated. “The time has come for UMass to make serious investments in the safety and wellbeing of its students.”

McKenna Premus can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @mckenna_premus.