SGA debates motion to urge chancellor to defund UMass police

SGA also voted on appointments and committee changes

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Nina Walat/ Daily Collegian

By Alex Genovese, Collegian Staff

At the final meeting of the University of Massachusetts Student Government Association for the semester, the Senate discussed a motion to urge Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy to defund the UMass Police Department.

According to the motion, the SGA “implores Chancellor Subbawamy to release and abide by a plan to defund UMPD” with the funds being reallocated to other organizations such as “CMASS, the Cultural Centers, the Stonewall Center, CWC, UHS, CCPH, Men and Masculinities Center, the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, and the Veteran Student Resource Center.”

The motion set the deadline for the chancellor’s plan to be Sept. 1, 2021 and the complete defunding to be by Sept. 1, 2022.

“Obviously, there have been so many instances of police brutality [nationally],” explained Chair Audrey Gabriel. In a presentation by Gabriel and Senator Adrienne Ashe, the senators explained the motion and tried to clear up misconceptions. “This motion does NOT endorse a specific plan for how funding and responsibilities will be transferred to other university services,” read the presentation.

According to a survey of 193 students, 177 (91.7 percent) of them supported the motion.

“I really think that the conversation around defunding UMPD is really important,” said Associate Speaker Meher Gandhi. Gandhi, however, raised her concern with a lack of consultation and support from the larger student body.

Some senators expressed similar concerns about how only 4.8 percent of the student body responded. Senators also expressed concern about the lack of demographic information of supporters, specifically BIPOC students.

The chat was contentious, with arguments breaking out surrounding response quotas and BIPOC/RJC demands. Senator Jack Murray brought the comparison of QAnon support in terms of whether national support demonstrates approval by UMass students, claiming “QAnon is kind of popular on a national level. Should we operate based on that?”

Some senators quickly expressed opposition to this comment. Senator Aliana Liz Tavares sent in the chat, “I find it odd to bring up how black students are affected by UMPD and Black issues in general, but not focus on getting their input.”

There were also discussions around the disarmament of UMPD. Senator Nicholas DeFranco was vocal about his questioning of disarmament of the UMPD, with other Senator Julia Carino writing, “Nick, i’m really happy that you’ve never felt unsafe around an armed police officer, but it’s incorrect to assume your experience is universal.”

DeFranco responded, “I am making legitimate, serious, good-faith points and instead of answering my questions you resort to trying to demonize me. Completely irresponsible and bad-faith replies. I am not and have never implied anything nefarious or racist, I am bringing up important logistical questions. Unreal.”

The Senate voted to table the motion due to a lack of consultation.

Additionally, the Senate voted to confirm President Prabhu Rajkumar’s secretary of technology nominee but failed to confirm the secretary of external affairs position. Issues arose around the candidate’s experience, knowledge of the role, and membership in Greek life.

The chat was also contentious surrounding the SGA’s relationship with Amherst Police Department, a concern which was eventually ruled dilatory by Speaker Julia Fox as it did not relate to the qualifications of the secretary of external affairs nominee.

The Senate also appointed six senators to the Coordinating Council, the SGA’s summer sessions and voted to appoint committee chairs to their respective committees.

Finally, the senate voted to convert the Finance Committee to a subcommittee under the Ways and Means Committee.

Alex Genovese can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @alex_genovese1.