Students gather outside of Chancellor’s office in continuing protest over sexual assault allegations

The crowd flooded the halls of the Whitmore Administration Building, calling on administrators to hear the students’ requests for reform

McKenna+Premus+%2F+Daily+Collegian+

McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

By Sara Abdelouahed and Liesel Nygard

Over 100 protestors gathered inside the Whitmore Administration Building on Friday afternoon in response to sexual assault allegations that arose against the Theta Chi fraternity last weekend at the University of Massachusetts. The crowd drew out various administrators who addressed the group and encouraged students to set up a meeting with them at a later time. 

The protesters initially gathered outside but quickly entered the building, making their way to the office of the Provost and Chancellor. Spilling into the hallway, the attendees sat and engaged in discussions about sexual assault, disbanding Theta Chi and reforming the reporting process for victims. 

“The administration will label it as a public annoyance rather than a sexual assault,” Jack Myers, a junior political science major, said to the crowd. 

Chants spread across the sea of sitting students, asking for Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy and calling the administration cowards. 

 Upon hearing that Subbaswamy was not in his office, the protestors moved down the hall to the office of Student Affairs and Campus Life, where they were addressed by the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life Brandi Hephner LaBanc. 

McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

“I’m very interested in knowing some of the leaders that want to work with us to talk about this,” she said to the crowd. LeBanc requested that a small group of eight to 10 of the student organizers meet with administration at a later time to discuss their requests and recommendations for change. 

“I’m not going to get into questioning and answering here because there is a lot to unpack and a lot to talk about,” she said. 

When asked by one of the attendees if the small meeting could be recorded, LeBanc told the crowd “not at this time.” 

Shelly Perdomo, the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Life, was also present during the exchange. 

“I look forward to having a conversation along with Vice Chancellor LeBanc and other administrators as well. This is very important,” Perdomo said.

Students expressed frustration following the exchange with administrators. 

“It’s fair to say that we are disappointed in the lack of conversations that have happened,” sophomore Anika Nayak said. “This is a conversation that we’ve been trying to have for quite literally decades.”

Ava Hawkes, a sophomore majoring in social thought and political economy, echoed the sentiment. 

“I wouldn’t trust going into a meeting privately or with eight to 10 people. I wouldn’t trust going into that sort of meeting with an administrator because I don’t trust the administrators and I don’t look forward to getting manipulated,” she said.

Upon leaving the building, the protestors convened outside and discussed the offer for a small group to meet with the administration. Using a show of hands, they voted on whether or not to take them up on it. The group voted to decline the offer in an overwhelming majority vote.

McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

“We are not comfortable with isolating that opportunity to eight to 10 people, mostly because it feels like a way to get out of hearing the larger group,” Nayak explained. 

Friday’s protest was organized by a coalition of student organizers who collectively want change surrounding sexual assault at the University. Nayak, a women, gender, sexuality studies major, was one one of the lead organizers. 

“This is not an end to anything,” Nayak said of the movement. “This is a thing that’s been going for literally decades, and it’s not ending anytime soon.”

Leaders of the protest encouraged students to show up during parents weekend, a time when there will be a heavy campus presence. They also hope that Subbaswamy will be on campus to hear their concerns. 

“Prospective students and their families deserve to know the danger that these students are in on this campus,” Hawkes said.  

Despite her frustrations, Hawkes said that the protesters made her “confident.” 

“We’re angry, but we’re finding strength in us collectivity, and we’re finding strength in the fact that we share so many of these awful experiences. And I’m really confident about moving forward.” 

We strongly encourage members of our community with information related to the alleged Theta Chi incident or any incident of sexual assault or misconduct to contact university authorities immediately,” UMass Spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski in an email to the Daily Collegian on Sunday.

A variety of confidential options are available, including the Center for Women and Community and the UMass Police. At the directive of survivors, these discussions can then result in the initiation of investigative or disciplinary action.”

Sara Abdelouahed can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @AbdelouahedSara. Liesel Nygard can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @LieselNygard.