Student activists hold sit-in at Whitmore, create list of demands from administration

Students call for a second public forum and permanent disassociation from Theta Chi

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McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

By Sophia Gardner and Jack Schneeman

On Wednesday afternoon, around 30 students gathered in the Whitmore Administration Building outside of Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy’s office to call on the University of Massachusetts administration to take action regarding sexual assault on campus.

The sit-in was the latest event in a series of protests against alleged incidents of sexual assault and racism at the University, which ignited in mid-September after a Theta Chi fraternity brother was anonymously accused of sexual assault on social media.

“I wasn’t aware of how much this was an ongoing issue before I started to do my own research,” said sophomore BDIC major Anna Morel-Paletta, referring to a pattern of sexual assault on campus and the difficulty of reporting such occurrences.

Morel-Paletta helped organize the sit-in, and in conjunction with several other student activists, created a list of five demands from the administration that students advocated for at the protest.

According to a press release sent out on Wednesday, the demands are as follows:

  1. “Hold a second and better publicized Open Forum for students to speak to the administration about their concerns surrounding the issues on campus as of late.”
  2. “Implement the Survivor’s Bill of Rights.
    1. Proposed amendments must be discussed in a public forum, with adequate advance notice for such a forum.”
  3. “Permanent disassociation from Theta Chi due to their continued violence towards UMass students, along with a full investigation into the reports.”
  4.  “Start a student task force to address sexual violence on this campus and support survivors when coming forward with their story.
    1. The student task force will provide every survivor with a student advocate from the group.”
  5. “Create strictly enforced disciplinary guidelines for Greek life to ensure they are safe for Students
    1. Suspensions, expulsions, and any reinstatements must be publicly announced, along with detailed reasons for these actions
    2. This must include denying re-entry for past suspended fraternities and those that are expelled in the future.”

In addition to the demands, Morel-Paletta is hoping to implement an email campaign that would provide students with a template to email directly to the Chancellor. She also runs an Instagram account, @disband.theta.umass, which has amassed over 1,000 followers since its creation in September.

Joshua Brown, a 2021 UMass graduate, returned to campus to participate in the sit-in.

“I feel the University has not been doing enough to protect all its students and employees,” Brown said. “This was supposed to be a welcoming environment for everyone, regardless of race, gender, orientation, religion, etc.”

Taylor Lennon, a senior theater major, attended the protest to advocate for more avenues for students who want to report sexual assault.

“I feel that there should be routes created outside of the police, because most marginalized communities do not feel safe with the police,” Lennon said. “Most UMass students do not feel safe with police, either.”

Half an hour into the protest, students gathered in a circle on the floor to discuss their negative experiences with Greek life on campus. The protestors discussed several subjects, including  the lack of safety at fraternities and their displeasure with the University’s response to recent protests thus far.

Shortly after, the students moved the sit-in to the Office of Student Affairs and Campus Life, hoping to meet with either Vice Chancellor Brandi Hephner LaBanc or Dean of Students Evelyn Ashley.

Administrative assistants informed the students that both officials would likely be too busy to meet with them on Wednesday and reminded them they would be required to vacate the building by 5 p.m.

Before leaving, the student activists gave the employee working at the front desk of the office a physical copy of their demands and asked that it be passed on to LaBanc.

Sophia Gardner can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @sophieegardnerr. Jack Schneeman can be reached at [email protected].