Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Letter: A response to the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees

Response follows May 8 SGA vote of no confidence in Chancellor Javier Reyes
Kalina Kornacki
Daily Collegian (2024)

On May 8, 2024, the University of Massachusetts Undergraduate Senate of the Student Government Association (SGA) passed a motion expressing no confidence in Chancellor Javier Reyes. This decision followed his controversial choice to deploy hundreds of police officers on the UMass campus in response to an encampment that occurred one day prior, an action that has been characterized as causing irreparable harm to the UMass community.

Following the SGA vote, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian reported an email from University Spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski, which contained statements of support for Reyes from UMass President Marty Meehan and Board of Trustees Chairman Stephen Karam.

Karam’s statement failed to address any of the concerns raised by the SGA senators who sponsored the vote of no confidence. He also did not acknowledge the significant feedback from the student consultation poll, in which 91.1 percent of 2,620 respondents expressed no confidence in Reyes’ ability to serve. Karam’s response ignored the overwhelming discontent among the students, making no effort to understand or address their grievances.

Furthermore, Victor Woolridge, former chairman of the UMass Board of Trustees and past chair of the UMass Amherst Chancellor Search Committee, wrote an op-ed for Masslive on May 20, titled “Today’s no-confidence vote at UMass Amherst creates [an] ‘unnecessary air of toxicity’ on campus.” In his piece, Woolridge urged the Faculty Senate to demand specific details from the petitioners and to reconsider its “offensive and biased rhetoric.”

Ironically, Woolridge’s rhetoric exacerbates the campus discord more than any no-confidence vote could. His characterization of faculty and students as biased and detrimental is unfounded, especially when 91.1 percent of 2,620 students voted no confidence in Reyes, as mentioned earlier. This indicates a significant portion of the UMass community is unhappy with his response to the encampment events. It is the Administration and Board of Trustees who are failing to listen to the dialogue and requests of students, faculty and the broader UMass community.

Additionally, 63 members of the UMass Amherst History Department wrote to the Collegian, condemning Reyes’ response to the May 7 events. Another letter, signed by over 225 UMass faculty and librarians, called for his resignation.

On May 20, 2024, the Faculty Senate passed a no-confidence resolution against Reyes, further demonstrating the widespread discontent. Reyes then issued a statement expressing disappointment, but vowing to work towards better understanding and collaboration. However, he has yet to address the no-confidence vote passed by the SGA Senate on May 8, which represents 22,854 undergraduate students. Similarly, Karam, Meehan and Woolridge have not commented on the students’ concerns.

Along with faculty, GEO UAW2322, a large labor union with UMass Amherst graduate students, passed a vote of no confidence in Reyes. The Administration and Board of Trustees have yet to publicly address the concerns of this pivotal labor union within our campus community.

The Administration and Board of Trustees should be alarmed that 91.1 percent of 2,620 students lack confidence in Reyes. This indicates a profound disconnect between the students and University leadership regarding the events of May 7. Instead, the actions displayed have shown little to nothing being said or done to consult those students and to bridge the gap between their discontentment and the perspective of Administration.

Professor Kevin A. Young wrote a report on the meeting between the May 7 encampment student negotiators and the UMass administration. He concluded that the Administration engaged in bad-faith negotiations. Whether that characterization is objectively true does not matter. What matters is this report is part of the larger problem of many students and members within the UMass community having a great level of distrust with the Administration, and many feel that the Administration and the Board of Trustees are first and foremost self-serving. and unresponsive to student needs.

As the incoming vice president of SGA, my role is to represent student needs to the Administration and the Board of Trustees. How can I do this effectively when they have shown little interest in understanding widespread student discontent? Maintaining our great community requires the cooperation of students, faculty, Administration and the Board of Trustees. The students deserve an administration that responds to their concerns and a Board of Trustees that fosters dialogue and provides a platform for addressing student needs. The silence and inaction from the Board of Trustees and subsequently the Administration regarding the 91.1 percent of 2,620 students expressing no confidence in Reyes is disappointing and a disservice to the student body. I hope to see this silence and inaction change promptly.

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