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: Over 225 UMass faculty and librarians call for Chancellor Reyes’ resignation

Hundreds of faculty from across University decry treatment of protestors on May 7 and 8
Kalina Kornacki

Dear Chancellor Javier Reyes,

We write as faculty and librarians who are appalled and outraged by the brutal law enforcement action you authorized against peacefully protesting University of Massachusetts faculty, students, staff and alumni on May 7 and 8. Your actions have violated the sense of trust, safety and community that your administration claims it wants to build on this campus, while trampling on constitutionally protected First Amendment rights. You have failed this University. Like the undergraduate and graduate students on this campus, we have lost confidence in your leadership and call for your immediate resignation.

According to your email of Wednesday, May 8, you believe that “ensuring the safety and well-being of our students and other members of our campus community” is one of your “most important duties.” But as the Massachusetts American Civil Liberties Union recently wrote in its statement about the mass arrests on campus:

“When universities choose to involve police in nonviolent demonstrations, it escalates tensions and creates unacceptable safety risks for all students, faculty, and community members. Campus administrators have an obligation to protect students’ safety on campus; at the same time, they must take all necessary measures to protect students’ right to protest. Calling heavily armed police on student political expression is an inherently dangerous choice.”

By calling the police on peaceful protesters, however, you have shown that you either do not understand what “ensuring the safety and well-being” of the campus community entails, or you believe that the use of police violence is an appropriate way to pursue this duty. Whatever your understanding of this charge, your actions demonstrate that you are unfit to serve in the office you currently hold.

As a result of your actions:

  • Over 130 people were arrested, and the campus was swarmed with 117 police vehicles and hundreds of heavily armed officers in riot gear, including the Massachusetts State Police Special Emergency Response Team (SERT), Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office and Amherst Police Department.
  • It was impossible to protest, observe the protest or pass by the protest without risking arrest. While the University claims the arrests were a necessary response to an alleged violation of the Land-Use Policy and that there was a designated non-arrest zone, the police later threatened to arrest anyone in the vicinity.
  • These arrests included tossing and tackling students, kneeling on their backs and using tasers. Protesters reported being unable to breathe as officers kneeled on their backs.
  • At least one student spent the night in the emergency room after their leg was broken by the police.
  • Protesters were forced to stand for long hours handcuffed with zip ties and were denied water and access to the bathroom.
  • In an apparent attempt to limit public scrutiny of their actions, police turned off their body cameras, covered their badges and names and arrested people clearly marked as medics and press.

We are horrified at seeing our students chased and tackled by police on our own campus lawns, and we denounce the torturous conditions in which they were held. The video footage provides shocking evidence of the brutality that night.

The use of force in response to peaceful protests, including those that may be loud and contain messages we might disagree with, is counter to the principles of free speech and academic freedom that are protected by the First Amendment. Safeguarding those rights is essential to a healthy and functioning university and democracy.

Therefore, we demand that you resign immediately and that the University pursue an open, democratic process that centers students, faculty, staff and librarians in choosing the next chancellor. If we are to succeed in our pursuit of what you call “continue[d] dialogue,” we will need new leadership.


The Undersigned UMass Faculty and Librarians


The full list of signatories as of the morning of Thursday, May 16, 2024 can be found here.

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