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The Point: Whose Campus?


Greetings, Colleagues.

“We have the agency and wisdom to work as a community and care for one another achieving a new vision of safety and accountability.” Statement from Coalition of Student Organizers @ UMB

Our students are inspiring.  Like so many of us on the faculty, many of them were horrified to learn that our campus had been turned into a staging area for counter-protest police forces.  With only a few days of planning, these students took action.  They developed a robust coalition and brought together hundreds of people to campus for a peaceful rally and march on June 6 protesting the militarization of campus and the larger issues of systemic racism and police brutality that have convulsed the United States in recent days.

Many faculty members joined students, staff, and community members among the assembled.  Professor of Africana Studies and Director of the Trotter Institute Quito Swan spoke powerfully about our collective responsibility to take action now, and has emphasized: “UMass Boston must address the impact of these incidents on the city's Black communities and Black UMass faculty, staff, and students...Our community is denouncing ‘home grown’ racism and the use of the campus and UMass Boston Police in counter-protest measures.” 

Members of the UMB administration were notable only in their absence and silence. But silence and absence might be preferable to the damaging claims and empty promises coming from our Interim Chancellor and Chief of Police in their communications this week (See here and here).  Neither Katherine Newman nor Donald Baynard commits to ending the practice of turning campus over to counter-protest police forces; both lecture us on why such militarization of campus is necessary.  Interim Chancellor Newman’s letter on “campus concerns” seems even more grievous in the light of her communication earlier in the week in which she counterposed “civil protests” against what she describes as “[d]estructive, violent riots” but did not mention the words “systemic,” “racism,” or “brutality,” let alone promise to take action against these for racial justice to ensure that Black Lives Matter.  Although Interim Chancellor Newman may be laying blame for recent chaos in our cities and towns on the protesters, as Jamelle Bouie and so many others have tried to explain, these are police riots. The indisputable evidence is on our streets and our screens. 

As a community we have so many challenging questions to face about how systemic racism is expressed on our own campus: some of our colleagues recently asked the Interim Chancellor in an email why the administration “prioritizes the convenience of the police over the psychological, emotional, and physical well-being of its students, faculty, and staff of color and of the communities surrounding campus.”  We call on the administration to commit to ending what the Interim Chancellor has called a “long-running practice among the Commonwealth’s public safety agencies of providing mutual support.” The student coalition that organized the rally asked pointedly, for instance, why, in the midst of a pandemic the university has not lent space or resources to the surrounding community, but has mobilized quickly to buttress counter-protest police. 

How should the FSU support students in their response to police presence on campus and to larger issues of inequity growing from the facts of systemic racism?  

This is your union: let us know what you think at


Jeffrey Melnick

Graduate Program Director, American Studies Department

Communications Director, Faculty Staff Union Executive Committee

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