Can We Call It What It Is?

Last week, there were multiple hate crimes committed on our campus. Only one of them were deemed serious enough to have an e-mail sent out to the entire student body. This incident happened over the weekend when a student, who lived in John Quincy Adams on the 22nd floor in a corner room, left to go to Ferguson for the riots and to join positive protests. This student was a member of Student Bridges and the Black Student Union. When he came back to his room, he discovered words written boldly on his door in permanent marker. This threat on his door targeted all African-American students at UMass and made us all feel threatened and unsafe. None of this information was expressed in the e-mail sent to us, and neither was what had been written on this boy’s door. The words said “Kill These N-ggers” in all capitals and boldly drawn in.

What the black student body wants to know is, why none of this information was put in the e-mail. Also, why was this the only one reported? They put all of the information they have when someone has their car stolen or when someone felt uncomfortable at a bus stop, but not when a whole race is being targeted and threatened. There was another person’s door that had derogatory terms written on it and she is a member of the Black Student Union. She says that when she called the police to report what had been done, the woman on the phone claimed “we can’t do anything, it’s free speech.”. No, this is a hate crime.  A hate crime is defined as “a crime motivated by racial, sexual, or other prejudice, typically one involving violence”. This is a crime and it needs to be treated as such. In the e-mail we got, it was called “vandalism”. It is much more than that. These people, who wrote it, threatened a whole race of students at this school. Does the school not care about the lives or safety of the students of color? Why haven’t they done anything about the white students running in black students faces yelling “white power!”? If we were to retaliate, wouldn’t we get in more trouble than these racist students?

There was an emergency meeting held by the National Pan-Hellenic Council (the historically black fraternities and sororities) after the email went out. About 300 students and faculty showed up to discuss this issue. Even the Chancellor showed up with his board members, but not for long. There was a lot of anger and tension coming from the people of color because we felt as though this was not being taken serious. We first asked why this was being treated as vandalism and not a hate crime or racism. Many questions the students had were not answered by the chancellor and he danced around a lot of solutions we wanted to know about. After about 30 minutes, the Chancellor rushed off to Boston and various students felt like he did not really care and when he was speaking he sounded scripted and fake.

I have not been at this school for long but I have learned the UMass Police Department have not been the best at executing their jobs. Today, I received an email that the person who wrote these things on one of the four doors was caught and will be in court facing charges of vandalism. In the email, it also defines what hate crimes are and goes into saying “The charge of property damage to intimidate provides the basis for a hate crime prosecution”. Maybe there will be another charge added in the future for the hate crime, but as of right now I am doubting it. Now that this one person has been caught and arraigned, what about the others who wrote “nigger” one door, “fag” on another, and “kill the mexicans they can’t speak english anyway” on the third door? I have attended a few of the meetings about this and there are still a lot of students of color who don’t feel safe on this campus anymore. Especially the ones who have never experienced any of this before coming to class.

There needs to be more done about this. I personally think that with all of this money the school is wasting on new buildings, we can use that money for cameras inside the residence halls. This might be because of my old college and even high school, there were about two or three cameras in each hallways. We need this because there a lot of crimes being done on this campus and no one is being caught. You would not think that in communities like Amherst and Northampton that you would have to watch your back 24/7. We should of course always do that but some people were not raised like that so they don’t know what to do.

Our main concerns right now are to figure out why the school kind of brushed this off as a non serious vandalism crime and why the chancellor and his board gives the same scripted speech every time something happens. He kept saying “this disheartens me and hurts me because I want to believe everyone is nice” and he also says “this happens at every school in the world” making it seem like it isn’t that serious. This is not every school, we do not attend every school. We go to the University of Massachusetts Amherst, let’s worry about us. That is all we should be worried about.

Again, I have not been here for long but hearing what the older students have been saying, this little game of the police department not doing their job and the chancellor not caring about us has been going on for too long. This needs to change right now. I am willing to bet money that if there were cameras everywhere, the UMass crime rate would drop. As for the Chancellor cutting budgets and taking away money from the multicultural RSO’s, that is another topic but it needs to be addressed soon. We, as students, need to feel like the school cares. Cares about us, our safety, and our concerns. We don’t pay all of this tuition, some of us paying out of state tuition, to come and be treated like we do not matter and our safety is in our own hand. We should not be the ones coming up with solutions on how to stop this. Another thing I heard at the meeting with the Chancellor is that they turn the problem around and put the solution in the victims’ hands. How is that fair when they get paid to come up with solutions? Students of color should feel safe and appreciated. Students of color need to KNOW that we will no longer be targets of hate crimes on this campus.

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