Racial Justice Coalition: One Year Later


Zach Steward, Politics/Op-ed Editor

More than a year ago, a group of students came together over several months during the summer and submitted a list of demands to the upper UMass administration that were meant to advance the rights of Black, indigenous people of color on campus. This list took considerable time, effort, energy and more to compile in a way that admin would take us seriously, and for the lives of students of color to truly matter on campus. By “us” I mean the Racial Justice Coalition, and I hope this can shed some light on the work that’s been done and that needs to get done in order for the campus to truly be equitable and inclusive. Some of the demands include “invest in new and existing public safety resources at UMass,” “remove UMPD presence from all residential areas,” “implement anti-racist training for all students, faculty, and staff,” “increase funding for academic resources for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) students,” and “empower student voices within the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success (CMASS).” 


Over the course of the year, the administration worked with us, somewhat begrudgingly, in order to move things forward. Roadblocks were encountered at various points, and coming into 2021 things have stalled. For the most part, the other students and I worked outside of the administration to get things done, as we soon found that there wasn’t going to be much happening with all of them. Each demand was given to one or two administrators assigned by Chancellor Subbaswamy or Vice Chancellor Brandi Hephner Labanc, and some of these groups did more work than others. My hope for this year and the next is to rebuild the Coalition, make it truly representative of marginalized groups on and off campus. The administration says they care, they say they want to make true change. Their actions, however, prove otherwise. When discussing reallocating UMPD funds to other offices on-campus, the main retort is the possibility of an active shooter situation, and yet why do campus police need almost $7 million to counteract an active shooter? When discussing policies with the Chancellor and others, the condescending nature and mansplaining displayed by some of the administrators showed a disregard for the material students brought to them. It’s unfortunate that the university prides itself on diversity, equity, and inclusion and yet when push comes to shove nothing gets done. 


We reminded them of previous demands from the 70s, 2014, and 2018 that the institution failed to implement, and why it was necessary for our demands to not fail, so the repetitive cycle of fighting for racial and social justice doesn’t continue. The fight continues however, and admin needs to know that noise will continue to be made until things change. Do better UMass.


If you’re interested in getting involved with the RJC, reach out to us at [email protected], umassrjc on Instagram, and UMass Racial Justice Coalition on Facebook. 

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