They Don’t Care, & it Shows

Chancellor Subbaswamy must ensure that Black students are heard, seen, and respected on campus, regardless of the repercussions.

What does safety look like on a college campus? It definitely doesn’t mean more cops, more military-grade weapons and an increased surveillance state that would crack down on marginalized groups on campus, in particular Black and Brown people. As it relates to UMass Amherst, the recent active threat that occurred on Tuesday will most likely result in UMass police asking for more money to prevent future incidents. My answer to that? No, more cops and more surveillance is not the answer. They already operate at a budget of $6.4 million every year, why increase that? 


Services such as CWC, CCPH, UHS, Disability Services, CMASS, the Stonewall Center, and other vital resources are underfunded and understaffed, yet the university touts these services every year knowing they won’t be able to reach every student that needs them. Instead of the police gaining more power, some of the money they already receive should be allocated to these and other campus resources so that they are able to serve students in the way intended. It serves as a slap in the face when the school talks about diversity, equity and inclusion yet refuses to invest in it.


Recently, Chancellor Subbaswamy sent out two emails to the campus community. A day apart, they covered different topics yet are connected. On 10/27, the email he sent out mentioned that “Robert and Donna Manning have allocated $18 million to UMass Amherst to endow the newly named Robert and Donna Manning College of Information and Computer Sciences and help propel the college’s vision of Computing for the Common Good. This gift comes at the same time as an extraordinary $75 million commitment announced today by Governor Charlie Baker that will enhance and expand the college’s facilities” 


It’s interesting to me that the governor can find $75 million to give to CICS, which will lead to further enrollment of students even though the university overadmits students every year, and yet none of it goes toward addressing the systematic issues that impact the university. The email also mentions having CICS become a top-notch program that attracts “top faculty and talent, increase access to our top-ranked undergraduate and graduate programs, and offer scholarships, bridge programs, and peer mentoring to underrepresented communities in the computer science industry. It will also expand the college’s facilities, creating a world-class hub for education, research, and innovation”. 


While this will make the college more accessible and potentially more diverse, a portion of that $75 million could be built to buff up cybersecurity to prevent acts such as the racist email that circulated around early in the semester.


The second email the campus received was the next day, with the announcement of the creation of a Black Advisory Council. As something that should have been created a long time ago, I am cautiously optimistic that the Council will be given the power and agency to get things done, seeing as how this administration and previous ones have worked to prevent true systematic change on this campus. Will they be given funding to enact any of what the chancellor outlined? Will student voices be heard and their recommendations be implemented? What guarantees are there that the Council won’t be stripped of any power? 


As part of that email the chancellor said “As we are all painfully aware, this semester Black students on our campus were targeted by virulently racist, anonymous emails and other acts of racism, including when Black students were subjected to racist taunts from a passing car. Sadly, in the aftermath of these incidents, despite our efforts to reach out to the students to whom this racist hate was directed, many members of our Black community expressed disappointment that my administration and I did not respond more visibly and more forcefully to these incidents. For this, I wholeheartedly apologize” & “I am grateful to our Black students past and present for your activism, hard work and persistence. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with students to build a more inclusive community”. 


This is in stark contrast to what he said in The Boston Globe with his comments around how it was “difficult to deal with” racist sentiments even though it’s not, people just have to be willing to put in the work. I am disappointed, yet unsurprised, that the chancellor says what he thinks students want to hear but the actions taken by him and members of the administration have shown the opposite to be true. What “collaboration”, chancellor? You say you’re “grateful” to students for the work that they do, the work to get you to do your job. Yet students shouldn’t have to push you to do the right thing.


It is because of bureaucracy, red tape, the lack of desire to make true institutional change, and the need to please those that give money and prestige to the school that hate-based acts happen every year on this campus, in fact every day if one were to include those that don’t get reported, and nothing gets done. I want to believe something will be different this time around, but UMass must learn from its history so it can stop repeating itself. They won’t though, all because they don’t care. In the words of Michael Jackson, “All I wanna say is that they don’t really care about us”.

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