Action Item: Please sign this petition to indicate to the University of Massachusetts Amherst administration that alumni & current students of UMass Amherst stand for the continued safety and wellbeing of the Muslim students on campus, and therefore disagree strongly with the schools decision to take away a historic space that Muslim students regard as a necessity for life on campus.
*Please indicate year of graduation from UMass Amherst in "Reason for Signing" Section.*
The University of Massachusetts Amherst has had well known plans for the renovation of its Student Union space for many years now (4+ years). The Student Union space has held a Muslim Students' Association (MSA) room in it, every year, for over 20 years. From 2016 onward, once this decision was made public, the respective MSA boards each year have been aware of this renovation, and have been in contact with the school administration to ensure that the Student Union renovation included an MSA room for the Muslim students on campus, as the old Student Union had been providing. Throughout this renovation process, the MSA has always been reassured by the university that there will be a designated space available for them in the new Student Union.
On December 17th, 2019, MSA Board members met with a Student Government Association (SGA) official to discuss the renovation process. The official assured them that the MSA room was set in place in the new Student Union next to a new ablution room. When showing the board members a blueprint of the new Student Union, she clarified that once the new blueprint was printed it will no longer say meeting room and it will instead denote MSA.
On May 5th, 2020 the 2019-2020 board of the MSA was surprisingly informed that they will no longer have a MSA room on campus. The school stated that they are not willing to renew this room, and were instead suggesting a shared space for all university religious clubs to use.
On June 1st, 2020 the MSA board sent a letter to the administration expressing deep concern over this decision, and the impact it will have on the Muslim students on campus. The school updated their stance, instead indicating the MSA can have a space for certain hours of the day Monday-Thursday, and limited hours on Friday. They continued to refuse a designated MSA room, as had been provided for the last 20+ years for Muslim students on campus.
Impact on Student Life:
Going from 20+ years of the University of Massachusetts Amherst accommodating a designated room for the Muslim students on campus, and from 4+ years of the university indicating time after time that a MSA room was being designated for the students in the new Student Union, to being told with no warning that this is no longer the case is deeply disturbing.
As all alumni and current students are aware, the MSA room is an integral part of the safety, health, and growth of Muslim students of various backgrounds on campus - and has been for many years. As one can imagine, a loss of this space will lead to real difficulties for Muslim students on campus who have relied on this space every single day while living away from home.
The designated MSA room has been a place of safety for students. This room has always been accessible throughout the day & night for students or employees to come pray in between classes, during work, and during night prayers (daily and specifically during Ramadan). The room had always been kept consistently quiet and clean (i.e. shoes must be removed from the prayer space) to ensure students could perform their worship and grow as individuals on campus. Muslim students around the country have suffered discrimination, violence and injustice for simply trying to practice their religion, and this does not disappear within a college space. There have been acts of Islamophobia here at UMass Amherst in the recent past (e.g. 2016, Fine Arts Building was spray painted with the words “Stop Islam”). The MSA room has been a refuge for students in their day to day, allowing for safety for students as they performed obligatory acts of worship & engaged with a community of other students similar and different backgrounds. To take away a community space from students, in this climate especially, is incomprehensible and will impact the wellbeing of Muslim students on campus.
The discontinuing of an MSA room is a disappointing decision in regards to the wellbeing of the Muslim students on campus & we strongly ask the university to reconsider the decision. The impact of having this room on campus, as many people will be able to attest to, is an incredibly vital space for students - whether it is for learning, safety, community growth, and allowing for acts of worship associated with religious freedoms. The importance of an MSA room for daily usage of Muslims students cannot be understated, and has been a hallmark of the Muslim student experience at UMass Amherst for over 20 years.