WE DEMAND ANSWERS: STOP THE MILITARIZATION OF UMASS BOSTON

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On Tuesday June 2nd, a video surfaced of what appears to be Massachusetts State Police and National Guard members gathered and organized in the Bayside Parking Lot, owned and managed by UMass Boston. Additionally, there is footage of the West Garage filled with police vehicles and a photo of a large group of state police standing with MBTA buses parked alongside the Quinn Administrative Building— these buses were confirmed to be transporting the state police.

This was ahead of the peaceful Black Lives Matter protest that was taking place at Franklin Park.

UMass Boston constantly boasts about the diversity of its student body, prominently featuring students of color on advertising and recruitment materials, and mentioning the university’s commitment to “diversity, equity, and inclusion” at every opportunity. In fact, in response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer, Chancellor Newman began her letter to the UMass Boston community like this: 

“As the leader of a majority-minority campus, an institution devoted to social justice and the cardinal principles of equality, it is incumbent on me to speak out about the intolerable violence that has been visited on black citizens like George Floyd.”

Most recently, the university also used this phrase in it’s published response to a student’s racist Snapchat conversation that has gone viral on social media. And yet, at every possible opportunity, the university continues to fail to support this alleged mission. To list the ways in which the university has failed its Black and POC students, faculty and staff and made decisions that directly and negatively impact them, would be exhaustive. However, here are a few highlights from the past few years: 

2016: Two Africana Studies professors, Aminah Pilgrim and Veronique Helenon, were denied tenure on a CLA Collegiate Personnel Committee and at a CLA Dean’s office that had NO black faculty. Robert Johnson, the chairman of the Africana Studies department at the time, was also let go "as a result of a routine assessment of the department that recommended a leadership change"— he had also spoken out against the unfair tenure review process. The Africana Studies department was also at risk of being defunded, and ultimately erased. 

2017: UMass Boston closed its early learning center that provided daycare services for students, faculty and staff with children.

2018: UMass Boston fired Latoya Shuler, the former Student Welfare Coordinator at U-ACCESS, which is an on-campus resource that provides services for low-income students including food pantry access. She was fired without warning and students who worked closely with her say that the administration didn’t find Latoya’s personality palatable and displayed microaggressive behavior toward her. They suspect that this was the motive for her firing. 

2018: UMass Boston imposed major parking fee increases, which increased the cost of off-campus parking for students, faculty, and staff by 50% from $6/day to $9/day. This is the university’s lowest cost parking option, as on-campus parking increased 250% from $6/day to $15/day.

Now, the university has not only failed to support its Black community members, but has taken active steps against them. If, in Chancellor Newman’s very words, the university is “devoted to social justice and the cardinal principles of equality”, it would not be so graciously hosting the police and military, organizations that have proven time and time again to be white supremacist.

The Bayside parking lot has been an enormous source of revenue for the university, especially after the decision to impose price increases and even more so after leasing it to developers. Despite petitions and protests, the university, a commuter school and Boston’s only public university, made the decision to make parking unaffordable on campus. Now we are demanding answers for the militarizing of our campus, a DELIBERATE act of violence against the Black, POC and undocumented students, faculty and staff of the UMass Boston community. 

We demand the university release a statement with the following information:

  • Why the university felt this use of its own resources was not completely misaligned with its “commitment” to diversity, equity, and inclusion 
  • The names of the person or people involved in approving this use of UMass Boston property 
  • If the university profited financially from this use of its Bayside Parking Lot property
  • What tangible steps the university will take now to actually support the community members of color, specifically the Black community members, whose tuition, parking fees, free use of likenesses in advertising and recruitment materials, and endless unpaid labor UMass Boston continues to profit from 

We demand accountability and answers NOW.