Student Protests Erupt at UMass Amherst

by The Cowl Editor on October 3, 2021

National and Global News


Throughout this week, hundreds of students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have participated in numerous protests over claims of repeated sexual assault at UMass fraternities. In particular, anonymous allegations of a female student being drugged and raped at the Theta Chi house on Saturday night have sparked several student protests, both at the fraternity house and at administration offices.

More than 300 students gathered outside of the Theta Chi house Sunday night to protest the fraternity and the university’s lack of response. During the protest, two students were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, inciting a riot, and failure to disperse from a riot.

On Monday, more than 80 students staged a sit-in in the office of the dean of students. At the sit-in, students demanded that the university take action regarding these allegations, and criticized what many students consider to be a larger pattern of inaction and lack of accountability by the administration.

That night, students gathered outside of the Theta Chi house again, holding signs and passing around a megaphone to recount their personal stories and experiences of sexual assault and lack of appropriate response from UMass administration.

On Monday, Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy released a statement regarding the university’s response to the allegations and protests, stating that “At this point, no survivor or witness has come forward to file a complaint or a report substantiating the claims that have been made on various social media platforms,” and that the university “cannot take action against alleged perpetrators, whether they be individuals or organizations, without actionable evidence.”

Chief Executive Officer Michael Mayer, Theta Chi’s national leader, has called on Subbaswamy and the UMass administration to stand with the fraternity, stating that UMass must publicly acknowledge that Theta Chi has not been found guilty of any crime or violation of any policy and must be afforded the same courtesy and dignity as any other UMass organization or student.

This is not the only time that Theta Chi at UMass has been the subject of student protests. In February 2021, over 10,000 individuals signed a petition calling for disbanding of the fraternity after it hosted several large gatherings the weekend after students returned to campus, causing a spike in COVID-19 cases. In response, the UMass Student Conduct and Community Standards office placed the fraternity on an interim suspension.

These student protests have occurred alongside another disturbing incident at UMass Amherst; over the past several weeks, a number of Black student organizations have received a series of racist emails from an unknown sender. One of the emails that received national attention from various news outlets and on social media is signed by the “UMass Coalition for a Better Society,” and contains racist, denigrating language towards Black students throughout.

In response, UMass administrators condemned the emails and announced that the university hired Stroz Freidberg Digital Forensic, a cybersecurity company, to assist in determining the source(s) of the emails.

In an Instagram post, the UMass Black Student Union criticized the university’s response, stating that “It took the university almost a month from the initial anti-Black racist incidents, to acknowledge these instances. The university’s lengthy response time to racial incidents compared to their rapid response to non-racial incidents is not reflective of a university that claims to be ‘committed in policy, principle, and practice to maintaining an environment which prohibits discriminatory behavior and provides equal opportunity for all persons.’”

Both of these incidents are a part of continuous calls among the UMass community for increased transparency and accountability among university administration.

This is a developing story that will continue to be updated as events unfold and more information becomes available.