UMass student group declares no confidence in chancellor

Riot police detain cuffed pro-Palestine protesters Tuesday at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Riot police detain cuffed pro-Palestine protesters Tuesday at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By CHAD CAIN

Daily Hampshire Gazette Managing Editor

Published: 05-10-2024 6:07 PM

Modified: 05-17-2024 3:39 PM


AMHERST — A day after 132 people were arrested in pro-Palestinian protests on the University of Massachusetts campus, the university’s student government Wednesday night formally declared it had no confidence in Chancellor Javier Reyes and his administration.

In a post on Instagram late Wednesday, the UMass Student Government Association said “an overwhelming majority” voted to pass the motion that takes Reyes to task for authorizing the “unjust arrest and abhorrent brutalization” of UMass students, faculty and staff on Tuesday night.

“The UMass Student Government Association, on behalf of the undergraduate students, affirm that they have no confidence in the leadership of Chancellor Reyes,” the group wrote.

Top brass at UMass quickly followed with statements of support for Reyes.

“From the moment he stepped foot on the Amherst campus, he has proven to be a dedicated and thoughtful chancellor who is deeply committed to our students and their education, well-being and safety,” said UMass President Marty Meehan. Reyes is widely respected by his team, the broader community and the board of trustees, he said.

“The circumstances on the Amherst campus are in no way isolated and are part of a national trend taking place on college and university campuses across the country,” Meehan continued. “Chancellor Reyes and his team have engaged in good faith discussions, offered meaningful paths to a resolution, and done everything within their power to engage sincerely and protect students’ rights to free speech.”

Trustees Chair Stephen Karam added, “We have absolute confidence in his leadership, his integrity and his commitment to our students.”

In its vote of no confidence, the SGA chastised Reyes for his “unconscionable decision to issue hundreds of police officers upon the UMass campus,” a decision that caused “irreconcilable harm to the UMass community.”

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“Utilizing police force, violence, arrests or threats ... to disperse peaceful protests is wholly antithetical to the promotion of the safety and well-being of students, faculty and all UMass community members,” the no-confidence resolution reads.

The vote came one day after Reyes ordered police to break up a protest encampment on campus and disperse those assembled. Police made 132 arrests, the university confirmed Wednesday night. Of those, UMass estimated 70 were students at the university and six were faculty.

Before the vote of no confidence, Reyes issued a statement noting that one of his most important duties as chancellor is to ensure the safety and well-being of students and other members of the campus community.

“A safe and respectful learning environment is foundational to enabling free expression and the exchange of ideas — including through peaceful demonstrations,” he said. “Guided by these values, I made the difficult decision last night to ask the University of Massachusetts Police Department to clear the site of an unauthorized fortified encampment that had been erected on the South Lawn of the Student Union.”

Reyes said he met during the day Wednesday with students, faculty and staff, as well as campus stakeholder groups, to discuss the events of Tuesday night and the previous encampment, along with processes and policies related to student discipline.

Additionally, he said the Faculty Senate may call a special meeting next week to discuss the events of Tuesday night.

“Reflecting on the viewpoints I heard, I ask that SGA and the Graduate Student Senate convene a special meeting where my leadership team and I can engage in dialogue and answer questions about this challenging episode,” Reyes wrote.

“Again, I know how challenging these events have been for everyone,” he continued. “Safety, well-being and a sense of belonging are paramount for our community’s ability to thrive, and I recognize that there is work to do as we restore trust with those who feel harmed by the university’s actions.”