The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, has landed itself in hot water after staff asked a student to remove a sign, condemning Nazis, from her dorm window over “issues of inclusion.”
Junior student, Nicole Parsons, placed a sign reading “F*** Nazis. You are not welcome here” in her dorm window earlier in December.
A week later, she received a somewhat clumsy letter from one of the college residence life directors, Eddie Papazoni, telling her that the sign provoked “mixed feelings” and allegedly interfered with some people’s “ability to be active members of the community” and raised “issues of inclusion.”
“It appears… that the sign in mention can be paraphrased as: ‘Nazis are not welcome here’,” the letter said. It asked Parsons to take down her sign “so that all students can be a part of an inclusive residential experience, as well as having a respectful environment to be part of.”
The message came as an “absolute shock” to Parsons, she told BuzzFeed. “This email tells me the university cares more about the feelings of Nazis than the safety of their students.”
She then explained that she decided to put up the sign after a swastika was drawn over a “Happy Hanukkah” sign on the campus. The student said she also wanted to show those who drew the swastika that “someone [condemns] their actions, even if the administration does not do it.”
The issue quickly gained traction on social media as people said that the administration should focus its attention on the alleged Nazi sympathizers rather than on the sign maker.
“There are some in the community..” who just outed themselves as Nazi sympathisers.
Perhaps it would be advisable for the faculty to take a closer look at those who object to ostracising fascists?
I suspect they’ll be far more disruptive to the community than the sign maker.
— Vie Ventar (@VieVentar) 22 декабря 2018 г.
Wooooooooow UMass Amherst. Wow. So swastikas being drawn over Happy Hanukah signs are not biggie but you draw the line at calling out Nazis on campus because people are “uncomfortable about the sign” and “don’t know how to proceed from here?” Maybe the discomfort stems from NAZIS https://t.co/44dXjx41Sr
— michelle grondine 📍 lala land (@tediously_brief) 24 декабря 2018 г.
Others were more concerned about the fact that the administration seemingly cared about “Nazis” feeling “welcome” on campus. Some people also called for the staff member, who wrote the letter to be fired.
If the RD told the student to take it down for profanity I would understand. The RD recommended the student to take it down so nazis on campus feels more welcome. That is the problem
— mCherry🍒 (@lamejourneyman) 20 декабря 2018 г.
Wow… @UMassAmherst needs to fire Eddie Papazoni. Anyone who doesn’t understand why college campuses should be Nazi-free/fascist-free zones, probably shouldn’t be working with young adults.
— Ama Jane (@The_Black_Jane) 22 декабря 2018 г.
The public outcry prompted the administration to issue a clarification. “UMass Amherst emphatically rejects Nazis, and any other hate group,” the university said in a Tweet, adding that the whole issue was allegedly about “the use of profanity, which some may find inappropriate.”
It also called the email “a poorly worded” one and said it “does not reflect the values of the campus.” Still, its attempt to calm things down apparently did not work well.
UMass Amherst emphatically rejects Nazis, and any other hate group, a view expressed in the students’ sign. However, we are sensitive to the use of profanity, which some may find inappropriate. The university respects the students’ right to display the sign and it may remain up.
— UMass Amherst (@UMassAmherst) 20 декабря 2018 г.
Social media continued to criticise the administration over its supposed inaction in the face of hate crimes while saying that the clarification was an attempt to avoid a scandal.
For a school that builds their appearance on being “liberal,” you do a real awful job at it. Your students are smart enough to realize that nothing is being done. It’s a shame that once someone finally takes action because YOU can’t, they’re condemned. Fix your priorities
— danielle (@daniellelipiec) 24 декабря 2018 г.
It’s a damn shame that Nazis are more protected than the victims of the 19+ hate crimes that have happened on campus since September. Feeling extremely disappointed in my school and embarrassed to be a student at such a closed-minded institution.
— danielle (@daniellelipiec) 24 декабря 2018 г.
No no. The letter was clear and could not have been better worded. Learn the difference between making an exuse and apopogizing. The context here is that your campus would not have this abdundance of hate crime if your values were the right ones.
— Passiv tvitrer (@Nope_nope_n0pe) 24 декабря 2018 г.
Yeah right. This is all just an act to save yourselves from scrutiny and accountability.
— Ty (@Pablo_Waldo70) 20 декабря 2018 г.
Parsons, meanwhile, removed the sign from her window as her roommate was allegedly worried that it attracted too much attention. The student said she decided to move off campus even before the controversy, adding that she intended to keep the sign “forever.” She also seemed to be quite pleased with the effect her action had.
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