New cases of meningococcal illnesses are expected on the UMass campus now that an ‘outbreak’ has been declared by both the university and the CDC. This comes after a student fell ill with meningococcemia in October and meningitis in November. Both students are in stable condition, but both kinds of bacterial infection can be fatal if untreated.
Dr. George Corey says all undergraduate students should be vaccinated, as well as anyone who lives in undergraduate housing. Becky Wandel and Liz Flood report.
“Building Bridges” started as an idea by Stephnie Igharosa who realized that there is a lack of coalition building among student organizations and cultural centers at UMass Amherst.
As the Student Government Association’s secretary of diversity, Igharosa wondered, “why are we not talking to one another enough?” The cultural centers on campus — The Josephine White Eagle Cultural Center, Latin American Cultural Center, Malcolm X Cultural Center and the Yuri Kochiyama Cultural Center — not to mention, all the other student organizations like the Stonewall Center, are all nearly a mile away from each other. They’re “inaccessible” as Igharosa puts it.
She decided to collaborate with the Racial Justice Coalition, as she is already part of their committee, and the Center for Education and Policy Advocacy (CEPA) to put together an event that would encompass the original meaning behind Building Bridges — an opposition to the Trump administration’s rhetoric to “build a wall.” Together, the student organizations planned to set up an open mic and an open forum at the Malcolm X Cultural Center for students of multicultural and multiracial backgrounds to express themselves about diversity concerns and issues on campus.
That’s when Igharosa met Amberly Lerner, a freshman English and legal studies major who felt strongly about the separation and inaccessibility of the cultural centers since the day she set foot onto campus. Lerner is queer, Chinese and Jewish. She calls herself “intersectional” — a term coined by Kimberle Crenshaw.
“I’m very intersectional. I have a very intersectional identity – there’s a lot of parts to it. So when cultural centers don’t collaborate, it’s very much like trying to pick a side. Or trying to pick an identity. Like, which event should I go to today? Or which identity should I get more in touch with today?” says Lerner.
But Igharosa says it’s not the cultural centers fault that they don’t collaborate. It’s that there’s a lack of funding and attention from the administration onto these centers.
On April 4, Igharosa’s idea for a Building Bridges event turned into a reality. Students of all different multicultural and multiracial backgrounds signed up to perform in front of the microphone — including Ro Sigle, who was the co-chair of the Racial Justice Coalition and recently graduated as a masters student at UMass.
Sigle preformed a poem about preserving the youthful ambition to keep organizing and standing up against oppression in society. Sigle also helped create the guidelines that were used for the open forum at the end of the event where audience members broke down some of the topics that were brought up in the art, music and poetry that were performed that night. Many of the themes included colorism, lack of solidarity on campus and feelings of isolation as minority students at UMass, a majorly white university.
“Building Bridges, so to speak, takes a tremendous amount of work and commitment. And I think we all have to be willing to go there with each other,” Sigle says. “But I think back to my poem — we all have to do it with grace and compassion and with joy in a way that honors ourselves and each other.”
Igharosa is confident to keep pursuing projects for Building Bridges. On May 10, banners that read “Building Bridges” in various different languages were hung on the Fine Arts Center at UMass Amherst.
Kalsang Nangpa is a first-generation college student majoring in public health who will be graduating from UMass this May. But as a Tibetan American, she has been denied by the university from carrying the Tibetan flag at commencement — as have other Tibetan American students in the past.
“I have had Tibetan friends in the past who have tried to carry the Tibetan flag during their commencement. They were all denied. And some of them didn’t even hear a response,” Nangpa said.
Nangpa called the UMass external affairs office several times with no response for almost four weeks. Finally she received an email that read that she wouldn’t be able to carry the Tibetan flag during graduation because Tibet is not recognized as a country by the US State Department.
“It’s sad and I’m frustrated and it’s kind of insulting. I feel like I’m being denied of my own identity. I’m very disappointed because I call UMass my second home. I’ve been here since my freshman year. So I’ve spent four years of my life here. I am very upset with UMass’ decision,” Nangpa said.
In a Facebook post that went viral among UMass students in April, Nangpa wrote about the strained relationship between Tibet and China — a country that also doesn’t recognize Tibet as a country: “The Tibetan flag is banned in Tibet because of China’s current military occupation, brutal repression and censorship but I did not expect the same censorship and ignorance here in the US, especially at UMass. Thousands of Tibetans have fled Tibet to exercise their freedom and basic human rights, including my family. Despite the possible consequence of being jailed or killed, Tibetans in Tibet continue to fight for our country and identity by raising the Tibetan flag high. Therefore, I feel that it is my duty as a Tibetan to, at the very least, do the same and assert my identity in a free land.”
This past weekend, Nangpa said that Nancy Buffone, the associate vice chancellor for university relations, responded to her emails on behalf of Chancellor Subbaswammy. Buffone essentially reiterated that it’s UMass policy to follow the list of countries recognized by the US State Department.
“According to [UMass’] mission statement, we’re supposed to be inclusive — we value inclusion, diversity, equity and all that. But this doesn’t reflect in their actions and in their decision. So I’m a little confused here. It’s a policy, but why can’t we change that policy if it’s plain wrong?” Nangpa said.
Back in 2013, an Iranian student was denied the same right to carry their country’s flag at commencement, Nangpa wrote in another Facebook post. “However, after receiving much backlash through emails and media attention, UMass did overturn the decision and the student was later granted the deserved opportunity to carry her flag during her graduation ceremony,” wrote Nangpa.
Similarly, Nangpa has been putting pressure on the administration to recognize the Tibetan flag during commencement. And she has asked the UMass community to do the same. Nangpa has been calling and emailing Buffone and even Senator Elizabeth Warren, who will be speaking at this year’s commencement.
Here are the emails and phone numbers:
Vice Chancellor Nancy Buffone:
My name is [_______] and I am an [alum/student] at UMass Amherst. It has recently been brought to my attention that a graduating Tibetan student who had requested several times to carry her country’s flag at graduation was informed she would not be allowed to do so due to the current political controversy surrounding the autonomy of Chinese occupied Tibet. I am shocked and disappointed to learn that a university like UMass, which is known for its diversity and inclusion and is meant to be a welcoming place to all those who seek education no matter their background, has opted to exclude an entire country from their ceremony due to this political matter. I believe that any student, particularly one like Kalsang who is a devoted and active member of the UMass community, should have the right to participate in the ceremony, and proudly represent their people in doing so. I hope that the university will come to see that this decision is one which goes against the entire nature of the institution, and will overturn the decision as soon as possible.
“When you are so absolutely terrified, you don’t feel comfortable using any facility even though under Massachusetts state law, you’re allowed to use any facility, that’s an act of violence. That’s an act of dignity degradation,” says Justin Killian, one of Gender Liberation UMass’ founders.
Members and allies of GLU, which advocates for transgender, gender non binary and gender queer students at UMass, occupied the bathrooms at Whitmore Administration Building Monday November 15, 2016. The occupation was dubbed a “shit-in” with nearly 120 volunteers the first day.
The occupation lasted until Tuesday November 16. Members of GLU met with administration the following day and reached an agreement, according to Amherst Wire.
UMass students protested for the divestment from fossil fuels at the Whitmore Administration Building Tuesday April 11, 2016. Students and faculty underwent training by the UMass Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaign. Protesters have been arrested and have sent letters to UMass President Marty Meehan.
The University of Massachusetts published a statement on February 6, 2015 explaining a new policy that would deny Iranian nationals seeking higher education in “specific programs in the College of Engineering (i.e., Chemical Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering) and in the College of Natural Sciences (i.e., Physics, Chemistry, Microbiology, and Polymer Science & Engineering) effective February 1, 2015.”
The statement indicated that this was due to the University’s commitment to providing education for students “who can successfully complete their selected course of study”. The administration indicated that the new policy was in response to a “clarification” in July 2013 by the Department of Homeland Security to a 2012 law passed by Congress that was intended to limit Iran’s engineering capabilities, particularly in the energy sector. The Department of Homeland Security has instituted a policy that denies visas to Iranian nationals who are seeking education in areas that could be applied to the energy sector, including business and computer science, in addition to engineering. While Iranian nationals who applied for student visas prior to the law were “grandfathered in,” students who traveled home, or abroad, or whose visas are up for review have had difficulty securing new visas or returning to the country.
The University took down the statement today after it began circulating on social media. It can be read in full below:
Despite the fact that UMass’ 2015 post-Superbowl celebration was the calmest event the university has seen in years, a stark difference compared to the disorder seen at last year’s Blarney Blowout, students voiced their concerns with the ways in which the University decided to construct and implement its policy.