Student Union in undated photo, (presumably late 1950s-early 60’s)
At a public university with 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, UMass is enormous. When students are distracted from their individual, everyday lives by issues such as the gang rape of a freshman student in 2012 or allegations of police brutality at the 2014 “Blarney Blowout”, they look to the administration and the SGA for answers. While these answers often aren’t obvious or easy enough to address immediately, the SGA has made sure that the student body is always represented effectively and in for what it is – a group of men and women making an investment in their future.
The Student Government Association (SGA) is aware of how large the student body is on campus; according to its website, “administrators often look first” to them to “quickly assess how students view an issue”. The SGA constantly reminds students to be vocal about what goes on around campus so they are represented correctly, although this is often difficult. According to Hayley Mandeville, Chairwoman of the SGA’s Ways and Means Committee, “everything we do has has to be signed by the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs” putting the SGA in “a tight spot.”
As part of a Blarney-sparked effort by UMass administration to effectively handle past mistakes regarding large demonstrations by students, former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis held a series of hour-long private meetings with students in the Campus Center. Also present were former State Police Colonel Mark Delaney and Dan Linskey, who has experience with BPD riot teams. Unlike the forum held with administrators on March 27th, these meetings were private – meaning students could reveal potentially incriminating stories regarding their experiences at Blarney or other large demonstrations. I was able to attend a 2pm time slot with about 10 other students, some of which held high-ranking positions in student organizations on campus.
Davis mostly listened to what students had to say, occasionally giving his own summary and input of what was stated. Although I hoped to obtain some key statements from Davis, he really chose his words carefully at this meeting, clearly demonstrating the administration’s careful approach to the Blarney situation.
Topics discussed and important quotes:
-student response through the SGA
“The future of the university is at balance.” – Davis
“As student leaders, we are outside of the general population…many students just don’t care and want to get that one Zoomass experience.” – Teddy Baston, Vice President for Recruitment for the Interfraternity Council
-media response through videos posted online of officers allegedly using excessive force
-police response and riot control
“It’s silly to think you can stop drinking (at large college demonstrations). We need to pay attention to alcohol abuse, not drinking in general.” -Davis
-basic background of Blarney, from student perspective