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Response to Racist Messages at UMass Amherst

Presidential Letters 21-22

Published October 1, 2021

Dear students, staff, and faculty,

As you may know, we are faced with news of anti-Blackness, this time close to home at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where Black student organizations have received hateful messages from an anonymous source. We are sickened, but not surprised, by these heinous emails, which reflect white supremacist ideology of the ugliest sort. As the historian Carol Anderson has explained, backlash is inevitable when institutions advance racial justice. 

There is an ongoing forensic investigation, which we hope will lead to the prosecution of the perpetrator of this hate crime. 

In times like these, we believe it is important for the Smith community to stand in solidarity with our colleagues at UMass; as one example, all of the Five College chief diversity officers have rallied to support Vice Chancellor Nefertiti Walker at UMass. Further, we must reaffirm our commitment to full inclusion of everyone as we work to promote racial justice on our campus. Importantly, we must offer support to our community, especially Black students and colleagues, given the nature of this attack. 

Events like those at UMass provoke strong feelings among us, and some of us need a place to process them. If you would like to meet with a counselor, students may reach out to Counseling Services, while faculty and staff may use our Employee Assistance Program. If you would like to process this event with others, please contact Dean L’Tanya Richmond from the Office of Multicultural Affairs and/or Director Matilda Cantwell from the Center for Religious and Spiritual Life. They invite one-on-one conversations and are open to co-creating a talking circle. Further, we welcome your ideas of how to ensure that people of color feel valued and respected on campus.

Across higher education and beyond, we are building a new world. Some feel threatened by the change that is coming to achieve full racial justice; this is one reason we are witnessing more hate crimes throughout the country. We will define our own narrative, we will stand stronger together, and we will care for one another. 


Kathleen McCartney

Floyd Cheung
Vice President for Equity and Inclusion