UMass Student Government Votes No Confidence in Chancellor Javier Reyes


UMass History Professor Kevin Young addresses the Rally for Rafah at UMass on May 7. Photo: Art Keene

University of Massachusetts Student Government Association (SGA) overwhelmingly supported a resolution of no confidence in Chancellor Javier Reyes at their meeting on May 8. The resolution came in the wake of Reyes’ authorization of police intervention on the campus on May 7 that resulted in violent arrests of more than 130 people, including students, faculty, and area residents, several of whom were injured in the process. The SGA announced the resolution on Instagram, stating, “The UMass Student Government Association on behalf of the undergraduate students, affirm that they have no confidence in the leadership of Chancellor Reyes. SGA leaders condemned 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.”

About 3,000 undergraduate students participated in an SGA survey used to determine how elected representatives would vote and it was reported that 91% of students expressed no confidence in the chancellor.

Reyes had called in police (including UMass Police, the State Police Emergency Response Team, police from the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office, and the Amherst and Hadley police departments) to break up a small Pro-Palestine encampment and to disperse all protestors and bystanders. This was the second encampment students had established in support of Palestine and was erected earlier that morning following Reyes’ refusal to meet further with students to discuss their demands and in response to the beginning of  Israel’s assault on Rafah in Gaza. (Reyes had agreed to a brief meeting with students on Wednesday afternoon but by then he had already called in police, who were observed by students leaving the meeting in front of the Whitmore Administration Building.) 

The SGA resolution followed widespread condemnation of the police action by campus unions, student organizations, faculty, alumni, the ACLU, and Congressman Jim McGovern. Pulitzer Prize-winning author and scheduled UMass commencement speaker Colson Whitehead also condemned the police action and withdrew from participation in commencement in protest.

Reyes had said that he called in the police as a last resort in order to protect the safety of everyone on campus. He said, “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.”

That statement was met with outrage and disdain by each speaker at the Rally for Rafah, held in front of the Student union the following day and attended by roughly 400. Speaker after speaker, representing faculty, students, and staff, stated that it was the chancellor who had made the campus unsafe by sending the police to violently arrest peaceful protestors who were occupying a small section of the campus’ south lawn and who were engaged in mutual teaching and learning. Speakers who had been arrested testified to their harsh treatment at the hands of law enforcement. The condemnations were interspersed with the rallying cry, “Who keeps us safe?” and the loud response from the crowd, “We keep us safe.”

Reyes has subsequently asked student government leaders and the Faculty Senate to call meetings where he and other school leaders “can engage in dialogue and answer questions about this challenging episode.” In his statement, he said, “I know how challenging these events have been for everyone. Safety, wellbeing, 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.” 

Following the student association vote, UMass President Marty Meeham, Board of Trustees Chair Stephen Karam, Governor Maura Healy, and Congressman Jim McGovern (who had strongly condemned the police action) issued statements expressing confidence in Reyes’ leadership.

The SGA resolution states:

Whereas, the University of Massachusetts Board of Trustees Document T73-098 (the “Wellman Document” or “Wellman”) outlines expectations for shared governance at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and;

Whereas, The Wellman Document defines the Student Government Association  as a “campus governing body”, and; 

Whereas, The Wellman Document states, “governing bodies shall have the privilege of recommending policies and procedures affecting the campus and the University as a whole, including, among other matters, academic matters, matters of faculty status, and student affairs. Also when appropriate, governing bodies will have the privilege of contributing to long-range planning, the preparation of the annual budget request, and the allocation of available resources,” and;

Whereas, Chancellor Reyes, in defiance of 2024-S64, a resolution of the SGA and precedent set by previous UMass chancellors, denied amnesty to 57 UMass students arrested in peaceful protest of the ongoing genocide against Palestinians and UMass’s refusal to divest from defense manufacturers, and

Whereas,  Chancellor Reyes, in defiance of 2024-S64, a resolution of the SGA, by his own admission in his e-mail to the University of Massachusetts Amherst (“UMass Amherst” or “UMass”) community at approximately 8:30 p.m. on May 7th, 2024, issued the unjust arrest and abhorrent brutalization of over 150 UMass students, faculty, and staff on the evening of May 7th, 2024, and

Whereas, Chancellor Reyes’s unconscionable decision to issue hundreds of police officers upon the UMass campus caused irreconcilable harm to the UMass community, and;

Whereas, utilizing police force, violence, arrests, or threats thereof, to disperse peaceful protests, is wholly antithetical to the promotion of the safety and wellbeing of students, faculty, and all UMass community members, and;

Whereas, In his campus visit on February 13, 2023, Chancellor Javier Reyes emphasized the importance of students holding him accountable for his actions and the actions of his administration, and;

Whereas, The Mission Statement of the SGA is “[…] to promote the general welfare of all university undergraduate students […] to work toward greater transparency in administrative decisions […] and to set the standards which other schools strive to uphold when leading their students into the future.” therefore;

Be it resolved without qualification that the University of Massachusetts Student Government Association, on behalf of the undergraduate student body of UMass Amherst, formally votes that it has no-confidence in Chancellor Javier Reyes and his administration.

Read More
Read additional reporting on the resolution in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian
Read additional reporting on the resolution in the Daily Hampshire Gazette
Read additional reporting on the resolution from NEPM

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