From Other Sources: News for and About Amherst.  This Week, Catching up on Area News, Reflections on Juneteenth, and Potpourri


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Here are links to some news stories from the last two weeks that are worth checking out.

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Hampshire College to Cut Benefits as Enrollment for Next Year Comes in Below Projections. by Emilee Klein (6/20/24). Responding to fall enrollment numbers that are lower than anticipated, Hampshire College plans to temporarily freeze retirement contributions for all employees and cut salaries for senior staff members next school year to meet the college’s operating budget goal of roughly $44 million. The college in Amherst has operated at a deficit since 2019, when the institution didn’t take an incoming class and nearly closed. Since then, Hampshire College developed and deployed a path toward financial stability by 2027, partially depending on incremental increases in enrollment to bolster revenue. “Enrollment is slightly below where we wanted to be coming into the fall, so we’re making choices in how we want to handle our expenses in terms of our trajectory,” Chief Advancement Officer Jennifer Chrisler said. Hampshire projected student enrollment to reach the college’s historical average of 1,200 students in the 2024-2025 school year, but Chrisler said the actual enrollment this fall will be just over 900 students, with only 310 new students joining the campus. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

UMass Chancellor Javier Reyes Announces Creation of Campus Demonstration Policy Task Force and Independent Review of Recent Police Activity by Nathan Legare (6/20/24). On June 17, University of Massachusetts Amherst Chancellor Javier Reyes announced the creation of a Campus Demonstration Policy Task Force (CDPTF) and an independent, third-party review examining police activity at recent student-led protests.  This comes after a semester defined by pro-Palestinian activism on campus. The biggest demonstration came on May 7, when over 130 protestors were arrested at a Gaza Solidarity encampment by members of the University of Massachusetts Police Department (UMPD) and Massachusetts State Police’s Special Emergency Response Team (SERT), along with other departments. Students involved alleged brutal treatment by the police during the latter stages of the protest and while in police custody. “I recognize that the events of May 7 and 8 were challenging for the entire campus community and raised issues regarding how our community should address future instances of protest and activism,” wrote Reyes via email to the UMass community. “I remain deeply committed to protecting those rights guaranteed to our community by the First Amendment and the university’s policies and founding values.” The CDPTF has three main tasks, according to Reyes. The first is to review protest policies and guidelines such as the land-use policy, picketing code and demonstration guidelines. The administration cited these policies as reasoning for the May 7 arrests. The second task is to make recommendations for interventions at future campus demonstrations. This includes activating the Demonstration Response and Safety Team (DRST) at the encampments on April 29 and May 7. The last task is to increase awareness of First Amendment protections and current university policies. (Massachusetts Daily Collegian)

Hampshire Mall Sells for a Fraction of Its Assessed Value by James Pentland (6/20/24). Hampshire Mall, a major commercial property on Route 9 since its opening in 1978, was sold at a foreclosure auction Thursday for $7 million.The buyer was Deutsche Bank Trust Co. Americas and Wells Fargo Commercial Mortgage Securities Inc., which holds the mortgage on the property. The bank foreclosed on the mall after owner The Pyramid Companies defaulted on its mortgage. Pyramid, of Syracuse, New York, also owns the Holyoke Mall and several other malls in New York. Attorney Steven Weiss of the Springfield firm Shatz, Schwartz and Fentin bid on behalf of the bank. He declined comment on any plans the buyer might have for the mall.The selling price was dramatically less than the mall’s current assessed value of $19.2 million, which in turn is about half of the $37.55 million assessment it had in fiscal year 2010. Because malls are sold infrequently, the assessment is based on other factors, including occupancy rates and rents charged to tenants. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

The Black Business Association in Amherst Has Made Celebrating Juneteenth a 15 Year Tradition by Nirvani Williams (6/19/24).  There are many Juneteenth festivities taking place across western Massachusetts, but one celebration by the Black Business Association in Amherst has been going on for 15 years. Edward Cage, an Amherst resident, said he, University of Massachusetts Amherst professor Amilcar Shabazz, and fellow organizer Trevor Baptiste started what they called a “Family Fun Day” on Juneteenth back in 2010, years before it became a federal holiday in 2021.”This was like a ‘bring your whole family and you don’t have to worry about anything’ event. The concept is to make it inclusive, free to the people who just wanted to get together with their family, but it’s hard,” Cage said. (NEPM)

Three More Electric School Buses Coming to Amherst by Johanna Neumann and Sara Ross (6/19/24). Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that Amherst will add three new electric school buses to its fleet thanks to a $600,000 grant from EPA’s historic Clean School Bus Program.The Clean School Bus Program was created by President Joe Biden’s 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help replace polluting diesel buses with low and zero-tailpipe-emission electric school buses.Amherst has long been a leadership community for climate action. From its designation as a Green Community in 2012, to resolving to transition to 100% renewable energy and building a net zero energy elementary school, our community is working to walk the walk to repower our lives with clean, renewable energy… The benefits of electric school buses, to Amherst and the nation as a whole, could be significant.School buses are the largest form of public transportation in the United States. Every school day, nearly half a million school buses carry up to half of America’s children to school and back. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Amherst Historical Society Enlists First Executive Director Since 2011 by Scott Merzbach (6/19/24). For the first time since 2011, the Amherst Historical Society will have an executive director overseeing the nonprofit’s work in the community, including maintaining and improving the 1750s-era Simeon Strong House at 67 Amity St. Liz Larson, who had been serving as the society’s treasurer, assumes the role of executive director on Monday, departing her position as interim director at the Amherst Business Improvement District. Larson said in a statement that the historical society has received a number of important grants over the past few years. “I am very much looking forward to building on these as we work to bring more of our programming to the community, both at the house and off site, and continue to grow our collaborations with other cultural stakeholders,” Larson said. Since joining the organization in 2019, Larson has helped to stabilize its finances and actively participated in program development and strategic planning geared to meeting the vision of giving voice and opportunities to all stories from the Amherst community. Larson also co-created, with violinist Amanda Stenroos, the Strings at the Strong outdoor summer concert series, entering its fifth year. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

Divided Over School Funding, Northampton Council Fails to Pass Mayor’s Budget by Alexander MacDougall (6/21/24).  A divided City Council late Thursday night failed to reach a two-thirds majority required to approve the mayor’s $137 million budget for fiscal 2025, with funding for the school district continuing to generate controversy just 10 days before the start of a new budget year. The council voted 5-3 to approve Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra’s budget on its first attempt, one short of the six votes needed for passage. The mayor said Friday, however, that most of the budget will still be able to be implemented come July 1 based on state law.The budget would likely have passed had Council President Alex Jarrett been allowed to vote. The Ward 5 councilor, who has said he supports the mayor’s budget, was unable to participate in the final vote due to a conflict of interest that requires him to be recused. Jarrett runs the Pedal People cooperative, which has a contract with the city’s Central Services department. Councilors continued to be divided over the proposed $40 million school budget, which despite a $2 million increase from the current year would still lead to the elimination of about 20 positions. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

GCC Union Votes No Confidence in President, Provost by Anthony Cammalleri (6/20/24). Seventy-eight eligible members of the Greenfield Community College Professional Association, the college’s faculty and staff union, cast their ballots by Tuesday afternoon, expressing no confidence in President Michelle Schutt and Provost Chet Jordan after GCC allegedly suppressed a less-than-flattering diversity, equity and inclusion report from the college community. Out of the 78 ballots cast, 73, or 93.6%, were in favor of a no confidence vote for Jordan, and four against. For Schutt, 67 votes, or 85.9%, were for no confidence, with 10 against, according to data shared by GCC Professional Association President Trevor Kearns. One union member submitted a blank ballot.Given there are 116 eligible union members, Kearns said the roughly 67% turnout for the no confidence vote was record-setting. “As you can see from the results, it’s very decisive. There’s virtually no trust in his leadership,” Kearns said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “In my 15 years at GCC, I have not seen 78 union members participate in anything. … It’s not over — this is the beginning, not the end.” (Greenfield Recorder)

Northampton School Advocates Eye “Mountain of Cash” in Reserves. City Officials Warn of Slippery Slope. by Alexander MacDougall (6/19/24). With more than 50 supporters of a larger budget for Northampton Public Schools sitting behind her, Ward 3 City Councilor Quaverly Rothenberg attempted to explain to her fellow councilors Monday night how the city can fully fund the school budget and in the process prevent job cuts that are currently on the table in the city’s latest budget iteration.“[The schools] have been paid with bits and pieces and odds and ends, and almost treated like an ugly stepchild in our budget,” Rothenberg told the council at a special council meeting. “As far as I can tell, from emails I’ve received and constituents I’ve spoken with, the city feels that school funding is a major priority for Northampton. This is a core value to our constituents.” (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

‘Our Movement Is Not Going to Die Down’: Pro-Palestinian Student Protesters Across the Commonwealth Gear up for Future Disruptions by Hilary Burns (6/19/24). College campuses have largely emptied out for the summer, and students have scattered. The pro-Palestinian encampments that threw commencement season into chaos are gone. But protesters are continuing to organize in communities across the state this summer, and the college students leading them say they’re gearing up for another intense season of activism in the fall. United by their passion for the Palestinian cause, students from different campuses across New England are beginning to build a collaborative network of activism open to anyone who opposes Zionism, which some Jewish students, faculty, and alumni find problematic.“Say it loud and say it clear! Injustice is not welcome here!” Kate Pearce, a rising MIT sophomore with bright green hair shouted into a megaphone on Bishop Allen Drive in Cambridge last Wednesday, where about 50 protesters, including many students, shut down traffic for nearly two hours and then marched to City Hall to call for the eviction of a defense company with a location near Central Square that sells to the Israel Ministry of Defense. Protesters from several campuses said in interviews they are committed to raising awareness about the mass casualties and horrors in Gaza through the summer while they plan campus actions for the fall semester. Student activists, who have been criticized for not also calling for the return of the Israeli hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7, are staying in touch through social media, remote meetings, and in-person reading sessions and potlucks to keep up the momentum they feel they built during the encampments this spring, many of which ended in arrests. (Boston Globe)

Ithaca City School District Looking to Ask Cornell University for $10 Million by Morgan Scott (6/13/24). The Ithaca City School District is looking to get $10 million in contributions from Cornell University, a considerable boost from the $650,000 the district gets now from the university. At a Wednesday night meeting, the Ithaca City School Board agreed to create a new advisory board that will prepare a negotiation agreement with Cornell University for an annual donation of $10 million to the district. “I’m very supportive in any efforts that they’re able to be successful in negotiating for an increase to the amount of support,” said Ithaca Mayor Robert Cantelmo. “I’m sure that Cornell will take that request to heart and quite seriously. I know they have a tremendous commitment to education, and given the sheer number of faculty and staff and families that are in the Ithaca City School District, I’m sure they will recognize the value of that investment. The request for more contributions comes just after Ithaca voters rejected an initial school board budget that would have increased their property taxes by 8.42%, forcing the school district to find alternative ways to pay for district expenses. (

Did Greenfield Community College Suppress a DEI Report? by Dusty Christensen (6/11/24). Greenfield Community College has been thrown into turmoil in recent weeks over the revelation of a previously unreleased report from a consulting firm that questioned the commitment of campus leaders to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
On Monday, the college’s faculty-and-staff union said they voted nearly unanimously to hold a vote of no confidence in Provost Chet Jordan and President Michelle Schutt over the matter. The union will also present Schutt a list of demands for re-establishing trust. Leadership of the Greenfield Community College Professional Association, or GCCPA, accused Schutt of burying the report, denying its existence, and then fighting to keep the full document from the union. The report, an unredacted copy of which The Shoestring has obtained, detailed several alleged instances of racist behavior from unnamed administrators and accused Jordan and Schutt of “incapacity and performativity” when it came to racial-equity work. “The report is extremely upsetting for its portrayals of senior members of the Administration who seem ignorant of or only superficially committed to the work of anti-racism,” Trevor Kearns, the GCCPA president, said in a statement on behalf of the union’s executive committee. “An astonishing number of Cabinet members seem confused about basic concepts such as ‘equity’ and ‘race.’ Several administrators are accused of committing racialized harm.” Jordan did not respond to an email requesting comment. A third-party PR firm working for the college informed The Shoestring that Schutt declined an interview, though she did answer written questions. (The Shoestring)


40 Acres and a Lie by ALEXIA FERNÁNDEZ CAMPBELLAPRIL SIMPSON, and  PRATHEEK REBALA (July /August 2024). We compiled Reconstruction-era documents to identify 1,250 formerly enslaved Black Americans given land—only to have it returned to their enslavers. 40 Acres and a Lie tells the history of an often-misunderstood government program that gave formerly enslaved people land titles after the Civil War. A year and a half later, almost all the land had been taken back. Read more here and listen to a three-part audio investigation here. (Mother Jones)

What Does It Mean to be Anti-Racist. Three DEI Scholars Explain by Alvin Buyinza (6/20/24). What is the difference between being not racist and anti-racist?This was the overarching question posed to three diversity, equity and inclusion scholars at Embrace Boston’s Ideas Festival. The multi-day event brings together guest panelists to discuss art, culture and activism. PPart of Thursday’s panel brought together three Black leaders: Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, the director of the Center for Antiracist Research at Boston University, Colette Phillips of Colette Phillips Communications Inc. and Malia Lazu, a strategist in diversity and inclusion at M.I.T, to discuss how to implement anti-racist strategies. For Phillips, it’s about creating allyship, a coalition of people who can rely on one another.“We cannot do this work alone or in silo we must work together, collectively,” she said. “Not to necessarily be the white knights on white horses. But willing to stand in the breach, shoulder-to-shoulder.” (MassLive)

Juneteenth Offers a Window into the Complexity of US History with Slavery by Joyce Hackel (6/20/24).
The federal holiday of Juneteenth commemorates a milestone in the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States. It marks the end of legalized slavery in the US. But that history left a bitter legacy that persists both in the country and around the globe. The World’s host Marco Werman spoke about the holiday with Howard French, who wrote about the global impact of slavery in his 2021 book, “Born in Blackness: Africa, Africans and the Making of the Modern World, 1471 to the Second World War.” French is also a former New York Times correspondent and currently a professor of journalism at Columbia Univ
ersity (The World)

On Juneteenth, Reckoning with History of Slavery Across America. Amy Goodman interviews Clint Smith (6/19/24). If we don’t fully understand and account for slavery’s history in this country, we won’t understand how it shaped the political, economic and social infrastructure of this country and the landscape of inequality today. (Democracy Now / Portside)

Why Juneteenth Matters to White People Too by Tim Wise (6/18/24). We should talk about Juneteenth while we still can. I say this only half in jest. As reactionary forces advocate restricting what schools can teach about the history of racism in America, one can imagine they may seek to extinguish all honest conversation about such a day as this. After all, to commemorate Juneteenth—June 19, 1865, the day enslaved persons in Texas first learned they were free, two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation—requires us to know first about the system of enslavement whose ending it celebrates. That means confronting the truth that this nation’s promises of liberty were never intended for everyone. “All lives” had not mattered for a long time because Black lives were considered outside the circle of “all.”  Too often, this is still the case. So although we celebrate literal emancipation on Juneteenth, a larger freedom from economic inequality and police brutality, among other things, still awaits the descendants of those released from bondage six generations ago. (Yes Magazine)

Opinion: A Memorial to the Lives Lost to Dobbs by Kate Cohen (6/21/24). The act authorizing Arkansas’ Monument to the Unborn, passed last year, explains that “from 1973 until 2022, Arkansas was prevented from protecting the life of unborn children” by Supreme Court decisions such as Roe v. Wade. We all know what happened in 2022. On June 24, in Dobbs v. Jackson, the conservative majority removed federal protection for abortion that had stood for almost 50 years. “As of today,” wrote Justice Stephen G. Breyer, dissenting along with Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, “this Court holds, a State can always force a woman to give birth, prohibiting even the earliest abortions. A State can thus transform what, when freely undertaken, is a wonder into what, when forced, may be a nightmare.”The Arkansas birthrate has gone up an estimated 1.4 percent since the state began forcing its residents to carry pregnancies to term. That means about 500 additional births a year. In all states with total bans, including Arkansas and 13 others, the birthrate has increased an average of 2.3 percent. In Texas, where geography makes it especially difficult to travel out of state for an abortion, the rate increased by 5.1 percent. All told, early estimates indicate that the end of Roe accounts for 32,000 annual additional births. Buried under that approximate number of compulsory births lies another number: the lives that Dobbs has ended. (Washington Post)

Hawaii Commits to Transit Decarbonization in Settlement of Youth Climate Lawsuit by Julia Conley (6/21/24). Days before a case brought by 13 young climate advocates in Hawaii was set to go to trial, the state’s governor and Department of Transportation on Thursday announced an “unprecedented” settlement that will expedite the decarbonization of Hawaii’s transit system — and formally “recognizes children’s constitutional rights to a life-sustaining climate.” The plaintiffs in Navahine v. Hawaii Department of Transportation were between the ages of 9 and 18 when they filed their case in 2022, alleging that the state government was violating their rights under the Hawaii Constitution by investing in fossil fuel-intensive infrastructure that would worsen the effects of the climate crisis. The case is the first youth-led legal challenge addressing constitutional rights related to pollution from the transportation sector, and according to Earthjustice, which represented the plaintiffs along with Our Children’s Trust, the settlement is the first agreement “of its kind, in which government defendants have decided to resolve a constitutional climate case in partnership with youth plaintiffs, committing to comprehensive changes” to reduce fossil fuel dependence and emissions. (Truthout/ Common Dreams)

A Harvard Dean’s Assault on Faculty Free Speech by Keith E. Williamson (6/20/24) It is not surprising for a boss to think that employees should avoid saying things in public that might damage the organization for which they both work. It is not even surprising for the boss to understand “damage” to include making the boss’s own life more difficult. But college faculty members have fought very hard, for a very long time, to be protected from such attitudes. They have established that, unlike employees at most organizations, they have the right to publicly criticize their employer and their administration. So it is notable when an especially prominent administrator publicly announces that faculty speech rights should be rolled back a century or so. That is what Lawrence D. Bobo, dean of social science and a professor of social sciences at Harvard University, did last week in an opinion essay published in The Harvard Crimson with the ominous title, “Faculty Speech Must Have Limits.”Members of the faculty, Bobo argued, have the right to debate “key policy matters” in “internal discussion,” but they should be careful that their dissent not reach outside ears: A faculty member’s right to free speech does not amount to a blank check to engage in behaviors that plainly incite external actors — be it the media, alumni, donors, federal agencies, or the government — to intervene in Harvard’s affairs. Along with freedom of expression and the protection of tenure comes a responsibility to exercise good professional judgment and to refrain from conscious action that would seriously harm the university and its independence. Such public criticisms, Bobo says, “cross a line into sanctionable violations of professioal conduct.” If a group of faculty members, for example, decides that a dean’s policies are inimical to their institution’s core mission, and if they take their criticism to the press, then — according to Bobo — they should be properly disciplined. (Chronicle of Higher Education)

What to Do to Stay Safe in a Heat Wave by Olivia B. Waxman (6/19/24).T he Midwest and East Coast are in the middle of a heat dome, with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees. Heat waves are getting hotter as global warming leads to more extreme weather, and 2023 was the hottest year on record. Some scientists say 2024 is poised to be even hotter overall. As temperatures rise, so do concerns about heat-related illnesses. According to the National Weather Service, heat kills more people in the U.S. than hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes combined. Doctors are also still learning about how poor sleep quality on hot days can increase symptoms of anxiety and depression. Here’s a brief guide to preventing heat exhaustion and heat stroke— and what cities around the U.S. are doing to help residents stay safe. (Time)

Almost 2000 Children Die Every Day from Air Pollution by Fiona Harvey (6/18/24). Nearly 2,000 children under five are dying every day from air pollution, which has overtaken poor sanitation and a lack of clean water to become the second biggest health risk factor for young children around the world. More than 8 million deaths, of children and adults, were caused by air pollution in 2021, according to a new study from the Health Effects Institute(HEI), as both outdoor and indoor pollution continue to take an increasing toll on health. Dirty air is now the second biggest killer globally, overtaking tobacco use, and second only to high blood pressure, as a risk factor for death among the general population. Among children under five, air pollution is second only to malnutrition as a risk factor in mortality. This year’s State of Global Air report, published by the HEI since 2017, and produced this year in partnership with Unicef, also shows that children in poor countries are suffering some of the worst impacts, with the death rate linked to air pollution in children under five 100 times higher in most of Africa than it is in high income countries. (The Guardian)

Divesting From Israel’s War Isn’t Naive. Students Did It With Fossil Fuels by Jennie C. Stephens (6/15/24). The success of the  fossil fuel divestment movement shows why divestment is such a powerful and threatening demand. As student protesters around the country continue to demand their universities divest from war, the world watches as the U.S. government continues to support Israel’s military operations in Gaza which have killed tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians. In demanding divestment, students are asking their universities to sell financial assets related to Israeli companies and other companies — including weapons manufacturers and defense contractors — profiting from Israel’s military actions. A dominant narrative peddled by university administrations labels the students’ demands as naive and unrealistic. The truth is resistance to the protesters demands is strong because many universities do not want to disclose their financial entanglements. Some are even claiming divestment is impossible. But the powerful influence of previous divestment movements, however, tells a different story. (Truthout)


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