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UMass Amherst chancellor condemns acts of hate on campus

Chancellor of UMass Amherst Kumble R. Subbaswamy. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/File 2014/Globe Staff/file

A vandal at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on Tuesday scrawled anti-LGBTQ and anti-Semitic graffiti on a residence hall door, according to Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy.

He addressed the matter in a strongly worded letter sent to the campus community Tuesday and posted to the school’s website the following day.

“Earlier today, a student in John Quincy Adams residence hall was targeted when the door to the student’s room was defaced with homophobic and transphobic slurs and a swastika,” Subbaswamy wrote.

“Residence hall staff have reached out to the victim, who was not present when the hateful images were discovered, and offered support. Resources will also be provided to JQA residents who will be asked to attend a hall meeting this evening. Additionally, UMass Police have launched an investigation and have begun reviewing surveillance footage, analyzing data from key-card readers, and interviewing witnesses.”

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Subbaswamy’s note came one week after a poster in another dorm was defaced with the n-word, and fliers and stickers from a white nationalist hate group also appeared on campus.

On Wednesday, the chancellor wrote that “[t]oo often this semester, I have shared with you a message like this, condemning acts of hate. I do so because it is important that those individuals who are the objects of such bigotry know that they are not alone — that every one of us who cherishes the rich diversity of our community stands with them and rejects the hatred spewed by a handful of anonymous cowards.”

He said the homophobic and anti-Semitic graffiti written on the student’s door was not solely an attack on that person.

“The words and symbols that the perpetrator of this latest incident chose, while targeted at one person, are an assault on all transgender, gay and Jewish members of our community and are clearly intended to intimidate,” Subbaswamy wrote. “Let us not be intimidated. We must stand united in opposition to such ignorance and hatred and remain firm in our commitment to fostering a community of caring, inclusion and tolerance.”

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Subbaswamy also included contact information for counseling and support centers on campus.

The UMass Amherst campus isn’t the only one that’s dealt with anti-LGBTQ bigotry this fall.

At Holy Cross in Worcester, a student reported being attacked during the predawn hours of Oct. 27 in an assault linked to sexual orientation, according to an advisory from Dean of Students Michele Murray that went out later in the day. A separate advisory stated that the attack occurred between Clark Hall and Brooks-Mulledy Hall between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.

The victim did not know the suspect.

“Today the College received a report of an anti-LGBTQ-motivated aggravated assault and battery,” Murray wrote in her advisory to students. “To say that this incident is disturbing is an understatement. At Holy Cross, we pride ourselves on the strength of our community where each one of us is valued for who we are and the gifts we bring. One member of our community was not treated with this level of respect. Further, the bigotry resulted in interpersonal violence. I know you join me in denouncing this appalling behavior. Our Department of Public Safety is actively investigating the incident, and the student is receiving support.”

In a follow-up message to the campus community on Tuesday morning, Dottie Hauver, vice president for administration and finance at Holy Cross, wrote that Public Safety Chief Shawn de Jong “has conducted numerous interviews and watched many hours of videos as part of an active investigation by the Department of Public Safety. Those interviews take time, and there are more to come.”

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In addition, classes will be canceled Friday while Holy Cross offers a number of events as part of a campuswide event dubbed “ENGAGE Summit: Where Do We Go From Here?”

The summit will offer a number of workshops and discussions regarding “the steps we need to take to build a community that supports and celebrates all its members,” said the Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, the college president, in a note to the campus community sent last week.

A Holy Cross spokesman said in an e-mail that the event “is not solely in response to only one particular incident, but also to the growing number of instances of hate and bias we’re seeing in the world outside Holy Cross, as well.”


Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.