For a lot of students, college is where you figure out what interests you, discover your passions, and in some cases become a vocal advocate for the causes you believe in.
Freedom of speech is the very basis of our civil liberties, and nowhere should that be championed more than on college campuses.
Unfortunately, one college has decided that free speech is only welcome when it isn’t making the campus racists feel uncomfortable.
Nicole Parsons, a student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, told BuzzFeed that there has been a wave of hate crimes on her school’s campus. She said the school had been mostly silent about the incidents. When a swastika was drawn over a “Happy Hanukkah” sign that a resident assistant had on their door during the first week of December, Parsons decided she had had enough.
She hung a sign in her dormitory window that said: “FUCK NAZIS YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE.”
“I thought maybe if I hang the sign up, maybe the person who drew the swastika will see it and see someone condemning their actions, even if the administration doesn’t do it,” Parsons said.
Whether or not the person who drew the swastika saw her sign is unknown, but it definitely caught the eye of Eddie Papazoni, one of the residence directors on campus.
Papazoni sent Parsons an email regarding the sign that went as follows:
My name is Eddie Papazoni, and I am one of the Residence Directors at UMass Amherst and currently the RD On-Call for east side. I have tried to contact you on your phone around 4:15 PM but the number listed was your home phone and I was unable to leave a message on that machine. With that being said, I am emailing you today in regards to a phone call I received concerning a sign that is placed in your window.
From this conversation it appears to be that the sign in mention can be paraphrased as: “Nazis are not welcome here.” Though this sign is permitted under Freedom of Speech, I would also like to discuss the impact on the community that this sign has had. There are some in the community who have expressed that the sign should be taken down as it has created mixed emotions in the community on how to proceed, issues of inclusion, and the ability to be active members of their community.
While Residence Education cannot force you or your roommate to take the sign down, I am asking that you or your roommate take the sign down so that all students can be a part of an inclusive residential experience, as well as having a respectful environment to be a part of here on our campus.
Parsons, who is white, told BuzzFeed: “I was in absolute shock. This email tells me the university cares more about the feelings of Nazis than the safety of their students.”
BuzzFeed notes that UMass has a campus initiative called “Hate Has No Home at UMass” that purports to reject “all forms of bigotry and hatred.” Tracking hate crime incidents is part of that initiative, and there have been 19 such incidents on campus since September.
The university did not respond to BuzzFeed’s request for comment, but a Dec. 20 post described Papazoni’s email as “poorly worded” and said it did “not reflect the values of the campus, and it should not have been sent.”
“UMass Amherst emphatically rejects Nazis, and any other hate group, a view expressed in the students’ sign. However, we are sensitive to the use of profanity, which some could find inappropriate. The university respects the students’ right to display the sign and it may remain up.”
One has to wonder how the email got sent in the first place if it didn’t reflect what the university believes.
Papazoni specifically addressed the issue of calling out Nazis and said it was that part that was making people uncomfortable. He never mentioned profanity or the word “fuck” specifically.
So, is it “Oochie Wally,” or is it “One Mic,” UMass?
Also, who complained about the sign? Who said it was making them uncomfortable? Who felt excluded by it?
Make any of this make sense.
In the end, Parsons told BuzzFeed she removed the sign out of respect for her roommate, who was concerned with the attention it was drawing.
Parsons is planning a move off campus—something that was already in the works before this incident happened.
She told BuzzFeed: “This makes me glad [the move is] happening. I’m definitely going to hang it in my bedroom. I’m going to keep the sign forever.”