Wednesday, April 23, 2014
To the editor:
After reading so much negative publicity about UMass students lately, I have to share a different experience. Recently I had the opportunity to be on the UMASS campus and found the student body extremely calm, friendly and responsible. The event was the student-organized vigil in support of their fellow student who had come out as gay. Before I came I had been told that the students requested that it be a silent vigil, so as not to provoke trouble, simply show support. How wise of them.
When I arrived these well-organized students provided beautiful “UMass United” buttons to all and a handout which read (in part): “This has to be peaceful and unified otherwise our efforts will fail. Keep in mind the specified ground rules and remember to respect everyone’s rights as we use our own. 1. Do not engage their protesters physically or verbally. 2. Disperse if requested by law enforcement or university staff. No ifs, ands or buts. 3. If someone is getting aggressive or emotional we will walk them from the line, talk to them, calm them. Be a family to one another.
As it turned out, the opposing protesters were quite a distance away and there was no danger of provocation, so it turned into a great rally, chanting words like “In with love, out with hate, we do not discriminate!” I was there with a group from the First Congregational Church of Amherst. We felt privileged to be among such thoughtful respectful well-prepared students. We wanted them to know that many churches are open and affirming and celebrate diversity.
I left with a completely refreshed view of the university’s value and its students of value. I met courageous, informed, and responsive young people who will do their part to bring positive constructive responses to the troubles of this world.