Asked To Remove Anti-Nazi Sign, UMass Student Gets A Mixed Message

Dec 28, 2018

UMass Amherst has come under criticism for recently asking a student to take down an anti-Nazi sign from her dorm room window.

A swastika drawing was found on a student's door on campus earlier in December after numerous similar incidents this past semester.

At the time, UMass didn't immediately put out a statement condemning the drawing, which vandalized a Hanukkah sign.

That prompted third-year student Nicole Parsons to put up a sign in her dorm room window that included profanity: "F--- Nazis, you are not welcome here" — except it didn't just say "F."

“Administration isn’t saying anything, so I thought someone should,” Parsons told NEPR. “I guess I was just hoping that that person who did it would see, and instead of thinking that their actions are OK, there’s someone out there who's saying what you did isn’t OK.”

Parsons said she was approached last week twice, in person, by residence life staff who asked her to take the sign down. But she didn't.

So a residence director sent Parsons an email asking that she remove the anti-Nazi sign so that “all students can be part of an inclusive residential experience.”

“I was so shocked and so angry that they had said that,” said Parsons.

Part of an email message sent to student Nicole Parsons from a UMass residence director in response to her anti-Nazi sign.

UMass declined an interview. But it did post a statement on Facebook saying that the email to Parsons about inclusiveness should not have been sent.

Instead, the university highlighted its emphatic rejection of Nazis, and said it respects Parsons's right to display the sign. And UMass now says she can keep it up.

Rabbi Aaron Fine is executive director of UMass Hillel. He said the incident underscores that communication is critical in how the university handles anti-Semitic hate crimes.

“The communication is very important for students to feel that these things are being taken very seriously and that the administration really cares about them,” Fine said.

Fine said the email to Parsons was an unfortunate mistake — but that it does not reflect the administration's policies or views.

“I think it was a mess-up by a fairly ground-level employee,” Fine said. “I think there just needs to be tighter oversight, and tighter protocol, for when you respond to any incident of this sensitivity."

Parsons is now moving off-campus, and plans to put the sign up in the window of her new apartment.