In preparation for the Western Massachusetts Police Academy graduation this Friday, students at Mount Holyoke College (MHC) are distributing flyers to warn students about the event. They are also planning a protest.
The event is planned for Friday in Mount Holyoke’s Chapin Auditorium, a space that the Academy seemed to be renting out.
In an announcement to students, the school’s administration warned students about the police presence but said that there is "no need to be alarmed."
"This notification is being made to make you aware of the many police officers and police vehicles you may see here on Thursday morning, April 11th for rehearsal, and again on Friday, April 12th for graduation," the announcement said. "There is no need to be alarmed. In the spirit of collaboration with our neighboring towns in Western Massachusetts we look forward to welcoming the 40 new officers to the Pioneer Valley."
The announcement also said that there would be potentially 500 guests at the event.
The flyer, beginning with “ATTENTION,” claims that MHC’s administration is “welcoming a large number of armed individuals from a known paramilitary organization with a documented history of white supremacist and patriarchal violence” — referring, of course, to police officers.
The flyer claims that by allowing the event to take place, the campus is unsafe for “Black women, women of color, Black queer and trans folks, queer and trans folks of color, non-Black/POC queer & trans folks, undocumented folks, and disabled folks.”
“THIS IS REASON TO BE ALARMED” the flyer adds.
In a Facebook group for MHC students called “Mount Holyoke Memes for Bra Burning Teens,” students began plotting to protest the police academy graduation.
“FYI: There is going to be a police academy graduation on campus (???) this Friday. Lots and lots of cops,” one person posted. “I suggest we f*** some s*** up.”
In response, students supported the idea and began making a plan.
“I suggest we don’t fuck shit up because this is our campus and destroying property would be a headache for us and also because cops are armed,” another student responded.
In the replies to the post, students suggested ideas such as blasting anti-police music from the neighboring buildings surrounding where the graduation would take place, or potentially holding a sit-in or a “die-in.”
One student pushed back on the idea of any protest, claiming that, “There are some horrible cops out there, we all know that, but as someone who works with police regularly, I can say that there are also some wonderful police officers who respect the diversity of their communities and strive to make everyone feel safe, included, and respected.”
In response, students disregarded her post, telling her that “cops are awful people,” “f** every cop,” and “Cops are wife and children beaters. F**** them all.” One student even responded by comparing police to Nazis. “I’m sure you wouldn’t defend generalizing German people in the 1940s who joined the Nazi army by saying ‘they wanted to do good and protect their countries’ so save it,” a student wrote.
The students later hosted a meeting to discuss protesting both the graduation and Thursday's rehearsal.
Later Wednesday night, students began circulating a draft for an email in which they encouraged other students who were concerned about the graduation to send their complaints to the administration.
“I am in opposition to Mount Holyoke hosting an event which lauds an institution that is historically based in white supremacist and patriarchal values and which continues to both reap the benefits and perpetuate the values of such systems,” the email stated. “The administration's decision to welcome the Western Massachusetts Police Academy is a violation of and threat to the safety of our campus, and the surrounding communities.”
The email goes on to criticize the administration for not allowing the students to have a say in the decision to allow the event to take place on campus.
“THE ADMINISTRATION'S DECISION TO HOST THIS EVENT, AND THE COMMUNICATION AROUND IT, SHOWS A BLATANT LACK OF CONCERN FOR THE SAFETY AND WELL-BEING OF PEOPLE OF COLOR, WOMEN, QUEER AND TRANS FOLKS ON OUR CAMPUS AND IN OUR COMMUNITY - PARTICULARLY THOSE THAT ARE BLACK, UNDOCUMENTED, AND/OR DISABLED,” the email reads.
The email then criticizes the administration for hiring a police chief who many students deem unfit for liking tweets from the NRA and President Trump on his personal Twitter account. The Daily Wire reported Wednesday night that Chief Daniel Hect was placed on administrative leave due to the students’ concerns.
Students also voiced their dissatisfaction last week by writing in chalk about Hect at Smith College, a nearby college that shares a police department with MHC.
“This event is a part of a larger problem that Mount Holyoke College has with policing and police presence on our campus,” the email states, adding that "the administration’s hiring practices have already resulted in harm of our community and allowing an event such as the graduation to happen on our campus further violates the safety of students.”
In response, MHC President Sonya Stephens sent a campus-wide email acknowledging the complaints but affirming the school’s support for hosting the graduation.
“Over the last few days, I have heard very clearly the concerns about our decision to allow the Police Academy to hold their graduation ceremony in Chapin Hall tomorrow,” Stephens wrote. “I have also heard and acknowledge the very real fear and the questions that have been raised by some members of our community in relation to this decision and the history of police violence, systems of oppression, and the ways in which marginalized members of society, including members of our own community, have been negatively impacted by interactions with the police.”
Stephens added that the administration “wholeheartedly support[s] further interrogation of these questions at Mount Holyoke and with our community partners, we support both freedom of speech and peaceful protest.”
The email also pointed out that MHC hosts events for outside organizations quite frequently, adding that the college generally agrees to host these events when “we believe there to be some positive impact with our neighboring communities, and when opportunities exist for building partnership and mutual understanding.”
“Like every college campus, Mount Holyoke depends on a broad array of first responders to provide service and support to the College,” Stephens added. “The police academy is a resource for the training of our own officers — at some point, these very graduated may be acting to support and protect our campus and our community members. This event is first and foremost a celebration of the cadets’ hard work— it is a graduation ceremony.”
“By positively engaging an organization that provides both direct and indirect support of our community, we create an opportunity for ongoing exchange with its members on the ways in which public safety can better serve each and every member of the College and the surrounding towns,” Stephens concluded.
The Daily Wire will continue to update as new information is made available.