Yup, you read that right.
"Fuck Nazis," the sign read. "You are not welcome here."
Parsons says she decided to put up the sign because she was fed up by the university's response––or lack thereof––to a spate of hate crimes on campus, including an incident when a swastika was drawn over a "Happy Hanukkah" sign on a resident assistant's door earlier this month.
"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," she said.
Parsons did not foresee any problems with the sign, given UMass Amherst's highly promoted "Hate Has No Home at UMass" campaign, which pledges that all students and faculty members will "stand united in defense of diversity and inclusion" and "reject all forms of bigotry and hatred."
But then there were.
In an email to Parsons, the school's resident director asked her to remove the sign "over issues of inclusion."
The email reads:
My name is Eddie Papazoni and I am one of the Resident 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 for 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 a be part of an inclusive residential experience, as well as having a respectful environment to be a part of here on our campus.
"I was in absolute shock," said Parsons, who removed the sign after her roommate expressed concern over the attention it was receiving. "This email tells me the university cares more about the feelings of Nazis than the safety of their students."
Many appear to agree.
UMass Amherst residential assistant is *concerned* that Nazis are being made feel unwelcome on campus. He used the… https://t.co/G6uvFMIZ49— Chanda Prescod-Weinstein 🙅🏽♀️ 🇧🇧🌈 (@Chanda Prescod-Weinstein 🙅🏽♀️ 🇧🇧🌈) 1545490270.0
Absolutely zero surprise that it's UMass Amherst! Spineless as hell, esp considering there's been assholes waving n… https://t.co/hQ6Fuy7fHA— Leota (@Leota) 1545668760.0
@UMassAmherst I think you should reconsider allowing the student who had the “no nazi’s” sign in her window to put… https://t.co/mCLSV08u8b— KevinLyman (@KevinLyman) 1545664334.0
So @UMassAmherst first asks student to remove an anti-Nazi sign for reasons of "inclusion" and making everybody wel… https://t.co/xBEu0IcjKa— MikePence'sGayFriend (@MikePence'sGayFriend) 1545648473.0
@UMassAmherst So a student had to remove an anti-Nazi sign due to 'issues of inclusion'? Are you really this cluele… https://t.co/opf5I3lfDd— Mark Neese (@Mark Neese) 1545621956.0
UMass Amherst has recorded 19 hate crimes since mid-September, including homophobic graffiti carved into a men's bathroom stall and the distribution of racist flyers.
"Right now, the climate is just very contentious," says Heather Thein, a doctoral student studying English at UMass and an employee of the university's writing program. "We have a lot of students who don't feel comfortable on campus."
In a statement posted to Facebook, UMass Amherst stressed that "A poorly worded email Residence Life staff asking students to take down the sign does not reflect the values of the campus, and it should not have been sent."
Parsons had already decided to move off campus before the controversy her sign generated.
"This makes me glad [the move is] happening," she said. "I'm definitely going to hang it in my bedroom. I'm going to keep the sign forever."
Earlier this year, The Washington Post reported that white supremacist and neo-Nazi hate groups have made "an unprecedented push" to recruit on college campuses, bringing with them an uptick in hate crimes and racially charged incidents.