UMass dean blasts pro-life laws, SCOTUS in letter to students

Dean Anna Maria Siega-Riz said UMass must 'train a diverse workforce that represents all our populations and thus reduce health inequities and save lives.'

The specific challenges include the Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action in college admissions, 'anti-abortion' laws, and 'attempts to reframe how slavery affected the lives of Blacks.'

A University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) dean denounced pro-life laws and the Supreme Court for ruling against race-based affirmative action in college admissions in a welcome email to students. 

”Over the summer, we witnessed the SCOTUS decision and its domino effect on other higher education policies in some states, the continued passing of anti-abortion laws that are increasingly impacting women’s access to safe and effective healthcare, and the attempts to reframe how slavery affected the lives of Blacks in this country, to name just a few examples,” Anna Maria Siega-Riz, a dean of the School of Public Health and Health Sciences, told students on Aug. 29. 

Siega-Riz acknowledged that the school is in a “progressive state,” but says that students must not ignore the effects of such policies nationwide. Siega-Riz, who specializes in reproductive and perinatal epidemiology and maternal and child nutrition, did not name specific policies or laws.

[RELATED: Biden administration advises alternatives to affirmative action]

“The world we live in continues to challenge us,” Siega-Riz wrote. “All you need to do is hop on social media and you’ll immediately be aware of the obstacles we face to fulfill our school’s vision to ‘serve, inspire, and improve the quality of life and health equity for the Commonwealth and beyond.’”

Siega-Riz explained that it is important to “train a diverse workforce that represents all our populations and thus reduce health inequities and save lives, an approach which is supported by scientific evidence.”

She then advertised UMass’ second annual Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) conference.

UMass has implemented similar programs tailored to minorities. The Office of Equity and Inclusion features ways to “fight hate” and advertises organizations like the Black Advisory Council, the DEI Student Council, and events specifically for “faculty of color.” 

In April, UMass’ president and chancellor both agreed to facilitate the state’s bulk purchase of abortion pills in response to a U.S. District Court judge in Texas suspending approval of the abortion drug, Mifepristone.

[RELATED: Cornell’s ‘Racial Allyship Training’ teaches students to ‘disrupt white spaces’ and ‘decenter whiteness’]

Other colleges and universities have established diversity initiatives similar to UMass Amherst, Campus Reform has reported. Purdue University’s Executive Director of Health Equity Initiatives, Dr. Jerome Adams, explained the difference between equity and equality at a Health Equity Summit in February 2023. 

“I am the director of health equity, not the director of health equality,” Adams said. “Equity is not about making sure everyone gets the same thing … Equity is about making sure people are getting what they need … equity is really about race, but it’s also about place, it’s about gender, it’s about ability,” he added. 

Campus Reform contacted Dean Siega-Riz and UMass’ public relations department for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.