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UMass Amherst administration failing to address car accident epidemic

Two+pedestrians+use+a+crosswalk+on+the+UMass+Amherst+campus+on+Friday%2C+April+7%2C+2022.

Two pedestrians use a crosswalk on the UMass Amherst campus on Friday, April 7, 2022.

**TRIGGER WARNING: This article contains graphic descriptions of car accidents and resulting bodily injuries**
Amidst all the horribly racist incidents and sexual abuse that is taking place at UMass Amherst, there’s another disturbing trend occurring which the school’s administration is successfully sweeping under the rug. Let me tell you about it, why I care and why you should too.
You may have heard about some incidents involving a car hitting pedestrians at the UMass Amherst campus recently. In 2019, 24-year-old Jaskaran Singh was killed when he was hit by a car on North Pleasant Street. A little over a month ago, 19-year-old student Elena Lucore was hit and killed by a car near the former UMass Visitor’s Center. Almost exactly one month later, a 20-year-old student was rushed to Bayside Medical Center—where he still remains—with “serious injuries” after being slammed into by an SUV.
Most people seem to be taken by anger at the drivers; how could they be so careless? But there is something more going on here than simply careless drivers. If it was just careless drivers, then this would be an occasional tragedy that happens when all the wrong stars align—and while the media coverage seems to imply that these are freak occurrences, this has in fact happened over, and over again. If you Google, “UMass Amherst pedestrian hit,” you are mostly flooded with stories about the March 21 incident, and about the tragic death of Elena Lucore; but, there is much more to the story.
In both of these cases, UMass Amherst and State Police have been tasked with an investigation. This is largely why we have heard about them in the news, but investigations do not always happen. I know from personal experience that there are many more which have not been reported on, nor handled by the police. How? Because my girlfriend was one of them. Here is the true horror of these vehicle-pedestrian collisions that the news stories can’t convey, and why I care so much about the issue.
On the night of Nov. 30, 2018, my girlfriend Lili and her friend Julia were walking out from their dorm when a car came careening around a corner and slammed into Lili’s left side. She was dragged, stuck under the front bumper, for forty-two feet before the driver stopped the vehicle. Lili remembers nothing after stepping into the street, but after waking up in the trauma center of a local hospital, she quickly found out that her life was never going to be the same. Her pelvis had been shattered into pieces. Her hip had crushed through its socket, and her muscles were pulling it up into her torso so strongly that a rod had to be drilled into her femur so that a sandbag could be hung from it, keeping her hip out of her abdominal cavity. Her skull was cracked in a few places, and she suffered from a traumatic brain injury. To make matters worse, the paramedics in the ambulance miscalculated her weight and overdosed her on fentanyl twice. And if that’s not traumatic enough, her emergency surgery was botched and, after waking up, she had to endure multiple more to fix what went wrong.
For a year afterwards, Lili walked with a cane. Her left hip could barely move and she couldn’t even sit at a 90-degree angle. Lili eventually received a total hip replacement; she was only 20-years-old. A major infection followed, resulting in a re-do of the initial replacement. Her medical bills are absolutely astronomical. The driver was never even given a ticket, nor a breathalyzer. The school was never held responsible, nor did they launch an investigation.
Lili used to be an athlete. She swam, ran, played soccer, lacrosse and was a gymnast. She was at her happiest when she was moving and active—now, she has to accept that the best she can do is recreationally swim at the YMCA.
I mentioned that there are many more unreported cases of people being hit by cars on the UMass Amherst campus. I know this because, through her experience, Lili has met and learned about many of them. Her friend Jackson was struck by a car driven by a UMass Amherst student and suffers from lasting injuries. There are many other stories that have been relayed to them as well. You will find none of them in the news. Perhaps sorting through police reports may yield a better picture of the situation but, to date, no one seems to have done so.
This is what each of these stories really look like. Many pedestrians have lost their very lives in these sorts of incidents, so when people hear that a victim survives an accident they may proclaim, “Thank goodness!” and forget about the whole thing. But the reality is that the lives of survivors are irrevocably and traumatically altered, and so are the lives of loved ones who have lost someone to a speeding vehicle. Even witnesses are seriously affected by these incidents; Lili’s friend Julia, and another student who called 911 after Lili was hit, both suffer from lasting mental trauma. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to witness something so horrible.
The ages of those involved in these horrific incidents stick with me too, both drivers and pedestrians—19, 20, 21, 24—all much too young to have the trauma of an incident like this imposed on them, though not to say that anyone should, and certainly too young to die.
I’ll put this plainly: What is wrong with the UMass Amherst administration? We’ve all heard the reports of racist graffiti, threatening emails and letters and sexual assault. Evidently, there has been an epidemic of student deaths and maimings from vehicle crashes for years as well. Why should anyone want to go to this unsafe campus? Why is the administration failing to act? Why is the state not putting its foot down and saying, “Enough is enough: fix your college, or face unilateral replacement”?
The administration claims to have taken some measures to make their roads safer, such as installing a few lights, decreasing speed limits and “hiring consultants.” But this simply isn’t enough. We cannot allow a purely reactionary paradigm to reign. Are we going to let more students die in order to get the administration to slowly begin taking steps to make their campus safer? We need proactive measures. This pandemic has taught us, among many other things, that unpreparedness and reactionary measures are just not enough.
This isn’t a minor issue. This isn’t something that can be put on the back burner. The small measures that the UMass Amherst administration have taken are nowhere near enough. People are suffering life-altering injuries, or even worse. This is a crisis that needs to end now.
Unfortunately, the bottom line is, well, just that: the bottom line. What do I mean by that? Well, UMass Amherst has never truly been held legally responsible for these deaths and maimings, nor have they faced massive public outcry or protest. This means that they can safely throw chump-change at the problem and formulate half-baked plans without suffering major loss of face or money. It’s simply unacceptable that they have been allowed to continue this way.
I want this article to be a wake-up call. We at UMass Boston are part of the UMass family, and as a family, we cannot allow our family members, or guests for that matter, to continue to die and suffer grievous injury at any of our relatives’ homes. This is why, in addition to immediate action being taken to end the racism and sexual assault that is so rampant, the students, administration and—most importantly—administration of UMass Boston, must act now to stop the UMass Amherst administration from allowing people to be run over at high speed by vehicles on their campus. But what actions can we take?
Unfortunately, it seems as if very few people care. There are no organizations that are taking on this issue, and the administration hasn’t provided any real system for people to advocate. Lili and others have tried to organize, but it hasn’t been easy since so few seem to care. So, students and concerned citizens: Organize! Protest! Boycott! Whatever you have to do to get the administration to really sweat. Those who give donations to UMass Amherst should cease all gifting until these situations are remedied. Faculty members can lobby and pester their administrations to take real, comprehensive and swift action. And while the UMass Amherst administration seems to be slowly getting the message, they have historically done little to nothing. So, it is unfortunately up to other UMass administrations to put real pressure on the Amherst branch.
Only by doing these things can we end the violent chaos at UMass Amherst. Only by doing these things can we save lives from death or ruination. If you are reading this, please share this issue with everyone you can. Generate outrage, for without it, there will be no change.
(1)  https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2022/03/22/student-seriously-injured-hit-and-run-umass-amherst/
(2)  https://www.nbcboston.com/news/local/arrest-made-in-hit-and-run-that-left-umass-student-badly-injured/2677391/
(3)  https://www.boston.com/news/local-news/2022/02/23/umass-amherst-pedestrian-crash-elena-lucore/
(4)  https://www.westernmassnews.com/2022/03/22/umass-students-speak-out-after-second-student-is-hit-by-car-monday-night/
(5)  https://www.masslive.com/news/2019/04/umass-grad-student-killed-when-hit-by-car-in-amherst.html

About the Contributor
James Cerone, Opinions Editor