Faculty at University of Massachusetts Seek Reinstatement of Black Student Charged With Stabbing Two White Men: Defendant Says He Was Acting in Self-Defense Against Attackers Who Were Spewing Racial Hate

More than 100 faculty members at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst have signed a petition asking for the reinstatement of former student Jason W. Vassell. The 23-year-old African-American student left the university after being charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon. Vassell was accused of stabbing two white young adults in the lobby of a UMass dormitory last February.

Vassell claims that the two whites, who were not students at the university, taunted him with racial slurs through his dormitory window. The two white men then gained entry to the dormitory and confronted Vassell. The black student said he was attacked and had his nose broken before he stabbed the two white men with his pocketknife in self-defense.

The reinstatement of Vassell would be largely symbolic. He sent a letter to supporters that said he has no desire to return to UMass because “I no longer feel safe in that environment.”

The case is scheduled to go to trial in March.