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UMass Investigating Allegations Of Inappropriate Behavior By Morse

Updated at 3:56 p.m.

Calling the allegations "serious and deeply concerning," UMass Amherst said Saturday it was investigating whether Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse violated university policy or federal law during his time teaching on campus.

This comes after the Massachusetts Daily Collegian reported that the College Democrats of Massachusetts wrote the mayor a letter accusing him of using his “position of power for romantic or sexual gain.” 

According to the report, the letter says Morse, 31, has had relationships with college students, including during his current Democratic primary campaign against U.S. Representative Richard Neal of Springfield.

Morse taught at UMass Amherst eight times as an adjunct instructor between the fall of 2014 and fall of 2019, according to a statement from the school. He taught a course titled "Urban Government & Politics."

"The university has reached out to students to provide them resources and support," the school's statement said. "UMass was previously unaware of the concerns brought forward by the members of the College Democrats."

The university said Morse is not a current UMass employee and there are "no plans to rehire" him. As of Saturday afternoon, Morse was still listed as a lecturer on the school's website, and as "Faculty/Staff" in the college's online directory. 

Citing school policy, UMass said "faculty are prohibited from entering into a sexual relationship with any student or postdoc for whom the faculty member has any responsibility for supervision, evaluation, grading, advising, employment, or other instructional or supervisory activity."

The report in the Collegian did not say whether Morse is accused of having a relationship with a student taking his course.

In his statement to the Collegian, Morse acknowledged having "some" relationships with college students. He said all his relationships were consensual, but acknowledged he should be aware of his position of power.

Morse apologized to anyone he has "made feel uncomfortable," and offered to meet with any person or group to address their concerns.

Mayor Alex Morse of Holyoke, Massachusetts, speaks to reporters during the launch of his congressional campaign on July 22, 2019.
Credit Jerrey Roberts / Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com
Daily Hampshire Gazette / gazettenet.com
Mayor Alex Morse of Holyoke, Massachusetts, speaks to reporters during the launch of his congressional campaign on July 22, 2019.
Mayor Alex Morse of Holyoke, Massachusetts, on July 14, 2020.
Credit Jeanette DeForge / The Republican / masslive.com/photos
The Republican / masslive.com
Mayor Alex Morse of Holyoke, Massachusetts, on July 14, 2020.

The campaign did not immediately respond to a request for Morse's full statement, or a query about whether he would be available to answer questions from reporters.

Morse has served as mayor of Holyoke since 2012. He is the city's first openly gay mayor, and referenced his sexuality in the statement to the Collegian.

“Navigating life as both a young gay man and an elected official can be difficult, but that doesn’t excuse poor judgment,” Morse said.

Asked if any UMass students had received college credit for interning on Morse's congressional campaign or in the Holyoke mayor's office, a spokesman said officials are "in the process of reviewing available records."

Neal, who now chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, also teaches at UMass. According to the university, he most recently taught in the spring of 2020, and is scheduled to teach again — remotely — this fall semester.

Correction: Relying on a search of the UMass online course catalog, an earlier version of this report said Morse most recently taught his course in the spring of 2018, and Neal in the spring of 2019. A statement from the university said Morse and Neal both taught their courses during more recent semesters.

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