The College Democrats of Massachusetts Thursday condemned homophobic attacks that have been aimed at gay politician Alex Morse since the group went public with allegations that he used his position as a mayor and university lecturer to have relationships with students.
The statewide organization and two campus chapters made the accusations in a letter to Morse, who is running for Congress, disinviting him from events. The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, the student newspaper at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, published the allegations a week ago. Morse, the mayor of Holyoke, was a part-time lecturer at the university from 2014 to 2019.
Since the news came out, he has been subjected to attacks that have included a Holyoke City Council member saying Morse had been engaging in “sexual activities with teenagers,” wording that carried implications of pedophilia.
Thursday, the College Democrats put out a statement saying that while students claiming that Morse abused his power had raised legitimate concerns, the group denounced homophobic statements that have been made and apologized “for the role that we played.”
Morse responded with a statement thanking the group and saying he would be “more aware of power dynamics in my interactions with other people.”
Morse, 31, has acknowledged he had relationships with college students he met through dating apps and social media, but he has said all the relationships were consensual and that none of the students were in his classes. He has contended the allegations were politically motivated, and some journalists have reported that a former College Democrats official has ties to U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, who Morse is running against in the Democratic primary in Massachusetts’s First Congressional District. The primary is September 1, and since no Republican is running, the winner of the primary is assured of election in November.
Neal has been in Congress since 1989. He is an LGBTQ+ ally and chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Morse and his supporters have described Neal as out of touch with the western Massachusetts district and too cozy with corporate interests. Neal has put out a statement saying he and his campaign have had nothing to do with the allegations against Morse and that he condemns homophobia.
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Democratic Party has announced plans to examine how the College Democrats’ allegations surfaced, while UMass-Amherst has hired a Boston-based attorney to review Morse’s conduct. The attorney is Natashia Tidwell, who headed the team overseeing implementation of a consent decree to reform policing in Ferguson, Mo., after the fatal police shooting of unarmed Black man Michael Brown in 2014, The Springfield Republican reports.
“The university believes the nature of the allegations initially raised in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian necessitate a thorough and independent review, with the possibility of including a determination of whether students were subjected to a hostile learning environment as articulated in its campus policies, which are based on and guided by federal and state anti-discrimination law, including Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972,” university officials said in a press release.