March 20, 2018

UMass Dartmouth Student’s Claim About Federal Agents Crumbles Under Scrutiny

By LJ Staff

An unnamed student at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth said he was visited by federal agents after requesting the ‘Peking’ edition of Chinese leader Mao Tse-tung’s Little Red Book through interlibrary loan (ILL). His claim, however, collapsed within a week, with increasing press and public scrutiny of apparently unsupported claims. According to a December 17 report in the New Bedford, MA, Standard-Times, the student told his professors that he was visited at his parents’ home by two Department of Homeland Security agents after he requested the book via ILL as part of his coursework. Later, he was approached by agents who told him the book was on a ‘watch list,’ although it was not revealed how his library records may have been obtained.

After the story broke nationally, UMass Dartmouth officials released a statement saying that administrators were ‘investigating’ the details of the story. In an email response to LJ, however, one of the student’s professors, Brian Glyn Williams, initially stood by the account. However, according to a Dec. 24 report in the Standard-Times, the student, under questioning by university officials and the reporter, offered new details regarding confidentiality agreements that he and his parents signed – details that Williams relayed to the student’s parents, who said that was news to them. The student’s story also involved his twin brother, who was said to have requested the book at UMass Amherst and his uncle, a former FBI attorney who handled all the paperwork. There was no proof of the interlibrary loan request. "I grew skeptical of this story,’ Williams told the newspaper, adding, ‘I wasn’t involved in some partisan struggle to embarrass the Bush administration, I just wanted the truth.’