May 3 Day of Refusal: We demand Cops off Campus!
I pledge to absent myself from work, class, teaching, and more on Monday, May 3, 2021, as part of the national Day of Refusal to demand cops off campus. As a member of a campus community, I am horrified that—amidst a global pandemic, relentless state and vigilante violence against Black, brown, and Indigenous people, and national calls for abolition—schools across North America have committed to increasing police budgets. College police forces are increasingly militarized, and I support the nationwide call to demand cops off our campus to make our university truly safe and free for all, and I will not cross the picket line.
Across Turtle Island, institutions of higher education justify the existence of their effectively private police forces as an example of “community policing.” They evoke images of brutality against student protesters by local and state police forces during the 1960s and 1970s anti-war movement, and they assert that campus police can be more appropriately trained and better attuned to the student body. Now, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, over 95% of four-year colleges with a population of 2,500 students or more have their own law enforcement agency. Roughly 90% of these police forces have jurisdictions that extend beyond campus boundaries, and roughly 80% conduct joint patrols with local law enforcement. In recent years, the increase in full-time law enforcement has exceeded the pace of increase in student enrollment, despite declining crime rates over the same period. Colleges and universities spend millions — often hundreds of millions — of dollars on these police forces. This spending occurs while states cut appropriations for higher education and schools impose layoffs, furlough workers, slashing wages, and more in the midst of the pandemic.
None of this increased spending, militarization, and policing leaves us any more safe. In 2015, Sam DuBose, an unarmed Black man, was shot and killed by a University of Cincinnati police officer during a traffic stop. In 2017, campus police killed Georgia Tech student Scout Schultz, during a period of distress due to mental illness. In 2018, the University of Chicago Police Department shot Charles Thomas, a fourth-year Black student, during a mental health crisis. Also in 2018, Portland State University fired at Jason Washington 17 times and killed him as he was trying to break up a fight. A Yale campus officer was one of two officers who shot Stephanie Washington, an unarmed Black woman, in New Haven in 2019. In the past decade, California State University police officers have killed two unarmed people of color and maintained a jail on the CSU Northridge campus. The University of California police system has a history of using its police departments to brutalize students and to surveil and assault activists.
There are countless incidents of repression, racial profiling, brutality, and violence because these are fundamental characteristics of policing, inherent to its design. There is no escaping this reality, whether dealing with a local or state police force or an effectively private campus law enforcement department. We cannot rely on colleges and universities to meaningfully disrupt this status quo: the various committees, campus safety task forces, and other reformist reforms they put forward are designed to re-legitimize campus police institutions, not challenge them. As abolitionist scholar and Cops Off Campus Coalition member Dylan Rodríguez notes, “The university administration is police power, and university police are the direct expression of administrative power.”
This is why I choose to join the national Cops off Campus coalition’s Day of Refusal and join the countless students, faculty, and staff who are: cancelling/refusing to attend synchronous classes, refusing to watch asynchronous lectures, refusing to engage in any form of university-based labor (including email response), refusing to prepare materials (such as a class recording) for later asynchronous use, protecting students, colleagues, and workers from retaliation, and more. I demand cops off all campuses—be they public or private, K-12, university, or college— and an end to policing everywhere.
We demand the following:
1. We want ALL cops off of ALL campuses.
2. We demand the Land back
3. We demand investments in community safety and education
As someone who takes learning and/or teaching very seriously, I do not take this action lightly. However, I believe being in solidarity with this movement represents an important learning opportunity, one in which we confront together the recognition that the most lasting changes have always required discomfort and sacrifice.
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