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SDS challenges University Senate vote for unrepresentative Campus Safety Committee

By staff

Minneapolis, MN – A proposal to amend faculty senate bylaws and create a new Campus Safety Committee failed to garner enough votes to pass during a June 29 University Senate meeting, open only to voting members. The proposed committee would “advise and consult with the President, the responsible senior administrators, and the Vice President for University Services on policies and major decisions relating to campus and public safety at the University,” and would be made up of faculty, academic professional members, students, civil service members, and ex officio representatives.

Critics of the proposal from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) point out that, despite repeated efforts and demands by students at large, the Campus Safety Committee had no mechanism for ensuring the cultural and racial representation of the university community members who have been historically harmed by police force.

The proposed committee was relegated only to a consultative role and did not: review UMPD officer misconduct, give its members the power to hire and fire UMPD officers, allow for general election of its members, or come from a framework that centers Black voices. The failed proposal contrasts with that of SDS, which calls for a Campus Civilian Accountability Council, or Campus CPAC, that has authoritative powers over the police force and representation across campus cultural and Black, Latino, indigenous and other oppressed nationality groups.

The proposal for the Campus Safety Committee even garnered concern from the Senate Professionals and Administrators Consultative committee, writing: “We are concerned that critical voices which may need to be heard have not been, while also creating a disconnect between the work of this group and the respective bodies of University Governance.”

The failed ‘campus safety’ proposal was another example of insufficient, bureaucratic university responses to the underlying systemic causes of George Floyd’s murder, among other victims of police terror. Additionally, this meeting was not advertised to the university community nor was there an ability for public viewers to ask questions or leave chat comments during the meeting’s YouTube live stream.

SDS Members and activists Fanta Diallo, Jae-Lah Lymon and Olivia Crull joined the meeting to point out the inadequacies before the proposal for the committee ultimately failed with only 80 out of the 269 voting members approving the amendment.

“You can’t say you are committed to dismantling institutionalized racism then lack any representation of BIPOC on your committee. We don’t want another powerless oversight committee,” stated Fanta Diallo.

“We are on the frontlines, we are mobilizing hundreds of students, protesting every week, listen to our voices, listen to Black voices,” said Jae-Lah Lymon.

“There is no ensured mechanism for this committee to not be an elected body of white students, “Olivia Crull stated. “We are concerned about the lack of consultation from undergraduate students on this proposal, specifically our requests as well as the request from MSA [Muslim Students Association] members who were not answered by authors of this proposal.”

This failed proposal is an example of how direct, community-driven change is needed to address systemic issues of UMN bureaucracy and its policing at large. SDS stands in support of the Campus CPAC and pushes for further consultation among university leaders for its establishment along with disarmament and defunding of the University of Minnesota Police Department.

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