In a push toward law enforcement reform following the killing of George Floyd, students presented proposals to disarm, defund and monitor the University of Minnesota Police Department at a Senate Consultative Committee meeting Thursday.
The four proposals were authored by members of student government and student groups. The meeting offered members of the SCC to ask questions and hear feedback which will be used to inform the agenda for the next University Senate meeting June 29.
Establishing a new University Senate committee
The first proposal, presented by leaders of the Professional Student Government and Council of Graduate Students, asked to create a new campus safety committee within the University Senate. The committee would be a centralized avenue which students could use to voice concerns about campus safety into the future.
"These problems are so deep rooted that they're not going to be resolved in one summer," said Eman Qureshi, president of PSG. "We're asking for this primarily because it is an actionable step that we can take towards long-term change."
Qureshi said the recent outpouring of input and proposals from students shows the need for a place where they can be heard by University leadership.
Creating a UMPD advisory board
A group of students from the Student Senate, Minnesota Student Association and Women for Political Change brought forth a proposal to establish the UMPD Community Police Accountability Board, which would adopt rules and regulations for the department and review investigations and complaints against it, among other responsibilities.
The board would base its structure on existing advisory boards at peer Big Ten schools and consist of students, faculty, staff and community members. The proposal came after advocacy by undergraduate student body President Jael Kerandi and student groups such as Students for a Democratic Society.
The proposal’s authors urged a creative process when constructing the board.
“Students are a little bit reluctant to work from the current systems as they don't know how they operate like we do. And they don't know how much they can actually trust them. And so with that reluctance, there needs to be an attempt to work outside the norm for building new systems such as this,” said incoming Student Senate Consultative Committee Chair Briggs Tople.
Disarming and demilitarizing UMPD
Isaiah Ogren, outgoing SSCC ranking senator, presented a proposal to reduce military surplus equipment and remove deadly weapons for UMPD officers’ daily carry.
Ogren stressed that the resolution does not call for the complete removal of lethal weapons in UMPD.
“There is no such thing as a risk-free world. I am cognizant of that — everyone that I've consulted with is cognizant of that,” Ogren said. “But for far too long, we have discounted the risk and inappropriately weighed the risks that Black people experience when they interact with law enforcement of any kind, and it is time to stop discounting and devaluing that risk."
The resolution calls for an audit of UMPD’s weaponry and the development of ways to effectively use less lethal options.
Reforming campus safety
Members from Students for a Democratic Society and UMN Climate Strike presented a proposal to establish several new initiatives to minimize police presence on campus, defund and disarm UMPD and establish a community police accountability council.
The presenters highlighted the racist history of policing in the United States and emphasized the importance of considering race when planning public safety reform.
“Black people and brown people are experts at their pain, which makes them experts at their solutions and the ways out of those. So if we really want change and we want change for those communities, we need to start asking those communities what they want and then not just asking, we need to start delivering,” said Fanta Diallo, a partner of SDS.
The presenters called for $3 million of UMPD’s budget to be reallocated to support programs, such as the Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action office and cultural resources such as cultural studies programs and student groups such as Black Student Union and La Raza.
At the end of the meeting, University leaders were given a chance to respond to the presentations.
Vice President for Equity and Diversity Michael Goh emphasized the need for varying opinions in this process.
“I think it's necessary to create discomfort … by including views that are sometimes oppositional, clashing, in contrast with each other with the goal and with the commitment that we share the same path moving forward,” he said.
UMPD Chief Matt Clark expressed his willingness to hear input from the campus community moving forward.
“What I'm doing here today, and what I think is most important, is that I get as much feedback as possible. That we listen and consider how to provide the best service possible,” Clark said. “And I think there's a lot of room for improvement. Can we do better? Yes. Is there an area that we can make things better for everyone? Yes, but that starts by listening.”
Katelyn Vue contributed to this report.