UCOP hosts virtual safety symposium to discuss campus policing

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Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff
The UC Office of the President hosted the first virtual Campus Safety Symposium on experiences and perspectives regarding campus policing Tuesday.

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To deepen understanding of diverse experiences and perspectives regarding campus policing, the UC Office of the President hosted the first part of a virtual Campus Safety Symposium Tuesday.

The event began with opening remarks from UC Board of Regents chair John Pérez and UC President Michael Drake, where Pérez discussed his experiences with police and views on police reform. Drake added that he hopes to establish a long-term solution to address the needs of students of color who feel unsafe on campus.

“As a society, we are just beginning to address how deeply embedded racism has been throughout our history and the legacy of suffering that still persists today,” Drake said during the event. “Similarly, at UC, we recognize we won’t fix everything in one day.”

Following the opening remarks, former University of Vermont Chief of Police Gary Margolis, University of Maryland professor Rashawn Ray, University of Oregon President Michael Schill and Yale Law School research scholar Caroline Sarnoff discussed ways to foster trust between communities and law enforcement.

Margolis discussed how police reform was successfully accomplished in the past through encouraging diversity within ranks. Sarnoff presented a plan centered around three goals — encouraging cooperation through trust and legitimate policies, placing safety as key and undoing past trauma through community development and reconciliation — to increase just policing.

The plan emphasized safety, dignity, parsimony and equity, and outlined policies to set a new standard, facilitate culture change, measure what matters and manage it, reconcile past harms and create a UC police review board.

“A framework where there is opportunity to provide change in the operations rather than holding an individual blameworthy … works better to prevent future harms,” Sarnoff said during the event. “By evaluating police violence by general misconduct within a framework, we are emphasizing the complexity of policing rather than individual faults or blame as the root cause.”

In the second half of the symposium, presenters were asked to share what campus safety means to them and the impacts of campus policing, beginning with UC Riverside undergraduate student Naomi Waters and UC Irvine Professor Emerita in Criminology, Law and Society Carroll Seron.

Waters, a Black student and the only undergraduate featured in the symposium, was adamant in her support for substantial disarmament.

“Students have consistently delineated their concerns around campus safety and policing and defined their own terms that charge accountability as safety, disarming as safety, demilitarization as safety, defunding as safety and abolition as safety,” Waters said during the event.

Following Seron, UC Merced Campus Advocacy, Resources and Education Director Yesenia Curiel and UC Davis Chief of Police Joseph Farrow discussed the need for collaboration between campus communities and UCPD.

Farrow said UCPD has experienced historic and ongoing problems with serving the community it is tasked to defend, but suggested that the department aims to restore trust and respect.

“As a CARE director, I cannot ignore the fact that I need to collaborate with UCPD,” Curiel said during the event. “We need them to serve protection orders, we need them to take down, in a very trauma-informed way, reports of survivors.”

UC Riverside Vice Chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Mariam Lam, UCLA Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Monroe Gorden and UC Riverside doctoral student Roberto Rivera also offered their thoughts on the meaning of campus safety.

While acknowledging issues raised by Waters, other speakers emphasized greater transparency, community oversight and training as solutions in developing impartial policing.

“We find ourselves in a moment that provides an extraordinary opportunity to rethink what campus safety and security means in our institutions,” Gorden said during the event. “Perhaps now more than ever we are hearing from voices, communities and perspectives that were not previously elevated or respected.”

Contact Jasmine Lee and David Villani at [email protected].