June 26th, 2020
Dear President Gibson,
We request the University President and her cabinet begin the process of divesting from our campus police.
Galvanized by the too familiar images of the anti-Black racist violence of policing, campuses and communities across the globe are organizing to divest from police and other forms of law enforcement including Immigration and Customs Enforcement. DePaul University had a forum June 10th – Defund the Police: Divest DePaul, Northwestern University’s Black student union, For Members Only, issued a statement calling for divestment in campus policing and investing in Black students. Thousands of staff, faculty and students in the University of California system are organizing for divestment. San Jose State University students, faculty and staff are advocating to cut the police budget in half and funnel those funds into programs serving the university’s Black community. The Champaign-Urbana community demands that the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign divest from local police.
Defunding campus police – investing in prevention not punishment – is long overdue.
In 2018 the Chronicle of Higher Education reported campus policing among the “hottest job markets on campus” despite little evidence of their effectiveness in producing campus safety – particularly for Black and Brown students.
Of course we want to be safe. Our students want to be safe. What would make the campus safer for our students at this moment? Consider the survey questions recently sent around to our students, specifically slide 3 and 4 of Dr. Rome’s powerpoint for the June 11 Board of Trustees meeting.
Our students need free childcare. Free tuition. Less exploitative employers. Food. Affirming and free mental healthcare. While we cannot address all the needs of our community, a budget is one way to communicate the values of our university.
Our 2018-2019 campus budget allocated:
$2,091,509 for campus policing (including 27 police officers, security guards and Director of Police);
$737,106 for Counseling and Career Services (including two directors, 3 assistant/associate directors, and 5 counselors).
Budgets are moral documents: We currently invest almost three times more in policing than in the mental health or future employment of our students.
Imagine how we could create a safer and stronger campus, one with higher retention and graduation rates, if we moved $500,000 from policing to counseling? Or $500,000 to recruit and retain more faculty and staff of color? Or $500,000 to recruit, support and retain Black students? Or paid unarmed students or community members a flourishing wage to unlock our office doors when we forget our keys?
Reviewing NEIU’s campus police blotter indicates that our community would be better served by – for example – additional counselors, medical care, and community members trained in conflict mediation and de-escalation. (Recent research also documents that non-campus police spend 4% of their time addressing “violent crime” and advocates for “unbundling” essential responses – usually social work and healthcare – from policing and redirecting resources to prevention and trained support service personnel).
We recognize that imagining safety and life outside of policing might be exercising new muscles for some members of our community. Yet we argue that it is an imperative anti-racist move that builds safety for all. Now.
Thank you for considering our request. Our faculty union has established an ad hoc committee to support this initiative.
We look forward to your response,
Erica R. Meiners, Professor
Educational Inquiry and Curriculum Studies & Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Bernard J. Brommel Distinguished Research Professor
Laurie Fuller, Professor
Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies
Audrey Reynolds Distinguished Teaching Professor