Public university omits race from crime alerts to protect minority students’ feelings

Kaitlyn Schallhorn
Former Reporter

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  • The University of Minnesota announced in a campus-wide email on Wednesday that it would discontinue the use of race in crime alerts.
  • U of M’s administration said that by including race in the alerts, black students felt marginalized and create a hostile environment.
  • Race descriptions will still be included when the university deems it necessary to make an arrest.
  • The University of Minnesota has discontinued using race in campus crime alerts sent to the Twin Cities community.

    In an email sent to faculty, staff, and students at the U of M, President Eric W. Kaler and Vice President Pamela Wheelock said they had been made aware of the “negative impact of using race as part of the suspect descriptions” and will cease to use racial descriptions in alerts that are “too general.”

    "If the university is withholding information that can help me identify a threat to my safety, I cannot support their actions."   

    “We have heard from many in our community that the use of race in suspect descriptions in our Crime Alerts may unintentionally reinforce racist stereotypes of Black men, and other people of color, as criminals and threats,’ Kaler said in the email obtained by Campus Reform. “That in turn can create an oppressive climate for some members of our community, a climate of suspicion and hostility.”

    According to the email, Kaler and Wheelock have been discussing the removal of racial descriptions from the crime alerts for more than a year—since Dec., 2013.

    “As a student here, I feel that any details that can be shared with me about the suspect are important to know for my safety,” Matthew Ricker, a freshman at U of M told Campus Reform. “If the university is withholding information that can help me identify a threat to my safety, I cannot support their actions.”

    In her statement, Wheelock said that while crime alerts are supposed to help people be safe, they can also impact people’s feeling of safety.

    “For some, knowing they have all the information available about a crime, including the complete suspect description, makes them feel better informed and increases how safe they feel,” Wheelock said. “But others—particularly Black men—have shared that suspect descriptions negatively impact their sense of safety. They express concern that Crime Alerts that include race reinforce stereotypes of Black men as threats and create a hostile campus climate.”

    According to the email, racial descriptions will be included in the crime alerts only when the university thinks there is “sufficient detail that would help identify a specific individual or group.”

    The email also claimed that U of M’s campus has become safer in the past 18 months as the number of robberies has decreased, and U of M faculty, staff, and students are “more aware” of campus safety measures.

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    Kaitlyn Schallhorn

    Kaitlyn Schallhorn

    Former Reporter

    Kaitlyn Schallhorn is a reporter with Campus Reform. Prior to joining Campus Reform, Kaitlyn was a reporter at Red Alert Politics and covered business and restaurants for the Alexandria Times.  

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