Abolish the police 101: College courses teach students that police, prisons must go

America's elite universities offering anti-police courses that engage Marxism and the abolitionist movement.

Several courses require students to engage in anti-police activism.

This fall, students at Yale, Vassar, Columbia, and Wesleyan, among other universities, will teach students that abolishing the police is a worthy social cause. 

Yale University’s course “Marx & Abolition Today” ties racism to capitalism and likens policing to slavery. According to the course description, students will examine the writings of “radical thinkers” as it relates to Karl Marx’s body of work. Among those scholars are Angela Davis and Ruth Wilson Gilmore, both of whom have called for abolishing prisons and the police. The course will address “contemporary struggles against racial domination within capitalist societies,” and the course description includes policing and incarceration on a list of “systems of racial oppression,” along with slavery and colonialism. 

Courses at Columbia Law School and Wesleyan University do more than teach about abolishing the police; they encourage students to become anti-police activists.

Columbia Law’s “Abolition: A Social Justice Practicum: Experiential Learning” will give students “hands on practice in legal cases involving capital punishment, police violence, protest rights, as well as public policy interventions.” Per the course description, this class “will engage...the ambition of racial justice and abolition democracy,” and “will seek to chart the road to abolition of the punitive paradigm in the United States.”

[RELATED: Davidson College offers ‘#AbolishThePolice’ course]

Meanwhile, Wesleyan will be teaching abolition “as a form of activism” that “brings utopian dreams to bear upon concrete practices.” Students enrolled in “Abolition and Social Praxis,” according to the course description, “will be asked to take on an activist project as part of the course.”

These classes align with the Bard College class on “Abolishing Prisons and the Police,” first covered by Campus Reform, which will teach students “how to ‘sell’ abolition to the masses and design a multi-media ad campaign to make prison abolition go viral.”

[RELATED: Bard College course: ‘Abolishing Prisons and the Police’]

Framing the movement to abolish the police as the extension of historical abolition movements is a common thread throughout several courses. 

A course at U.C. Santa Cruz calls abolishing the police an “imperative.” Titled “Black Geographies and the Imperative of Abolition,” the course description states:

For Vassar College’s ”Global Policing, Prisons, and Abolition” course, the class “understands policing and prisons as entangled with and embedded within broader global structures of colonialism, imperialism, white supremacy, and counterinsurgency.” 

In the spring, Vassar will continue this theme with a course called “Policing the Planet,” which asks, “Can we imagine safety without the police?”

These courses will be delivered during the fall 2021 semester. Campus Reform is continuing to track instances of anti-police bias on college campuses.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @AngelaLMorabito