Student protesters: Armed police 'endangers many'

The Evergreen State College and University of Rochester both recently experienced backlash in the form of protests to proposals for adding armed security guards to campus.

University of Rochester Public Safety Chief Mark Fischer submitted a proposal to the student senate Oct. 22 that would place armed officers on the school’s River and Eastman campuses, granting them unrestricted access to the areas.

”DPS officers are better trained than any area law enforcement agency and understand our university community and culture,” Fischer wrote in a proposal to the school’s Public Safety Review Board, obtained by the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. “These officers should be the first responders to every call for service, and especially those involving deadly weapons where a rapid armed response is needed for life preservation.”

[RELATED: Howard students occupy admin building, demand disarming of police]

”We have seen no appreciable difference in criminal activity in either the River or Eastman Campuses,” Fischer added. “However, the average DPS response time from the [nearest police station] to River Campus is six minutes, which is more than triple the time when compared to an armed officer already assigned to the campus. For the Eastman Campus, there is a complete reliance on the Rochester Police Department for incidents involving a weapon.” 

In a statement to Campus Reform, the school’s admissions and financial aid dean, Jonathan Burdick, addressed the call for armed officers on the two campuses. 

”Students are raising concerns, as are faculty, and the University president, Richard Feldman, has responded by appointing a broad study group involving representatives of all stakeholders on behalf of our many students of color, whose fears I understand and find credible, and because I have a responsibility for advising the campus about potential risks to our future enrollment,” Burdick said.” The aftermath of an unjustifiable shooting (even if it’s a lawful shooting, and especially if it could be argued as a racially motivated) is a risk.” 

[RELATED: Student group tells ‘white folks’ to ‘STOP CALLING THE COPS’]

But, in an email to members, the University of Rochester Minority Students’ Association Board, said the proposal “does not reflect the direct needs of this campus and surrounding community and in fact, endangers many,” according to the Campus Times.

“When the proposal is off the table, then we can talk about trust and transparency,” the group said.

A similar proposal at Evergreen State College in Washington State was also met with a protest attended by more than a hundred individuals earlier in November. The Cooper Point Journal reported that the university recently cut faculty positions. However, the publication reported the college is currently hiring at least four half-time faculty positions.

A rally organizer for the IWW South Sound General Education Union, a local group, conducted the chant, “this is a college not a war, what do we need rifles for!” Other protesters chimed in with “what’s the course that sets us free? Political economy!” according to the Cooper Point Journal.

“It’s a waste of resources, it’s not transparent, it doesn’t make anyone feel safer,” Evergreen professor Peter Bohmer said at the protest.

Sophomore Patrick Hamilton, a member of the International Socialist Organization, said that the administration would be better off funding “community-based learning,” “the theatre, photography, and political economy departments,” and claimed that protesters are “not just rejecting the violence of campus police. But we’re beginning to organize a movement to save Evergreen from the administration.”

[RELATED: Student reported to police for talking about concealed carry]

“As long as police remain at Evergreen, its status as a ‘sanctuary campus’ should be viewed with a grain of salt, as should any stated commitments to equality and inclusion,” freshman Alice McIntyre said at the event, the Cooper Point Journal reported.

Once the speakers finished, the protesters went to President George Bridges’ office, where they provided a list of demands given to Vice President for Finance and Operations John Carmical, who oversees Police Services at Evergreen State. Carmical told the Cooper Point Journal that he was supportive of the administrative decision to arm police with AR-15 rifles.

“We don’t have armed guards on campus, just regular commissioned police officers like every other public college campus in Washington,” Evergreen spokeswoman Allison Anderson told Campus Reform. Anderson declined to comment on the proposed plan for two armed guards to be hired on campus or the demands given to the president.

Neither Carmical nor the Minority Students’ Association Board at University of Rochester responded to requests for comment in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @bmac0507