Students at the University of Utah showed up at a Thursday meeting to denounce plans to add a campus police office to the student Union building.
Most of those in attendance were minorities, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, including LGBTQ-identified students and sexual assault survivors. Their specific beef: They would be the “most impacted” by the presence of a police office, as they’re the “most marginalized” and “most vulnerable” on campus.
The idea for the new office came from student government vice president Gabe Martínez following the murder of UT student Lauren McCluskey in October 2018.
But many UT students are still angry at university police for allegedly not taking McCluskey’s pre-death concerns about being stalked seriously. And this is the issue, student Puneet Singh said: McCluskey didn’t have difficulty finding the police; the police just didn’t listen to her.
“We don’t trust the police,” Singh said while waving a sign stating “Inept Cops.”
Martínez said his goal for the new office was to “rebuild th[e] relationship” between students and campus police. In addition, cops would be “closer to students” in the event of a shooting, and students would have “better access to victim advocates.”
But the Union “is full of clubs and organizations for minorities […] including the Women’s Resource Center, the LGBT Resource Center and the Center for Ethnic Student Affairs.” Students contend these groups “are more likely to be discriminated against or treated unfairly by police.”
“Increased police presence will negatively impact and distress marginalized students,” said Ermiya Fanaeian, a transgender woman and student of color. “Police have a long and dark history of unjustly policing people of color, queer people, undocumented people and women who are survivors of sexual violence.” …
Fanaeian was a representative in the student Assembly, which voted 19-9 to pass the resolution Tuesday before sending it to the student Senate. She resigned from her position after the meeting, she said, after she felt silenced.
Several said that’s how the university treats students of color — putting their faces on posters but ignoring their concerns.
“This is all a big f— you to students,” said Joy Kavapalu. “This institution continues to push students of color to the wayside.”
Although Martínez said he had spoken with some “100 students who liked” his idea, at Thursday’s meeting he ended up apologizing to those who argued against it, and “promis[ed] to come up with a new proposal.”
Alternative suggestions included relocating the police office to “a less controversial space,” to allocating money slated for its construction to “counseling to deal with the trauma from McCluskey’s killing.”
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