In solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives, we call for Tufts University to Disarm and Defund the TUPD   

June 18, 2020

 

To the President and Senior Leadership of Tufts University: 

 

We call upon the senior leadership of Tufts University to radically reimagine community safety on all campuses. 

 

The recent murders of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee, Rayshard Brooks and so many other Black persons at the hands of the police have rocked our nation.  These tragic deaths remind us that anti-Blackness and racialized state violence have been at the core of policing from its earliest days. From their origins in slave patrols in the south, to their enforcement of the legal infrastructure and vigilante violence of Jim Crow, to their frontline participation in the War on Drugs, the police have served to uphold and reinforce a status quo social order rooted in white supremacy and systems of racial domination. Current practices like racial profiling, stop-and-frisk, broken windows policing, and collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE continue to target Black and brown people, queer and trans people, and the poor. These histories and current practices affect our community here at Tufts.  

 

For racialized groups, police presence does not signal safety. The presence of a weapon can stun students, staff, and faculty into fear for their life and well-being. At college campuses across the nation, students have called the police on other black and brown students for simply being on campus.  Campus police and security forces have seen the same problems as policing broadly: racial profiling, police killings of Black civilians,  protest suppression, and the acquisition of military-grade equipment. We cannot act as if the police brutality and abuse of power transpiring at the national and local level is absent at Tufts. We are not immune to the powerful and systemic forces of anti-Black racism, transphobia, xenophobia and white supremacy that begets egregious surveillance in the name of “public safety.” Who is this public? And for whom is it safe?

 

As members of the Tufts community committed to abolition, we demand the University cut ties with state and local law enforcement agencies, disarm and defund the Tufts Police Department, and reallocate resources towards collective community safety. This includes imagining alternative forms of emergency responders through support, training and funding for health care workers, mental health practitioners, sexual assault responders, peer mediation, and transformative justice facilitation. 

 

Tufts students have documented racially targeted policing and demanded police accountability prior to this historical moment. A 2015 statement of the Black Liberation Collective included a demand to end to racial profiling and increased surveillance of predominantly Black events by the TUPD. But racialized policing on campus has not ended.  A 2017 article in the Tufts Observer reported that Black students and staff experience fear and apprehension in encounters with TUPD officers, feel targeted because of their Blackness, and report continued disproportionate surveillance and policing of Black parties and social events.  Last year, in 2018-2019, Black students made a similar demand for the end of racial profiling, and yet Black student events were shut down.  There have been incidents of Black students feeling profiled by police while walking around campus.  

 

We are concerned by Tufts PD’s involvement with escalation and militarization tactics locally and globally. In response to the 2008 Virginia Tech shooting, Tufts armed the campus police with semi-automatic rifles. In 2017, former police chief Kevin Maguire, along with the Somerville police chief and other Massachusetts law enforcement officials, traveled abroad to participate in a National Counter-Terrorism Seminar in Israel. Such seminars have headlined speakers accused of human rights abuses, and have proliferated tactics for covert surveillance and violent protest suppression. Students have since rallied against such militarized trainings through their demands in the End the Deadly Exchange! Campaign, supported by at least 16 student organizations. The police department’s justification for its increased militarization is that it wants to be prepared for an active shooter incident.  However, racialized communities pay the everyday price for this kind of securitization.  We also question TUPD’s ongoing “strong relationships with state and local law enforcement agencies.”  Area law enforcement agencies have been implicated in troubling practices.  For instance, 27 officers in Medford and 12 officers in Somerville were recently added to the “Brady” list by the Middlesex County DA, indicating credibility issues that make them untrustworthy witnesses in criminal cases.

 

Groups at several of our peer institutions have made clear calls to disarm, defund and disband campus policing, including: Northwestern, University of Washington, Columbia Mailman school of Public Health, NYU, and The University of California.  Some institutions have already taken action to limit policing.  The University of Minnesota has scaled back its ties to the Minneapolis Police Department by ending contracts with MPD for large events and other specialized services. Johns Hopkins University has put a two-year moratorium on a plan to create a campus police force in order to explore alternative approaches to campus safety.  More locally, Clark University has cut ties with the Worcester Police Department. 

 

Our peer institutions are also undertaking efforts to re-envision and reconfigure campus safety in ways that reduce or eliminate reliance on punitive law enforcement and we must follow-suit. This work requires internally reallocating resources to further develop preventive services and programs that address the root causes of harm on campus and in our surrounding communities.  It also requires developing novel approaches to healing, accountability, and safety in response to harm.  Transformative justice and community safety models do exist, and we are in an urgent moment to reimagine what safety and justice looks like at Tufts. For example, Brown University has started a Transformative Justice Program that addresses harm and provides a framework for community accountability that does not involve the state.  And the successes of mobile crisis response teams have shown that medical and mental health professionals are more equipped to de-escalate many situations that the police currently respond to.

 

Re-evaluating the university’s approach to safety, accountability, and community means acknowledging that the scope of the university’s police is much too large.  Officers armed with access to semiautomatic weapons is not the best first response to reports of sexual violence, or to student lock-outs. According to TUPD’s annual reports for the Medford/Somerville campus, between 2016 and 2018 there were 41 reports of rape and sexual assault on campus, and 6 cases of aggravated assault. Meanwhile there were 333 citations and referrals for liquor law violations. It’s clear that violent crime that requires weaponized de-escalation is not the problem. What could it look like to reallocate resources toward building social alternatives not structured around alcohol, investing in dynamic and ongoing education around sexual health and gender-based violence, re-allocate monies to food security and survivor support, and providing expanded mental health options?     

 

We call for these steps to be taken at Tufts:

  • Publish transparent information about the TUPD budget lines

  • Publish transparent information about the operational structure of the TUPD, the size of the personnel, and the kinds of weapons in stock

  • Immediately disarm TUPD 

  • Develop plans to internally reallocate resources from the TUPD budget to building social alternatives to support and enhance the safety and health of all members of the Tufts community, especially Black people targeted by ongoing state violence

  • Divest from all forms of militarized policing, including ending any affiliation with the Department of Defense's 1033 program that transfers surplus military grade equipment to municipal and campus police 

  • Divest from private prisons 

  • Hold listening forums in which members of the Tufts community can share grievances about their experiences with police force, and contribute ideas about social alternatives

  • Demonstrate measurable accountability by publishing regular updates on progress to defund the police, and to implement better solutions for ensuring community safety

  • Include and consult Black students, faculty and staff in the redesigning of community safety and wellness

 

It is up to us now to initiate serious change. Tufts has shown remarkable leadership in imagining other forms of action in a moment of crisis. When Covid-19 first began, Tufts mobilized to make the residential halls available to medical workers. We are in another moment to be innovative about what we understand to be collective community safety. Again: we call to disarm and defund the TUPD, sever ties with local police, and immediately work towards organizing alternative structures of safety and care for our community that we list above.  We ask that this be a transparent process (with ongoing updates) that includes students, staff, and faculty who have already been engaged in the Movement for Black Lives and liberation work, and that change happens through: institutional restructuring; student affairs work; student, staff, and faculty recruitment and retention; and curricular reform. 


 

Sincerely, 

Your name

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Lilian Mengesha, Theatre, Dance, Performance Studies & Dept. of Studies in Race, Colonialism and Diaspora 

 

Kareem Khubchandani, Theatre, Dance, Performance Studies & Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies

 

Daanika Gordon, Sociology & Dept. of Studies in Race, Colonialism and Diaspora

Diana Martinez, Department of the History of Art & Architecture, & Dept. of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora

 

Kris Manjapra, History Department, & Chair of Dept. of Studies in Race, Colonialism and Diaspora 

 

Amahl Bishara, Anthropology, & Dept. of Studies in Race, Colonialism and Diaspora  

 

Kamran Rastegar, Dept. of International Literary and Cultural Studies, Director, Center for Humanities at Tufts,

Affiliated Faculty, Dept. of Studies in, Race, Colonialism and Diaspora, Program Director, Arabic Program

 

Heather Curtis, Chair of Religion Department, & Dept. of Studies in Race, Colonialism and Diaspora 

 

Paul Joseph, Chair of Sociology Department

Heather S. Nathans, Chair, Theatre, Dance, & Performance Studies and Alice and Nathan Gantcher Profesor in Judaic Studies

 

Adriana Zavala, History of Art and Architecture, & Dept. of Studies in Race, Colonialism and Diaspora

 

Adlai Murdoch, Francophone Studies, Africana Studies, & Dept. of Studies in Race, Colonialism and Diaspora

 

Katrina Moore, Director, Africana Center

 

Hope Denese Freeman, Director, LGBT and Interim Women’s Center

 

Sarah Luna, Department of Anthropology & Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies 

 

Pearl Robinson, Politics Science, International Relations, Africana Studies

 

Ayesha Jalal, History Department

 

Hilary Binda, Founding Director, Tufts University Prison Initiative at Tisch College, Director Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Civic Studies

 

Sarah Pinto, Anthropology Department

 

Noe Montez, Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies 

 

Peter Probst, History of Art and Architecture & Anthropology

 

Madina Agénor, Department of Community Health

 

Abigail Satinsky, Curator, Exhibitions & Programs, SMFA/Tufts University Art Galleries

 

John Lurz, Department of English 

 

Christina Maranci, History of Art and Architecture

 

Alexander Blanchette, Anthropology Department

 

Cynthia Sanders, Department Administrator, Dept. of Studies in Race, Colonialism, and Diaspora

 

Anne Burgess, Staff Assistant, History of Art and Architecture Amy West, Department Administrator, History of Art and Architecture 

 

Helen Marrow, Sociology & Collaborating Faculty, Dept. of Studies in Race, Colonialism and Diaspora

 

Domonique Johnson, Associate Director, Africana Center

 

Aaron White, History of Art and Architecture 

 

Jacob Stewart-Halevy, History of Art and Architecture 

Jeannie Simms, SMFA at Tufts, Professor of the Practice, Photography

Aaron James Parayno, Director, Asian American Center

 

Ray Jackendoff, Seth Merrin Professor of Philosophy Emeritus

 

Danielle Abrams, Professor of Practice, School of the Museum of Fine Arts,  Visiting Scholar, Midlo Center of New Orleans Studies, University of New Orleans, LA

 

Sarah Sobieraj, Department of Sociology

 

Margot Cardamone, Director, FIRST Resource Center 

 

Steven P. Marrone, History 

 

Dina Deitsch, Director + Chief Curator, Tufts University Art Galleries

 

Jared Smith, Associate Director, FIRST Resource Center; Program Director, BLAST

 

Jessica Mitzner Scully, Program Administrator, Women’s Center

 

Freeden Blume Oeur, Department of Sociology

Marvin Casasola, Director, Latino Center

 

Ryan Rideau, Associate Director for Teaching, Learning, and Inclusion, CELT

 

Anthony Romero, Professor of the Practice, School of the Museum of Fine Arts

 

Sheriden Thomas, Senior Lecturer, Dance Theatre and Performance Studies

 

John McDonald, Professor of Music and Director of Graduate Music Studies

 

Anne Moore, Program Specialist, Scholar Development

 

Jessica Pizzuti, Technical Director, Theatre, Dance, & Performance Studies

 

Jo Williams, Production Manager, Theatre, Dance, & Performance Studies

 

Bonnie Donohue, Professor of the Practice in Photography, SMFA

 

Deborah Donahue-Keegan, Lecturer Department of Education, Associate Director SEL-CE Initiative

 

Renata Celichowska, Senior Lecturer & Director, Dance Program, Theatre, Dance, & Performance Studies

 

Bridget Conley, World Peace Foundation, Fletcher

 

Jill Weinberg, Sociology

 

Jennifer Burton, Professor of the Practice, Theatre, Dance, & Performance Studies

 

Penn Loh, Senior Lecturer Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning 

 

Bridget O’Leary, Part Time lecturer Dance Theatre and Performance Studies and Freelance Director/Dramaturg 

 

Sharon Kivenko, Anthropology Department

 

Tasha Oren, Associate Professor, Theatre, Dance, & Performance Studies

 

Khary Saeed Jones, Professor of the Practice, Theatre, Dance, & Performance Studies

 

Linda Ross Girard, Senior Lecturer, Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies

 

Ted Simpson, Senior Lecturer, Head of Design, TDPS

 

Alex de Waal, Director, World Peace Foundation

 

Kim Ruane, Professor and Chair, Department of Mathematics

 

Silvia Bottinelli, Senior Lecturer, Visual and Material Studies

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