Following George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, a grassroots movement has emerged urging university officials to cut ties with local police departments.
The epicenter of this push has been the University of Minnesota (UM), which has announced that it would cease a huge portion of its collaboration with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). The university’s move was sparked by the student body president, Jael Kerandi, who demanded a full termination of the university’s police contracts in a May 26 letter that gave the administration 24 hours to respond.
The following day, the university announced that it will no longer work with MPD at large events such as football games, limiting its involvement with the department to cooperation with the University of Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety.
Meanwhile, in Worcester, Massachusetts, the local cops’ abusive treatment of protesters has prompted Clark University to discontinue its partnership with the police department. Student petitions demanding that universities end police cooperation have garnered thousands of signatures at New York University, Georgetown University, and the University of California, among others.
Georgetown Student Association President Nicolo Feretti says the movement’s primary goal on his campus is to reduce the presence of Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers in student life. Armed MPD officers often accompany the university’s unarmed public safety officers responding to mere noise complaints, he says. Although the campaign is still in its “information-gathering stage,” Feretti adds that a meeting with Georgetown University Police Department Chief Jay Gruber to discuss student concerns is in the works.
Although Feretti doubts that Georgetown will “completely get rid of MPD contracts,” he hopes the administration will at least “limit the extent of the contract to only use them in ways that would not be present in students’ lives.”
Such shifts could curb police power on campus without long legislative battles over institutional reforms. It would certainly send a potent message to police departments that they have overstepped their authority, and it would serve as an experiment in the effects of less invasive policing in collegiate communities.
The University of Minnesota’s move has prompted Minneapolis Public Schools and the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, along with many smaller venues and organizations, to likewise end their contracts with city police. Feretti thinks a successful campaign at Georgetown could have similar chain effects throughout the neighborhood and the city. As more universities heed the demands of their student bodies, similar community challenges to police legitimacy may arise, increasing the impetus for wider reforms.