Letter to Stanford’s president: Policing on campus

Nov. 15, 2020, 9:12 p.m.

November 18th, 2020

Committee for Change
Stanford Institutes of Medicine 1, Lorry I. Lokey Building
Stanford Medicine

Dear President Tessier-Lavigne, 

It is with great disappointment and frustration that we learned of the University’s decision to extend its contract with the Santa Clara County Sheriff, and that we see demands from campus organizations on changes to policing ignored. 

Increasing diversity is a recognized goal at Stanford, but, as discussed frequently on campus in recent months, many potential Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) students or faculty may feel unsafe and unwilling to join an environment where many-layered university law enforcement has been mobilized to harass and profile them. Stanford’s renewed relations with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office exemplify its failure to acknowledge the voices of marginalized students, staff and faculty. In comparison, UC Berkeley’s establishment of a mental health crisis response unit to replace police response in emergencies empowers and recognizes its BIPOC community, motivating more BIPOC to apply there instead. This way, Stanford will lose to our UC neighbors in recruiting and nurturing the brightest BIPOC students, staff and faculty.

Recent demonstrations, statements, letters and campaigns from the campus community are direct indicators of the deep flaws in Stanford’s approach to policing and public safety. By maintaining the current manner of policing on campus, Stanford dissuades outstanding BIPOC students and faculty from applying to its programs or positions in its failure to cultivate a safe and welcoming environment. The fact that UC San Francisco, another Bay Area world-class institution, enrolled a greater proportion of BIPOC graduate students into its academic programs in 2017 than Stanford did in its most recent academic year highlights the latter’s lackluster efforts to also attract BIPOC students. In addition, University of California schools have collectively amassed support from both their faculty and students to fuel one of the nation’s most cited campaigns to abolish campus policing, drawing a parallel to Stanford’s apparent lack of action on this matter. 

Continuing to disregard requests from Stanford BIPOC community members will have far-reaching consequences on the school’s reputation as a well-rounded academic institution. It is imperative for Stanford to be extremely attentive to BIPOC’s detailed sentiments toward campus policing, coupled with an elaborate, researched list of action items proposed to reform Stanford University Department of Public Safety (SUDPS) from the Coalition of Black Student Organizations.

We, the students, staff, faculty and leadership comprising the Stanford Medicine ISCBRM Committee for Change stand in solidarity with the Coalition of Black Student Organizations in their demands for change in policing on Stanford’s campus, summarized here: 

Dismiss and DisarmEnd all affiliations with non-Stanford law enforcement and their presence on campus; end firearm possession by Stanford police/SUDPS. 

Defund and DivertRepurpose SUDPS budget funds to existing, more effective methods of addressing common campus crimes such as sexual assault and burglary, and add funds to financial aid resources and community support

Desist and De-escalate — Train safety officers, faculty, staff and students in de-escalation via resources, workshops and a mandatory student orientation module led or approved by Black Graduate Students Association (BGSA)-approved local organizations, commit resources to support community-led policing alternatives and reframe guidelines on reporting suspicious activity to law enforcement. 

DiscloseExplicitly publicize SUDPS policies on deadly force, use of force, ethical behavior and commitment to de-escalation techniques. Provide a confidential reporting system for negative interactions with law enforcement, and publish an accessible, detailed procedural explanation on the complaint filing process and possible outcomes. Create an independent civilian oversight board of students, faculty and staff whose findings are published and reported to the chief of police. Clarify the value and terms of contracts with non-Stanford law enforcement agencies, and publish the full SUDPS budget.

We emphasize the seriousness of first acknowledging the linked and summarized statement, followed by putting into place a plan to implement these changes at Stanford. Our institution owes a beneficial, tangible and lasting change to BIPOC students, staff and faculty who chose Stanford to pursue their scientific careers and exemplify their brilliance. Viable alternatives to the current methods of policing do exist. There is no excuse for continuing to ignore the voices of BIPOC community members. 

The full list of signatories can be found here. The full list of demands from the Coalition of Black Student Organizations can be found here. 

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