Minority student groups unanimously voted against arming Public Safety officers with guns at Thursday night’s meeting of the Minority Student Advisory Board (MSAB), another echo of racial concerns about the proposal that has preoccupied University President Joel Seligman and vocal supporters and opponents since April.
“I think it’d be very powerful to have the presidents here, who, according to most of their constitutions, speak on behalf of their organizations,” said Delvin Moody, former Students’ Association senator and MSAB president, in reference to the vote.
“Of the people present, we have a unanimous consent that the AALANA community is unanimously against guns on campus,” he said, using an acronym for African American, Latino American, and Native American people.
Moody and others discussed plans to send Seligman a petition against the proposal via email.
Steeped in the tragic police shootings of unarmed Black people that have dominated the national media in recent years, students of color at the Gowen Room meeting, as they have at Seligman’s town halls and at forums held last year on the issue, expressed their fears of encountering armed Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers on campus.
Particular worry was devoted to the expansion of the proposal—which currently seeks to arm only officers at the Medical Center and the four senior officers on campus—to arming more officers on the River Campus, since, at this point, most believe Seligman will accept the proposal without change.
“I don’t feel comfortable with the University of Rochester pairing with any of the surrounding police departments,” said Daniel Southwell, a junior who also spoke at Seligman’s Interfaith Chapel town hall last Monday. “I don’t feel comfortable with them expanding their jurisdiction beyond their limits, i.e. River Campus, Eastman School of Music, and literally the sidewalks that encompass their facility.”
He said he’d prefer officers be armed with tasers, if they need to be armed at all.
Moody said he thinks there should be a binding document ensuring that no expansion occurs. He also advocated for diversifying DPS’ ranks to include more officers of color.
The group laid out plans to have scores of students send Seligman a standardized email in opposition to the proposal.
The organizations present included: Black Students Union, National Association of Black Engineers, Spanish and Latino Student Association, Native American Student Association, Minority Male Leadership Association, Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Pan-African Students’ Association, and Douglass Leadership House.
News Editor Amanda Marquez contributed reporting to this piece.
Editor’s note (9/19/2016): A previous version of this story contained two quotes from the same speaker, possibly misattributed. We have removed the relevant passages until the correct attribution can be verified.