Saturday, February 14, 2015

Institution of higher learning to enforce dictates at gunpoint

Where I work, Portland State University, the Board of Trustees decided to create a "real" police department for the campus, replete with armed "sworn" officers, possibly with a SWAT team for those special campus moments (we've been known to have large peace demonstrations), and who knows how much militarization awaits our urban downtown campus, one that has historically been fairly diverse, international, bustling, a marketplace of ideas, and a place of learning. Students come with high ideals and find an environment that has welcomed those striving ideals.

Since it's working, let's change it! If we arm campus cops and give them all police powers we can stop this diversity of thought and create new tensions and conflicts where only debate and critical discourse used to happen. We need to do this in order to keep up.

Our highest administration university leadership is virtually all white, so they are unconcerned with the ongoing and unsolved problem of American cops, campus cops elsewhere, and Portland cops specifically shooting unarmed people of color. Portlander Perez was unarmed. Sery was never indicted.
If the group you are worried about isn't affected, why worry? Any cost/benefit analysis will count any costs to white elites very highly and costs to people of color much lower. Indeed, having attended the final three PSU Board of Trustees meetings, giving testimony at the two of them where testimony from random uninvited professors and students was allowed, it was painfully obvious that almost all of those supporting bringing guns to campus were white and most of the people of color in the room were skeptical or outright against it.

As the father of two African American sons, I am dead-set against any guns on campus for any reason. Of course, I would be; I am a pacifist. But I also try to use some critical thinking.

Turns out that the research indicates that when the armed cops are hired, the smarter ones tend to be better at auto-impulse control and will probably shoot fewer black guys who are reaching for their cell phones (Kleider, Parrott, & King, 2010). Good to know. I'd recommend limiting the new armed hires to African American women Ph.D. students. They would be least likely to shoot the star basketball player as he pulled a Snickers candy bar from his man purse and they would protect the elite white ruling class Just Fine.

There is one text (of three) I use in one of my courses (Intro to Conflict Resolution) that might be required reading for all campus cops (actually, they should all be required to take all my classes, but that's another involved argument), and the title is Conflict management: A practical guide to developing negotiation strategies by a National Defense University law professor, Barbara Corvette. She is a military educator but she also has produced a great primer that can help our future strapped officers decode communication and respond with smarter and less violent strategies.

Best of all would be if the Board of Trustees had second thoughts, smarter thoughts, and reversed their poor decision to bring in guns. I mean, we are a smoke-free campus, possibly on our way to being a fragrance-free campus, but now we want to bring in guns? How does this track in our forward-thinking west coast town? There has never been an active shooter on campus but the Portland police have murdered numerous unarmed young people of color. How can this decision to court the same disasters on campus be viewed as just, fair, or correct?


Corvette, Barbara A. Budjac (2007). Conflict management: A practical guide to developing negotiation strategies. Upper Saddle River NJ: Pearson Education.

Kleider, H. M., Parrott, D. J., & King, T. Z. (2010). Shooting behaviour: How working memory and negative emotionality influence police officer shoot decisions. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 24(5), 707-717. doi:10.1002/acp.1580

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Wow, just wow. If this (bringing guns to campus) is the thinking on the "liberal, west coast" and at a university, no wonder we are in such trouble. I'm sorry.

Sometimes it seems like one step forward, two steps back, but if we keep going, some time it will be two steps forward and only one step back.