Over the past year, we have experienced unprecedented conditions and needs for organizing work: a restriction on in-person gathering and increased reliance on digital mediums, a historic uprising for Black lives that swept across the continent all summer long and the widespread expansion of abolitionist thought and practice. This convergence and preceding oppressive conditions led to the formal creation of the Cops Off Campus Coalition in fall 2020. Drawing on long histories of liberatory movements, this coalition brings together over 60 abolitionist organizations and campaigns on university campuses across the United States and Canada. We are students, alumni and workers at institutions miles apart, united around three central demands:
We are rising up to demand all cops off of all campuses — be they public or private, K-12, university or college; we demand the land back into Indigenous hands; and we demand a campus and community that are truly free and safe for all.
At Stanford University specifically, we demand the following:
- An immediate defunding of the Stanford University Department of Public Safety, by 80-100%.
- That Stanford University terminate the Memorandum of Understanding with Santa Clara County that gives rise to SUDPS. This model where Stanford University subsidizes an effectively private police force — that is accountable only to itself — needs to end.
- An immediate halt to negotiations around the Stanford Deputy Sheriffs’ Association Collective Bargaining Agreement, as well as meaningful engagement with community demands and a termination of the contract.
- An approach to mental health that precludes law enforcement involvement, one that respects the autonomy of the person in crisis and explains legal consequences of support offered to the person in crisis.
Colleges and universities spend millions of dollars on their police forces; Stanford University spends roughly $25 million on its Department of Public Safety alone, or roughly one-third of the entire budget for the Office of Student Affairs (and its 29 offices combined). To our knowledge, this is one of the most expensive campus police departments in the country: UC Berkeley spends $3 million less for a campus population over twice our size. This spending occurs while states cut appropriations for higher education and schools impose layoffs, furlough workers, slash wages and more amid the pandemic.
Yet none of this increased spending, militarization and policing leaves us any more safe. In 2015, Sam DuBose, an unarmed Black man, was shot and killed by a University of Cincinnati police officer during a traffic stop. In 2017, campus police killed Georgia Tech student Scout Schultz during a period of distress due to mental illness. In 2018, the University of Chicago Police Department shot Charles Thomas, a fourth-year Black student, during a mental health crisis. Also in 2018, Portland State University fired at Jason Washington 17 times and killed him as he was trying to break up a fight. A Yale campus officer was one of two officers who shot Stephanie Washington, an unarmed Black woman, in New Haven in 2019. In the past decade, California State University police officers have killed two unarmed people of color and maintained a jail on the CSU Northridge campus. The University of California police system has a history of using its police departments to brutalize students and to surveil and assault activists. And in 2002, an SUDPS deputy was involved in the fatal shooting of Pedro Calderon at the base of the Stanford foothills.
These countless incidents of repression, racial profiling, brutality and violence — fundamental characteristics of policing, inherent to its design — are why we choose to join the national Cops off Campus Coalition’s May 3 Day of Refusal.
On Monday, May 3, we join the countless students, faculty and staff who are absenting themselves from work, class, teaching and all forms of university labor. We cannot be complicit in the violence of our institutions. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, any group affiliated with the University — we must use our respective positionalities to pressure our institutions to take care of us and our communities. At profit-hungry universities, this won’t happen on its own. We have to mobilize our people power and demand change. So, we encourage all members of all campus communities, whether or not classes are in session at their institution, to withhold their labor on May 3 in solidarity with the movement to abolish campus police and all police in general.
On May 3, we will gather at White Plaza to hear and see a chorus of campaigns joined in this struggle, which will be streamed across multiple platforms at 11 a.m. PT. We will continue to hold this space for folks interested in abolition and our work, until and through the nation-wide dance party event at 1 p.m. PT. This Day of Refusal across Turtle Island is only the beginning of Abolition May, a series of direct actions taken up by member campuses throughout the month, beginning with all campuses on May 3 and community events on May 25 in honor of the life of George Floyd, who was murdered by Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020. Each campaign has its own individual targets, demands and tactics, but all unite under one principled demand: an end to campus policing.
Read the full Day of Refusal pledge, signed by over 170 members and organizations of our campus community, here.
— Abolish Stanford
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