The Black, Indigenous and People of Color community of the University of Colorado Boulder campus, joined by Democratic state Rep. Leslie Herod, have called for campus police funding divestment in favor of investment in assisting students of color.
During a video conference Tuesday, members from the CU BIPOC community and diversifyCUnow, a coalition of individuals and groups across the University of Colorado dedicated to supporting BIPOC-led student and faculty groups, addressed issues among the four CU campuses and described their plan of action to divest funds from the CU Police Department.
“Our students of color need more support,” Herod said. “But they have their own list of demands and ideas and ways that we can actually make CU’s campus more inclusive and welcoming for all. It is incumbent upon us to listen to what the youth have to say and lift up their voices.”
The plan of action for campus police divestment was crafted by students, faculty and staff throughout the summer, and points to three main goals for divested police funds: increased mental health services, intensive mandatory anti-racism training and increased funding for BIPOC-led and -centered community initiatives on campus.
The full divestment plan is planned to be posted on the CU Boulder’s Ethnic Studies website.
“CU has continuously failed to support BIPOC students, staff and faculty on its campuses, all while pretending to champion diversity,” said Gwendalynn Roebke, a fifth-year Astrophysics and Neuroscience Philosophy student.
Members of CU’s Black Student Alliance addressed some of these issues with the CU administration when they sent a letter to Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano in early June.
“Safe, thriving and equitable communities are created by investing in and supporting the social and economic needs of the people, not through policing, litigation and incarceration,” the letter reads.
This letter also included 14 actionable steps the group encourages the university to take going forward, including immediately breaking ties with the Boulder Police department, and “demilitarizing” campus police .
“By shifting funding from campus police, CU will finally be taking an overdue step to dismantling racist systems and setting up their BIPOC community to thrive instead of only survive at CU,” Roebke said.
A statement by the university, however, emphasized that the campus police department serves as a critical role in providing emergency support to students, faculty and staff “during crises and major campus events.”
The statement also pointed out that the support of “critical campus safety services” and investing in BIPOC students, faculty and staff are not mutually exclusive priorities.
“The chancellor, CUPD Chief Doreen Jokerst and other campus leaders have met with BIPOC students to hear their concerns and to collaborate on solutions,” the statement said. “They will continue to do so for the foreseeable future as the campus begins implementing its diversity plan this fall under the guidance of the recently announced Council for Community and Inclusion, which will also include the participation of diverse student, faculty and staff voices.”
The statement also said that Chief Jokerst is a “highly collaborative leader.” who has met with several BIPOC students over the last few months to hear their thoughts and ideas.
“She is committed to advancing this work because it is in alignment with both her professional and personal priorities,” the statement said. “She has said repeatedly that she is working to build a campus police department that is a national model for university policing.”
Holly Olivarez, a PhD student in environmental studies and one of the founders of diversifyCUnow, also pointed to the fact that CU has an incredibly low number of Black/African American students on campus.
Overall for CU Boulder’s 2019 fall enrollment, only 2.5% of the enrollees were Black, while nearly 66% were white. Currently, CU has the lowest diversity ranking of the PAC-12 schools and is 12 of 16 for diversity among other Colorado colleges and universities, according to data diversifyCUnow gathered from the diversity index of US News and World report.
“Anyone visiting campus can look around and see the lack of racial diversity,” Olivarez said. “The only way to change this is to overhaul the priorities of the institution. It is the regents, the president, the chancellor and the vice chancellors who have the position and duty to do so.”
Herod said that what the group requests is not only something that all universities should take into consideration but something that has been asked for since she was a student leader on campus. She added that while university representatives and law enforcement representatives are not against these plans, the steps forward are still being figured out.
“It is a matter of how we do it, that is not just playing lip service, but effectuating real change on campus,” Herod said.
Note: This article has been updated to correct that the divestment plan has not been posted on the CU site.