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Letter to President Mahoney on UPD Audit & Public Safety Committee

Greetings President Mahoney,

The San Francisco State chapter of the CFA is committed to the broader state-wide CFA goals of defunding the police and reallocating funds toward core services which nourish the campus community and support student excellence and well-being. (See the CFA Vision Statement at the end of this document).

We recently learned of the university’s plan to allocate a portion of the university’s scarce financial resources to the hiring of external, out-of-state law enforcement officers to audit the University Police Department (UPD). We strongly oppose this audit as planned.

To that end, this letter lays out three specific demands. First, we urge the university to cancel its audit of the University Police Department. Second, we demand that the university act in accordance with its stated commitment to transparency and reveal the cost of the planned audit. We urge the university to reallocate this money to life-affirming resources for students. Third, we call for the university to re-envision the Public Safety Advisory Committee. We expand on each of these points below.

First, the university must cancel its planned audit of the UPD. It is an irresponsible budgetary choice given the backdrop of a financial crisis; but perhaps more importantly, it contradicts the University’s social justice mission by excluding the input of those who are impacted by university policing. If Black Lives Matter at San Francisco State, we must lead with the goals of campus community safety, health, and well-being. An audit of police, by police, does not meet those goals. Police have neither the training nor the community goodwill to effectively handle conflict resolution or mental health issues. Given the inherent threat posed by police to our Black students, staff and faculty, as well as the limited training they receive with respect to conflict resolution, de-escalation, and mental health intervention, it follows that members of law enforcement are  ill-equipped to audit fellow members of their profession.  As such, the planned audit ensures the reproduction of harmful police practices.

Second, the university must reveal what it has paid for this planned audit. Amidst severe austerity measures at the university, with one round of staff layoffs already complete and another looming ahead, academic and student services budgets slashed, buildings and facilities management shut down or curtailed, it is shocking that the university has allocated funds for this purpose. The campus community deserves budget transparency now more than ever, so that we may reimagine and collectively determine how we can keep ourselves safe, with full knowledge of the university resources available to support that work. We strongly encourage that any funds designated for this planned audit instead be allocated to safety and support needs identified by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and other people of color) students, staff and faculty, such as repeated demands for greater mental health services and resources that protect Black/Africana students, departments, and centers. Such redistribution of resources is an urgent matter in light of our “dangerously understaffed” counseling services at SFSU and across the CSU.

Third, the university must broaden the membership and scope of its Public Safety Advisory Committee to re-envision community safety and well-being, centering the needs of Black students, faculty and staff. As it stands, the proposed membership of the committee maintains the status quo. Rather than following bureaucratic, top-down procedures of appointment, the university must develop a committee composed of progressive community experts. Specifically, representatives from CFA (members of this committee on campus policing, pursuant to Article 37.8 of our CBA), Students for Quality Education (SQE), Black student organizations (i.e. those most affected by a culture of policing on our campus), and external community representatives must serve and lead the committee, as well as receive financial compensation for their service. Only a community-led project, in collaboration with mental health and public health experts trained in antiracist approaches (see below), will truly enable us to re-envision community safety and well-being without the instinct to rely on policing.

In the recent town hall on campus policing hosted by the CFA and SQE, we debunked the myths that there are safety and security needs on campus requiring a robust police presence and that police protect the campus community and contribute to student wellness. We need a team of community members unaffiliated with police who can contribute wide-ranging experience in public health, mental health, sexual violence prevention and survivor support, crisis intervention and de-escalation, and conflict resolution. The committee’s scope should include 1) proposing non-carceral practices for addressing instances of potential harm, 2) approaching campus safety and well-being holistically by identifying and proposing life-affirming resources which build a culture of care, solidarity and community, while marginalizing the instinct to punish.

Thank you, President Mahoney, for reading and considering this letter. We look forward to dialogue about the inclusion of a legitimate, multidisciplinary, and social justice-informed audit of UPD (by students, staff, faculty, and administrators most directly impacted by policing) within a broader, community-focused process of assessing campus safety. We would appreciate a response within the next 7 days so that we can move this urgent dialogue forward.

Thank you for sharing our commitment to creating a culture of care, solidarity, and community on our campus, and for your willingness to invest in life-affirming resources.

Committed to struggle,

The California Faculty Association – SF State Chapter

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CFA Cops off Campus Vision Statement

Statewide, the CFA believes in the abolition of campus police. In support of this goal, at SF State the CFA’s goal is to work toward the defunding of campus police and to divert those funds toward core services in pursuit of the university’s mission, namely life-giving resources for students, staff, and faculty.

The university’s newfound commitment to Black Lives in the face of the Floyd Uprising, if sincere, must include a commitment to the removal of police from campus. The reasons for this commitment are two-fold:

1. However well-intentioned our individual officers may be, police (campus or otherwise) represent control and violence. They are a constant trigger to our Black students, staff, and faculty, reminding them that they are not safe on campus and that they can be violated at any moment. As such, a commitment to Black Lives on campus means a sincere and robust defunding of campus police.

2. Practically, police exist to protect private property. CSU Chancellor-elect Castro made the role of campus police crystal clear when he said that we ‘need police to protect our facilities and the people that are here’. Police are not a unique, successful, or cost-effective option to conduct virtually any tasks on campus we currently associate with police or with safety.

As an alternative to campus policing, the CFA believes the campus must embrace non-carceral practices for addressing instances of potential harm. The campus must also approach campus safety and well-being holistically, identifying and proposing life-affirming resources which build a culture of care, solidarity and community, and while marginalizing the instinct to punish.