UNC-CH Campus Safety Commission Offers Frank Criticism

Jan 29, 2020

 

File photo of the South Building and the Old Well on the UNC Chapel Hill campus.
Credit Dave DeWitt / WUNC

 

After holding months of listening sessions across campus, students and faculty members of the UNC-Chapel Hill Campus Safety Commission announced their preliminary recommendations to a public audience on campus Tuesday night.

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewiecz announced the commission last March and charged them with advising on all matters related to safety, including campus policing practices. 

“We have to recognize where we are, and we’re in a hurtful place,” said commission co-chair and professor Frank Baumgartner. 

 

Student members of the commission offered frank and critical comments during The 2020 Summit On Safety And Belonging. The Commission held the summit to discuss its work and open the floor for input from students, who texted in dozens of candid observations and questions. Comments from the previous 13 listening sessions were printed on hand-outs and distributed to the audience.

“If you read through the hand-out that we've prepared, you’ll see some things that are, quite frankly, they're nasty,” Baumgartner said. “But we want this to be an inflection point.”

Baumgartner highlighted a comment from one listening session that UNC-Chapel Hill police “glad handed the Confederate sympathizers and manhandled the student activists.” The statement referred to the UNC police’s treatment of students and pro-Confederates arrested or detained during protests around the now-toppled Silent Sam monument.

 

Student members of the commission punctuated the panel discussion with their perspectives on sexual assault prevention, the treatment of students by campus police, and supports needed for marginalized students.  

“We’ve been having the same conversations for decades,” said undergraduate student De’Ivion Drew, who serves on the commission.

Drew and fellow commission member and doctoral student Quinton Smith called for greater mental health support for students, especially black students. 

“Black communities on this campus fall under multi-levels of weight from everything that happens here,” Smith said.

 

Drew said black students "are terrified" to be at UNC-Chapel Hill because of the presence of pro-Confederate protesters on campus. 

 

“I've spoken with a student who was a UNC student [in 2018], but then transferred to Duke, and she said, ‘I'm just so happy to be over here to be safe away from Confederates,’” Drew said.

UNC-Chapel Hill law student Maya Weinstein read the commission’s recommendations on preventing sexual assault and gender-based violence. Weinstein said she is frustrated with the university’s slow pace of change.

 

“Seven years ago, I was sitting in my undergraduate institution’s equity office reporting the rape that I experienced, and months later, I was sitting in rooms with institutional leaders having the same exact conversations,” Weinstein said.

Some of the recommendations released during the summit include:

  • Train Chapel Hill transit and UNC bus drivers to recognize safety concerns and signs of violence.

  • Put up clear signs to show where prohibitions on carrying firearms on campus begin.

  • Revise or abolish the UNC-Chapel Hill Honor Court based on the U.S. Department of Education’s ruling that the Court has retaliated against students who have filed complaints.

  • Hire four additional full time staff to lead programs on sexual assault prevention and awareness and establish an interpersonal and sexual violence center.

  • Require in-person training on sexual assault and harassment for all members of fraternities and sororities and all student athlests. 

  • Create a speaker series on critical racial theory, race-based stress and institutional belonging.

  • Increase the representation of faculty and staff who identify with marginalized communities.

  • Hire more mental health professionals of color to serve in the University's Counseling & Psychological Services.

The commission is expected to release a final report of its recommendations at the end of the semester.