Does increased police presences really make us safer?
In light of the heightened state of emotions and stress, the last thing students should feel is unsafe. Historically and presently, the University represents a vulnerable community, and given the amount of media attention Brandeis has received in recent weeks, we urge the community to be thoughtful about what all students are experiencing.
While the University is vulnerable to threats, we also acknowledge that there are individuals on campus who feel less than safe with added police presence. Particularly for students of color, there is an established negative relationship with police due to racial profiling and microaggressions.
One member of this editorial board has experienced incessant questioning as to their role as a student at Brandeis. Other students have also experienced varying degrees of racial profiling in their day-to-day routines. These associations with police incur feelings of fear and anxiety as the administration increases security measures.
Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, there has been a greater police and security presence on campus. Prior to the weekend of Oct. 13, President Ron Leibowtiz sent out an email to the Brandeis community indicating that there would be increased security on campus for the University’s 75th anniversary celebration. In the email, President Liebowitz stated that the Brandeis Department of Public Safety would be “coordinating with outside law enforcement agencies” to provide both “seen and unseen” protection for the celebration’s attendees. Throughout the weekend, drones were seen flying overhead and cement blocks lined the walkway beside the Great Lawn to prevent vehicles from interfering with the large tent that was set up there.
Though somewhat performative, these increased security measures did seem to reflect a concern for protecting the Brandeis community from potential outside threats.Security has also increased with the recent public protests and gatherings. In an email to the Brandeis community entitled “Protest safety and community dialogue,” Vice President for Student Affairs Andrea Dine and Chief of Public Safety Matthew T. Rushton addressed this change: “Public Safety has significantly stepped up security presence on campus and will further increase these measures during public protests and large gatherings. Our heightened security measures are not meant to impede expression and debate; they are designed to protect our campus community, including event participants,” the email read.
However, at the Nov. 10 rally for Palestine, the police and security utilized excessive force on some participants. Three students at the protest were forcefully taken into custody by multiple officers.
The point of having police on campus is to instill a sense of security, so the University must work to ensure that officers serve to protect students rather than intimidate, surveil, or harm them. In addition to being physically safe, students should also be made to feel secure and at ease on campus.