University plans to “reimagine” public safety on campus following reports of racism on campus

October 2, 2020

The university is beginning the process of “reimagining” public safety on campus and searching for a new director of public safety, according to an email from Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration, Stewart Uretsky, on Tuesday. 

“Brandeis will soon go through a process of reflection and action, by re-examining our own public safety policies, approaches, functions and practices. In so doing, we must ensure that safety can be equally guaranteed and afforded to each member of our community as part of a university-wide approach to address racism within our campus,” reads the email from Uretsky. 

“Our goal in re-imagining public safety will prioritize increased transparency and accountability, greater communication, enhanced training, and updated response protocols. For example, we are already reconsidering current reporting mechanisms and examining whether a differentiated response model to first-responder calls could be more effective.”

This announcement comes after reported incidents of Black and Brown students experiencing racism at the hands of Brandeis public safety. Former Area Coordinator Elijah Warren HS’19 resigned in June and cited “unjust practices” against Black and Brown people,” particularly at the hands of Brandeis police, as a part of his reason for resigning.

“Particularly in Brandeis’ context, there have been many conversations that have been had about public safety, about DCL [Department of Community Living], about minority students on campus and yet there hasn’t been as much progress on campus in terms of change,” Warren told The Hoot in an earlier interview.

The Black Action Plan––a student-crafted list of concerns, demands and reforms to make the university more equitable, diverse and inclusive––includes plans for how the university should reimagine public safety on campus. These demands include re-thinking situations in which Brandeis Police would need to be called, stopping the rehiring of police officers and instead hiring more trained mental health advisors and disarming Brandeis Police, according to the plan.

The process of reimagining public safety will take place this fall and conclude by the end of the semester, according to Uretsky’s email. Facilitating this effort will be Brenda Bond-Fortier (PhD’06) and the firm Margolis Healy and Associates.

“Importantly, in very intentional ways our re-imagining effort will also inform and be a predicate to the search for a new director of public safety and chief of police – an individual who will share the same vision for public safety as the Brandeis community” reads Uretsky’s email.

Current Director of Public Safety and Chief of Police Ed Callahan announced in July that he will be retiring at the end of this academic year. The search committee for his replacement will be co-chaired by Judge Barbara Dortch-Okara and Professor Daniel Kryder. Other members of the search committee include members of the faculty, staff and four students. Urestky said that the process will conclude in the spring and that, throughout the search process, they are “committed to having a high degree of inclusivity and transparency.”

“We have an opportunity to be a model for other universities,” reads the email. “We intend to draw upon our founding values to guide the process, and hope you will join us as we look forward to re-imagining the role of public safety on our campus – a role that supports and positively engages our diverse campus community and creates an inclusive academic, administrative and residential environment that is safe and supportive for all members of the Brandeis community.”

Uretsky said that details on when the community input sessions for the re-imagining public safety process will take place will be shared in the coming weeks.

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