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Brandeis offers police dialogues

The Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) invited students and faculty to three dialogue sessions with the university police and non-police staff on Wednesday in a community-wide email. 

The dialogues, which will be held for the next two months, are meant to allow students, faculty and public safety officers and staff to explore issues including safety and racial profiling on the Brandeis campus, said Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Mark Brimhall-Vargas in an interview with The Brandeis Hoot.

“The goal of that dialogue as we see it is to build an understanding of the issues that exist between Public Safety and the community and to see what comes out of it,” said Brimhall-Vargas. “There might be areas of improvement that emerge out of this conversation and it might also be that the conversation itself is an intervention that the community finds valuable.”

The dialogues could explore many issues, said Brimhall-Vargas, and may touch on racial profiling and safety.

“The obvious ones [issues] will probably be the conversation about racial profiling or the sense of safety that students and faculty and staff and others may or may not feel because of the national climate. I think that this could go in a variety of places,” Brimhall-Vargas said. “So all of those things might come up, and it’s our goal to create a space where it allows for that to come up in a way that people can engage [with] it.”

The dialogues are a three part voluntary, facilitated series, according to the email, limited to 18 to 20 participants that will separate into small groups, so everyone can contribute and engage. Participants will need to attend all three events, said Brimhall-Vargas, and the events will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 14, Nov. 20 and Dec. 9. 

“Each session builds on the one that preceded it, and there is a level of understanding and trust and memory about what took place in order to get to that point,” Brimhall-Vargas said. “We’re hoping to construct a group that would do all three sessions together.”

Brimhall-Vargas has been working with students, staff, members of public safety and Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Education, Training and Development Allyson Livingstone to develop a program to learn more about Brandeis community members’ experiences with policing at Brandeis, said Brimhall-Vargas. 

ODEI has also worked with the Prevention, Advocacy and Resource Center (PARC) and the Office of the Dean of Students, according to the email. ODEI has been working on this project since early this year, said Brimhall-Vargas. Some of the students involved have been PARC advocates, members of Brandeis Labor Coalition, affiliated with the Union or connected to the Board of Trustees.

“The last thing we wanted to do was to do something quickly and not well thought out,” said Brimhall-Vargas. “We want to hold a three session dialogue experience that’s highly structured because we know that people feel nervous about this conversation.”

In the first session the group will get to know one another and agree on guidelines for engagement, and the following dialogue will focus on discussing experiences with policing at Brandeis. The final session will be a review and reflection of the series, along with a discussion of next steps.  

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