If you’ve attended any major event on campus throughout this academic year, you’ve probably noticed something: several middle-aged white men that look like police officers dressed in neon yellow vests scattered throughout the event. You’re not alone, we at The Hoot have noticed it too. These officers are from an organization known as Provident Response (or Police Reform Insight Group), a private security firm that is almost completely invisible online.
This organization has been seen on campus as early as this year’s commencement ceremony, and as recently as DeisHacks just two weeks ago. Most notably, Provident Response officers were present at the Nov. 10 protest where they assisted in the brutalization and horrific arrests of several Brandeis students and others. Videos of the protest both captured and obtained by The Hoot, as well as eyewitness testimony, show Provident Response officers pointing specific protesters out for police officers to assault, as well as physically intimidating protesters, most of whom were Brandeis students.
The presence of a private security group at that protest was the subject of debate in the most recent faculty meeting, and we’d like to bring Provident Response back into the spotlight as we take a position on their presence here. Provident Response, the group that Brandeis’ administration scheduled ahead of time to attend what was originally a peaceful protest, is not welcome on this campus. Their continued presence on campus makes students feel unsafe and uncomfortable in public spaces. We understand that the university may have an ongoing long-term contract with this group, and that such a contract may explain their continued appearance here, but our thoughts are clear nonetheless: they are not welcome.
In the wake of the Nov. 10 protest and its aftermath, The Brandeis administration has been focused on turning the campus environment into a place where free speech, dialogue and education take center-stage. As long as a private security group unaffiliated with both the university and local law enforcement—let alone one without a public identity or easily accessible organizational information—continues to be a presence in public student gatherings, Brandeis will not have achieved this goal.
This academic year has been a difficult and tumultuous time for many students. College should be a place where students feel at home and where they feel comfortable. With a private security group like Provident Response on campus, more difficulties might be caused, both emotionally and physically. That is why we are bringing this group to everyone’s attention so they can be made aware of what is happening. The Hoot always has and always will stand with the students’ right to physical and emotional safety, and we hope the current situation improves for everyone.