As a new police department will begin service on Oregon State University’s Corvallis campus next week, some campus community members continue to rally against it — calling instead for the reallocation of funding from policing to campus resources.
We Can Do The Work and Disarm OSU — campaigns organized by OSU students, faculty, staff and community members — released a statement Wednesday, speaking out against the university’s newly formed police force, set to begin its work Jan. 1.
Planning for the new police department began after Oregon State Police announced last year the decision to end its decades-long contract with OSU due to a staffing shortage.
OSU’s police department will be led by Shanon Anderson, a former lieutenant in the Seattle Police Department who was hired by the university earlier this month.
“It’s an opportunity to be part of a team that has the real opportunity to reimagine policing on the campus and work towards a common goal of supporting the students, staff, and surrounding community,” Anderson said in a statement about her hiring.
Both Disarm OSU and We Can Do The Work have been rallying against the formation of a new police department since the university announced its intention to create one last April, advocating instead for the money to go towards student services.
In their statement, the campaigns specifically speak about reallocating funding to OSU’s Survivor Advocacy Resource Center, which supports survivors of sexual assault.
“When the OSU community first got to meet Anderson, she sat in front of a Ruth Bader Ginsburg poster and promised better support for women on campus, particularly survivors of sexual assault,” the campaigns state. “These seemingly progressive values contradict her choice of career. Nationally, police have not tested thousands of rape kits and have been found to ingrain feelings of secondary victimization, blame, and doubt in survivors. They have failed survivors time and time again, and the OSU police force will do the same.”
The campus campaigns state that by leading OSU’s police department, Anderson will be taking away money that could be allocated to that resource center, as well as other services such as OSU’s Emergency Housing Program and Human Services Resource Center.
“These resources address the root causes of safety issues on campus – poverty, violence, and health concerns – through prevention, advocacy, and distribution of resources to those who need them most acutely,” the campaigns wrote.
The campaigns also spoke against the implementation “Personal Safety Escorts” — a suggestion from Anderson to have OSU police officers escort students home from campus.
“Such a system increases the comfort of already privileged students in exchange for making students who are at risk of violence and harassment from police officers less safe,” the statement reads.
Instead, We Can Do The Work and Disarm OSU are advocating for a student government-run “Safe Walk” program – to be overseen by the university’s already existing Safe Ride program, which already offers escort services by car to students.
“By building this program out to include on-foot escorts, it will become more accessible by allowing students who feel uncomfortable walking home alone to easily and surreptitiously request help,” the campaigns said. “This extension of services is environmentally friendly, inexpensive, and COVID-conscious. There is no reason that a student that is feeling unsafe should need to choose between their safety and a person with a gun.”
OSU told OPB it is committed to continuing to provide a safe university campus in Corvallis.
“We recognize that there are a variety of viewpoints expressed about public safety, not only at Oregon State, but within the state of Oregon and nationally, and we’re committed to provide for safety in an inclusive and responsible manner,” the university said. “At our Corvallis campus, that will include a variety of services including licensed law enforcement, support services that include crisis and mental health services and survivor support for offenses that involve sexual misconduct.”
The university said it also plans to have extensive community engagement and education around public safety.
The campaigns said they expect Anderson may follow the lead of other universities like the University of Oregon, which announced a reduction of armed campus police officers, and Portland State, which made plans to fully disarm its police force.
Still, the groups state they will continue to campaign until the university addresses specific demands including committing to a total defunding of campus police by 2023 — not including officers required by law to oversee the university’s TRIGA research nuclear reactor — and prioritizing anti-racism education for all students.
“We don’t want Anderson to respond to this address. We want her to leave our community to protect and serve ourselves,” the campaigns said.