Coalition Open Letter to ASCWU

An open letter to ASCWU,

Due to recent events on campus, and a conversation being raised about the role of police on campus, this letter solely concerns student’s ability to have control over police access to student spaces. In this letter we demand that Students be given the right to consent or not consent to police presence at all events on campus. Consent, however, should go beyond police presence, students should be given the right to decide on much more than this. We urge that more demands be brought up to continue this conversation about student consent in all facets of student life. 

An overview of recent events and where our concern lies.

In February, Black History Month, the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Student Union of Socialists (SUS) discovered two events, both were collaborations between the Associated Students of Central Washington University (ASCWU) and the University Campus Police. Of these two events, one was a self-defense class and the other a brunch. BSU and SUS collectively decided that in the wake of the murder of Tyre Nichols and in the context that a large section of Central Washington University’s student body recognize and understand the violence perpetuated by ALL police departments, BSU and SUS did not want police involvement in these events on our campus. After informing partners in the community about the events, and asking for advice on how to proceed, seeing that there was no method for student control over the situation, SUS planned a protest and invited members of the campuses’ black and working-class communities to join in protest. After the plans were heard about by ASCWU and brought up by members of BSU, the General Secretary of SUS received a call to discuss the event with ASCWU and select members of BSU. ASCWU cancelled both events following that call. 

We recognize the importance of self-defense and teaching self-defense, and strongly suggest a new event not led by police be held to teach members of the campus how to defend themselves. We recognize the need for food programs and strongly encourage the brunch event to be rescheduled and take place in the absence of police. Our concern is not exclusively with the events taking place in black history month, but February does magnify the damage done to our campus community. Our issue is with the lack of student input and ability to choose to include police, or exclude police from spaces they do not need to be. Police presence should be a choice by students, and not imposed upon us, because police presence affects us intimately, muting participation from victimized communities, and raising the inherent amount of risk to student wellbeing at these events.

Police funds are taken out of our tuition, room and board, and even though we fund them, we do not have any input on their actions. Currently on campus, students have no consistent mechanism to make our voice heard on this matter. Furthermore, even if we do make our voices heard, we have no way of collectively consenting to police presence in our spaces. 

Before elaborating our argument, we would like to lay out some campus figures, and some national statistics to display the pressing need for student consent on this topic.

In fiscal year 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, when we had a larger student body, we spent more than $3 million dollars on the police. That same year the police reported that all our campuses had a total of 22 criminal offenses, 33 VAWA Offenses, 92 arrests, and 100 disciplinary actions, for a total of 247 incidents, this amounts to more than $12,000 per incident in 2019, more than the in-state tuition for an individual student, for each incident. This is a little misleading, however, because most of these incidents don’t require police. When we look at victimless incidents, such as smoking cannabis (which is legal in the state, but not on campus), or drinking alcohol underage, the total amount of incidents comes down to 55, and a dollar amount of $55,460.05 per incident on campus. This is more than the annual median family income in the US, per incident.

The amount of money we spent on campus police in 2019 is enough to pay for these entire programs, the $1,854,456 budget for the Office of International Studies and Programs, the entire $525,367.00 operations budget, and the $482,266 Inclusiveness and Diversity budget from the President’s office while still having $188,214 left over to grant free tuition to 31 students, based on 2018-19 tuition and fees cost. Our campuses do not have significant levels of crime, and these resources can be put towards programs to feed and house our classmates and community, or simply to fund underfunded aspects of our existing infrastructure.

Until the 1960’s and the wave of social consciousness and activism on campuses across the nation, we did not have cops on the vast majority of university campuses. It is only in the face of university students fighting for justice and equality that police became a widespread phenomenon on campus. Universities functioned just fine beforehand and will function again after police presence is a choice made by students, and no longer imposed upon us.

Police do not protect us.

This is a plain fact understood throughout society up to and through the Supreme Court, ruling in 2005 that “police [do] not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm, even [for] a woman who had obtained a court-issued protective order against a violent husband making an arrest mandatory for violation.”  

We think it’s useful here to highlight the communities that Police definitely do not protect. This is not useful because of how brutal the police are to these communities, but to show how the police choose to protect some communities more than others. Compared to their white peers, Black Americans as a whole are three times more likely to be killed by police, Latinx, Pacific Islander and Indigenous communities are twice as likely to be killed by police (Maher 2021, 47).  We call the police for mental health issues, because we “have little choice but to call 911—and it’s typically the police who respond.” (Vitale as quoted in Maher 2021, 52) While we are forced to do this to protect our loved ones from themselves, 21% of police killings are perpetrated against those with mental health conditions.

The police also do not protect women or survivors of sexual assault on our campus, “not only do police not prevent sexual assault, they rarely even investigate it, much less does the criminal justice system deliver the convictions that are its raison d’être.” (Maher 2021, 55) Clearance rates, not convictions, just arrests, for sexual assault, despite most survivors knowing their attacker, are an estimated 32 percent nationwide, but excluding “exceptional clearances”, “the true clearance rate is likely only half the official rate, and as low as 8 percent in some cities…” (Maher 2021, 56) Raising the police budget does nothing to stop sexual assaultpolice perpetuate sexual assault at a rate much higher than the rest of society, police defend sexual abusers on the force, and when survivors do go to the police they present barriers to justice with inaction, hostility and bias.

We do not demand here that police leave our campus entirely, though this is not an extraordinary request given these figures. Instead, we are asking that this organization these figures show to be harmful to our communities be allowed in spaces only when deemed necessary, or when allowed by democratic process in the ESC Council.

Now we turn to our new Vision, Mission, Values, and Strategic Plan Framework

In our Mission Statement, CWU claims that the University “nurtures culturally sustaining practices that expand access and success to all students… We are committed to fostering… authentic community partnerships that are grounded in meaningful relationships.” We can’t see this mission in the movements of the police, who are granted access to student spaces, without consent by students, and thereby create spaces that do not feel safe to students. Our feelings matter, they are informed by our personal past trauma, our inter-generational trauma, the police’s history, and national statistics. Our feelings aren’t personal mental blockers, our political tendencies, or individual opinions, our feelings are real, and should matter, and should be able to be expressed through our explicit consent.

By not giving students a mechanism to consent, we are violating our Core Value #2: Belonging. The police presence at events may cause pause to many communities and individuals who have collected trauma from their experiences with the police and avoid events otherwise helpful to us. Most recently we have seen this in the Dare to Care Event, a great resource for survivors, where several students in an ESC meeting voiced that they did not attend specifically because of the police presence there. Some others that did go noticed students visiting the police’s table were much more tense than when visiting other resource’s tables. We did not see the “shared governance” referenced in the value, and we did not see the “respectful collaboration” either. Instead, when students were asked to give comment, a rare occasion, and when the BSU and SUS gave our comments opposing the presence of police, they found out that their comments did not matter. The event organizers allowed police presence anyways, and as we had said, the police presented a dampening effect on student engagement and feeling of belonging. 

The mission statement, vision, and values are a great blueprint for a great student experience, if adhered to. In actualizing this guiding document, we need accountability to the students, the ESC council needs a voice and decision-making ability on matters of police presence in our spaces.

Our Demands.

Considering these facts, we believe that the role of the police on campus should be reviewed to ensure the safety of our campus and ensure that spaces on campus are accessible and comfortable for all students, regardless of their community. 

We demand that the University, Jim Wohlpart, and ASCWU require police presence at all events on campus to be passed through a vote by the ESC council considering the following:

The necessity of police at each event, including the necessity of security. 

The potential consequences of police involvement in each event

The police involvement’s effects upon student mental health and wellbeing

And police involvement’s potential suppression of participation from victimized communities. 

We demand that a committee be organized through ASCWU in conjunction with the ESC Council to review the role of Campus police especially considering:

What their role should be

New regulations surrounding their access to student spaces outside of emergencies 

University Police & Public Safety’s use of university funds

And University Police & Public Safety’s budget efficacy in improving student life and wellbeing

For clarification, we are not asking for a committee of general students; but rather a committee of Elected members of ASCWU and ESC to be assembled. Elected students are a better representation of the campus student’s average sentiments, are held accountable by the students, and considering this is already apart of their job, are more reliable partners for the committee.

These demands are not outrageous, they are in line with student values, in line with the University’s Values and Mission Statement, and in line with democratic, consensual governance. These demands can, and should be implemented within the year, and we demand that work be started immediately on realizing these necessary demands.



The Student Union of Socialists

The Black Student Union

Women in STEM

Japanese Student Association

Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlan

Asia University America Program

Dr. Gilberto Garcia