Addressing campus public safety, USGT passes resolutions on police, COVID-19

The three passed resolutions ask the University to begin defunding ASU police, transition fully online and release more COVID-19 data

Undergraduate Student Government Tempe passed a resolution Tuesday asking the University to begin a process of disarming, demilitarizing and defunding the ASU Police Department, in addition to two other resolutions relating to the new coronavirus – one asking to transition to online instruction and another asking that more information be included in updates about case numbers.

All three resolutions were introduced and authorized by members of the United Voices Coalition.

Resolutions passed by USG are not binding. Instead, they are meant to take a formal stance on a matter and to reflect the thoughts and feelings of constituents, coalitions and community members.

The Senate also discussed and ultimately tabled the USG budget proposal for the school year. Senators said they wanted extended discussion and public input in order to allocate resources wisely and hopefully give money directly to students.

A resolution on police violence and public safety

Senate Resolution 4 asks the University to reduce the number of ASU PD officers from 87 to 70, suspend firearm carrying, withdraw ASU PD from "militarization programs" and prioritize spending on community health after budget reduction.

A document attached to the resolution acknowledges ASU PD's responsibilities including assistance in traffic accidents, filing stolen bicycle reports and helping unlock doors. However, it argues that because ASU PD acts as any other law enforcement agency, it alone "can cause anxiety or even physical danger to students."

The resolution introduced by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Senator Konya Saidu was co-signed by the Black African Coalition and El Concilio, which is a student organization that seeks to unite Latinx, Chicanx and Hispanic groups on campus.

Saidu, a junior studying philosophy and justice studies, said the resolution had been drafted over the summer, each passage receiving approval from the BAC. 

"It was inspired by the protests that are happening all over the country," Saidu said. "We wanted to do something on our end. Obviously we cannot change the country, but we wanted to see what we could do for ASU."

The resolution said the death of George Floyd presents "a potential for such a tragedy to occur at ASU" and the importance of attempting to prevent it.

READ MORE: 'Michael Crow has got to go': Students chant as they protest injustice at ASU

W. P. Carey School of Business Senator Joe Pitts pushed back during debate, saying the resolution would only draw headlines and not real change due to the limited powers of USG.

"We need to be more concerned about what we can actually do, rather than what we wish we could do," Pitts, a sophomore studying economics, said after the vote. 

Pitts said the role of USG "isn't to play mock Congress," and the resolution was just putting a wishlist on the University's desk. 

The College Senator Daniel Lopez responded that if what Pitts was arguing is true, it would almost mean USG should be dissolved altogether.

"Our power is to have those meetings (with authority) and to talk to those people, to uplift the voices of students and student groups like the coalitions," said Lopez, a senior studying political science and philosophy, following the vote. 

During debate, senators said constituent representation mattered regardless of the University's standpoint or USG's power.

"Just because we are students doesn't mean we cannot enact change," Saidu said in an interview after the meeting. "This legislation was a compromise – we aren't saying to abolish the police or fire every authority on campus, we're saying there's students on campus who are scared right now."

El Concilio, a co-signee on the resolution, said in a statement it was tired of "heavy ASU policing that targets Black and Brown students."

An ASU PD spokesperson wrote in an email that universities are "generally safer than their surrounding communities," but because public universities are open campuses, "criminal elements can wander into or around campuses."

The spokesperson wrote ASU police officers are "properly trained" to use firearms, and unarmed officers "would compromise the safety of our students, faculty and staff."

"We understand and respect those who are seeking to implement social justice initiatives in light of the tragic events this year involving some police officers in various parts of the country," the spokesperson wrote. "But reducing the capacity of a police department that is here solely to serve and protect the campus community, will only make the campus less safe." 

Resolutions to request COVID-19 data and transition instruction 

SR 2 requests the University transition to online instruction indefinitely, only to reopen when the pandemic "subsides." 

"Affording students the option to attend in-person effectively allows the University to absolve itself of responsibility for students and faculty members contracting COVID-19," the resolution said.

During debate, senators expressed concerns for students with no other housing options or internet connection. It was suggested the resolution be postponed until a survey of the student body could be conducted, but some senators worried about time sensitivity. 

"Monitoring the COVID-19 situation is frankly going to be of first importance in terms of timeliness and relevance," Lopez said following the vote that passed the resolution. 

SR 3 addresses ASU's announcement of test results and urges the University to regularly release more information, including the number of positive cases in each residence hall, so students can make "well thought out decisions regarding in-person classes or their living situation," according to the resolution's attached document

Earlier Tuesday, Arizona Rep. Athena Salman (D-Tempe) posted a letter she sent to President Michael Crow, requesting information on the steps the University is taking to address the rising number of coronavirus cases. 

Similar to a point brought up in SR 2, Salman noted "spring semester classes were moved to a fully online modality when cases and fatalities were far lower than they are today." The resolution said the University stopped in-person classes in March when there were fewer than 50 cases across the state.

Salman wrote she was originally hopeful plans for the semester would protect the health of students and staff, but a recent rise in cases caused "faith in the University's ability to carry out their plan has been severely shaken." 

"I hope the University pays attention to this," Lopez said. "And I hope they see that there are a lot of passionate students behind these movements."


Reach the reporter at pjhanse1@asu.edu and follow @piperjhansen on Twitter. 

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