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Opinion: ASU policing and dismissal of student activists delays needed change

The University has dismissed student activists, protester demands and has not adequately protected or listened to calls for change from their demonstrations

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Protesters march past the Memorial Union at the Sun Devils Against Sexual Assault protest on Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022 in Tempe.

The demands of ASU activists and students have been repeatedly dismissed and ignored by the University, even when those students and other local community members have been engaged in peaceful protest and engaged in talks with the administration.

Meanwhile, ASU continues to support its police department, that said in an email statement it can "assist" if events become "disruptive to the campus." ASU and its students should recognize and take action against the inherent danger police pose to environmental activists and other needed social movements. 

The University should also fulfill the demands of progressive student groups instead of strengthening policing that impedes demonstrations that drive change. 

At ASU, multiple organizations have made demands for broad changes to University actions and policy and have had bad experiences with ASU PD. 

"Our experiences with ASU have been consistently negative since we were founded 10 years ago. As individual sexual violence survivors, we have been mistreated by ASU staff and police, silenced by ASU investigations, and denied mental health and academic accommodations," said a representative of Sun Devils Against Sexual Assault in an email.

SDASA is a support and advocacy group not affiliated with the University. It has proposed the Campus Advocacy, Resources and Education Center and demonstrated several times on campus demanding for the establishment of the center and in support of other groups and other issues. 

READ MORE: Student groups protest for better sexual assault services from ASU

"We would like to see the University stop retaliating against activists by threatening and taking disciplinary action against us. We would like to see the university take sexual and relationship violence seriously, which requires greater investment in prevention and victim services," the representative said.

Young Democratic Socialists of America at ASU previously ran a campaign for a Green New Deal and ASU divestment from fossil fuels.

"Even recently, you'll see climate activists like Greta Thunberg getting hauled off by the cops because policing is integral to the maintenance of the protection of all these forms of capital flow," said Sam Ndinjiakat, a sophomore studying sociology and political science. 

READ MORE: Opinion: University's claims of sustainability are false and manufactured

Ndinjiakat said the University had time to act on their demands. 

"Quite frankly, I would consider it shocking that they wouldn't have time considering they spend so much time talking about how they're such a green university … time definitely should not be a restriction for a University that claims to have nationwide acclaim in regards to sustainability initiatives," Ndinjiakat said. 

Jim Wisehart, a senior studying philosophy and a member of Students For Justice in Palestine at ASU, said there was never any progress in the meetings with the administration and that they "brushed us to the side."

"The only time that administration has sat down with us and asked us what our goals are was when we had a protest, with at least 100 people, (who) marched to the administration building where they locked the doors and wouldn't let anyone in, even though everyone was an ASU student," Wisehart said. "It wasn't until after those events that they contacted us."

Student activists and organizations have gone out of their way to sit down with the ASU administration and have relatively non-disruptive protests, but to no avail.

One has to wonder what tactics would eventually make the University act on some of the demands students have asked for; if it won't happen through non-disruptive means, how far would students have to go?

However, if students were to use disruptive means, it is clear what stands in their way.

"The ASU Situational Response Team is lead for monitoring campus protests. The SRT are staff members trained to help manage such events. The team falls under the Dean of Students Office. ... To protect the ASU community, the SRT can call in ASU Police to assist if it appears violence may break out (or does), or if the event becomes disruptive to the campus," an ASU spokesperson said in an email.

Wisehart said at a protest against former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaking on campus, ASU PD didn't help protect student protesters from outside groups.

"These aging men in biker jackets show up to our campus and are standing outside of the room where Sheriff Joe is and they escalated the situation," Wisehart said. "Some of them even start to assault students. One of them was waving some sort of baton that they were hitting students with. And guess who was right there watching it all happen? ASU PD didn't do a single damn thing."

ASU has made its priorities clear. It has allowed bigoted speakers on campus and continues to have its own police department while students and their needs are left in the dust.

The school would be much improved if it implemented the demands made by students. Yet, in its continued ignorance of student movements and its emphasis on a police department that could be used to suppress students who try to disrupt the status quo, it is clear that students' needs are not prioritized. 

Given the danger that policing poses to student movements and the University's own dismissal of student organizations, ASU students and workers should organize to demand better. 

Edited by Kate Duffy, Reagan Priest, Greta Forslund, Piper Hansen and Grace Copperthite.

 Reach the columnist at and follow @StigileAaron on Twitter.

Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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Aaron StigileOpinion Columnist

Aaron Stigile is an opinion columnist at The State Press. He previously wrote for The Defiant Movement and is working toward a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. He is also working toward a minor in Spanish and a certificate in Cross-Sector Leadership. 

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