U of M crime alerts revised to reduce use of race

Survey finds students of color less satisfied than Whites with ‘campus climate’

Rahsaan Mahadeo (l), Katrice Albert (r)
Rahsaan Mahadeo (l), Katrice Albert (r)

University of Minnesota Black students and other students of color historically have not felt as welcomed on campus as their White counterparts, according to a new report. A school “Campus Climate Report” was released in January, and the key points included: “The campus would feel more welcoming for students of color if they saw more people like themselves on our campus,” and “Students are often unaware” of university activities and resources “to promote a positive campus climate, assist students, and advance diversity.”

The university’s students completed a “campus climate survey,” and on four of 17 policereportgraphicquestions the results showed “no statistically significant differences” between students of color and White students. But on 13 other questions, students of color rated the “campus climate” lower than did White students.

School officials say they have addressed concerns expressed by students, faculty and staff about safety on campus and “perceived bias in law enforcement tactics,” especially regarding how the school uses “suspect descriptions in crime alerts.” In a Feb. 25 campus-wide email, U of M President Eric Kaler and Vice President Pamela Wheelock stated, “We have heard from many in our community that the use of race in suspect descriptions in our crime alerts may unintentionally reinforce racist stereotypes of Black men, and other people of color, as criminals and threats.”

“We heard from a number of students, faculty and staff over the last year and a
half who [said] the crime alerts actually made them feel less safe,” said Wheelock during a Feb. 25 MSR phone interview. “The intent of the crime alerts was to give people information to help them make choices and avoid becoming a victim. Now we will only include a suspect’s description if we have enough information that people can reasonably use that information to keep themselves safer.”

Wheelock added that the changes “are consistent” with crime alert practices at other Big Ten institutions, local colleges and HBCUs.

The MSR also talked with Equity and Diversity Vice President Katrice Albert. She and Student Affairs Vice Provost and Dean of Students Danita Brown Young were the only Black members of the seven-person Campus Climate Workgroup established last spring by Kaler that produced the aforementioned report.

When asked if the crime alert change will help ease concerns earlier expressed by Black students and others, Albert responded, “I think so,” adding that reevaluating the alerts were among the campus culture report recommendations.

However, the Whose Diversity? student group that has protested against “racialized crime alerts” said in a statement sent last week to the MSR that the announced changes are “merely bread crumbs” and “do not adequately address the concerns put forth by students of color” about the crime alerts.

“We’ve done a lot of listening and we got feedback from a lot of diverse voices, [but] there are people who won’t be happy,” admitted Albert. “There are folk who want all of the information that they can possibly have, and there are some who really don’t want racial descriptors to be a part of crime alerts at all. But I believe the change will reduce the use of race in suspect descriptions by about 30 percent in future alerts.”

“I am pleased with the report,” said Kaler in an earlier MSR interview. He added that the report’s recommended action steps “creating and maintaining a positive, welcoming campus climate for all” are still ongoing.

“We have a lot of work to do” to build a “pipeline” and expand the “recruiting, application and interview pools” in hiring more faculty and staff of color, he said.

“When we talk about issues of diversity, that’s watered down when we should be talking about the legacy of White supremacy and Whiteness and how that shapes everyday living experiences for students of color on this campus,” said Rahsaan Mahadeo of Whose Diversity? “We have a mismatch between faculty of color and the students they teach, and the students of color and the professors they learn from.

“We are dealing with institutional dialogue where they set the terms in which we disagree or agree. At some point, we have to think about how to work outside that logic and paradigm because it’s ultimately reinforcing in many ways [what] is very oppressive to students of color on this campus,” said Mahadeo.

“It is important to Minnesota that we have a university [where] the students and faculty are representative of the diversity that is in Minnesota,” said Kaler.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.

One Comment on “U of M crime alerts revised to reduce use of race”

  1. No racial descriptors in crime alerts because too many blacks are comitting crimes this makes black students feel badly? ?????

    Retarded…your feelings don’t trump another’s safety. Race is a necessary descriptor, as is sex

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