An update from President McConnell: CSU’s Presidential Task Force on Campus, Community, and Personal Safety
July 2, 2020
Dear CSU Community,
In May, George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer while in police custody, tragically just one of many Black men and women who have died as the result of police brutality in our nation. Mr. Floyd’s death has sparked weeks of protests around the world, including in Fort Collins and on the CSU campus. Among the specific demands for change articulated in many of these protests are calls to “defund” police agencies, including the CSU campus police department. Some in our own community intend this call to be a straightforward and immediate dissolution of the CSUPD; nationally the conversation around “defunding” law enforcement agencies encompasses plans that do not fully defund but do shift monies and resources from police to other resources and social structures that can mitigate the need for reactive law enforcement.
As I announced last week, to recommend the best path forward for safety at CSU, I am convening and charging a Presidential Task Force on Campus, Community and Personal Safety.
I am honored to announce today that D. Rico Munn, who has served in a variety of leadership roles in Colorado and nationally and has a demonstrated life-long commitment to social and racial justice, has agreed to serve as Chair of this Task Force. The Superintendent of Aurora Public Schools and a former Chair of the CSU System Board of Governors, of which he was a member from 2012-2020, Rico has had an extraordinary career that is deeply grounded in a commitment to social justice. He was a founding board member for the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountability and the principal author of the Denver Police Department’s first-ever policy against “Biased Policing.” Rico has served on the board of the ACLU-Denver and spent many years volunteering in the international human rights community with Amnesty International, where he served in leadership roles in Los Angeles; Cape Town, South Africa; and Santiago, Chile. You can read his full bio here. I am deeply grateful to Rico for bringing his extraordinary expertise, including his deep knowledge of Colorado State University, to this incredibly important work.
I believe that it is also important to share that in CSU’s recent history, before many of us arrived on campus, the university’s police department adopted a culture of reform, working with outside consultants to adopt best practices for university policing. Today the CSUPD partners productively with the Women and Gender Advocacy Center, Housing & Dining, the Division of Student Affairs, and researchers across campus. They respond to bias complaints, participate in bias training and de-escalation techniques, train to conduct humane mental health interventions, and employ students as unarmed campus service officers. CSU police and service officers are dedicated state employees who work hard to protect campus, students, employees and guests. In recent weeks, they took a quick stand against brutality and stated their opposition to specific dangerous police practices. Our CSUPD is not only committed to reform, they stand ready to support the Task Force.
As law enforcement departments across the country face scrutiny and demands for defunding, it is imperative that we engage as a community in careful examination of our campus safety practices and culture. None of us can know what this means without committing ourselves to the hard process of critical engagement.
Therefore, in the continued spirit of transparency to which I am committed as President of CSU, I share with all of you the charge that Rico and I have agreed upon for the Presidential Task Force on Campus, Community and Personal Safety. The Task Force shall examine:
- Best and innovative practices to create a safe and health-focused environment on campus;
- What defunding policing would mean to fulfill our goal of a safe and health-focused campus environment;
- If defunding policing is not the answer, what changes are necessary to meet our goals;
- If defunding is the answer, what would be an alternative structure to meet our goals;
- If defunding is the answer, how would funds be allocated to create the alternative structure;
- How do these structures address accountability?
- Recommendations for reform.
The Task Force will also consider the following cross-cutting principles and factors:
- What values are paramount and how do decisions reflect those values?
- Who is served by policing or by alternative structures?
- Is a new structure anti-racist, equitable, and just for all members of the CSU community?
And the Task Force will engage in their work incorporating the following processes:
- Providing opportunities for input from diverse groups and individual students, faculty, employees and community members, including alumni;
- Consulting outside experts on campus health safety and policing;
- Seeking information on alternative structures.
Schedule for Task Force
August 14: Submit preliminary Task Force goals and plans to President and Executive Leadership Team.
December 14: Submit Task Force recommendations for consideration and for preliminary implementation in 2021.
This charge is our starting point. The Task Force may decide to broaden or narrow the scope or to redefine the charge in consultation with the me and with the Executive Leadership Team. I recognize that those who serve will have concerns, ideas and solutions that I cannot anticipate. I deeply value the expertise and judgment of Rico Munn as Chair and of the members of the Task Force, and I empower them to chart the course they believe necessary to move us toward our goal.
Today, I have personally invited Task Force members from across campus, including students, faculty, and staff, to come together to do this urgent work. Given the fact that this is a short week, I have asked all invitees to indicate their willingness to serve by Monday. We will therefore announce the full Task Force membership as soon as possible early next week.
We have today the opportunity to make significant and truly meaningful change and we must seize it. I know the journey, which we now begin together, is essential as it will lead to adoption of the best anti-racist, humanitarian and just practices for a safe and welcoming campus and university environment.