The American Federation of Teachers has been committed to the fight against racism and discrimination for over 100 years, and is the national leader in grappling with safety in schools and on campuses across the country. We endorse all endeavors towards the pursuit of social justice, and are pleased that you have created a task force for this purpose.
Given our experience in fighting for racial equality, we were surprised that you chose to exclude representatives from GTAC-AFT Local 6403 from your initial round of invitations. In addition, because our elected officers represent over 1,000 graduate teachers who teach almost half of all undergraduate courses at the University of Kansas, we were disappointed to be overlooked as local leaders within your conception of this task force. However, we were not surprised by this as graduate teachers are almost always excluded, overlooked, and forgotten within the Jawhawk community.
But we shouldn’t be. Alongside faculty and adjunct workers, graduate teachers are the front line workers of our University. When we work as assistants to faculty and adjuncts, we have the most close contact with students as we lead post-lecture discussions of sometimes difficult and contentious topics. As instructors of record, we directly and independently teach the youngest and newest undergraduate students, who are most likely to have ideas and values challenged as they enter adulthood and begin their education.
Graduate teachers have uncovered firearms in restrooms, have experienced mid-class bomb threats from students, are responsible for managing student safety in any active shooter situations, and will this semester be tasked with classroom mask enforcement. We also have the least amount on training in classroom management. Because of these factors, graduate teachers likely have the most frequent issue-related contact with campus public safety officers.
For these reasons – our experience in manifesting social justice, our responsibilities as leaders, and our proximity to the very issues at the heart of your task force – our exclusion seems to antithetical to the stated purpose of your task force. We would prefer to believe that this was an oversight and that 2-3 representatives from GTAC will be welcomed to the Task Force on Community Responsive Public Safety. Please let us know if you’ll include us and how we can help our progress towards social justice at the University of Kansas.
From: KU Chancellor <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, August 14, 2020 06:35
To: Active and Incoming Lawrence and Edwards Students @ KU <firstname.lastname@example.org>; KU Lawrence All Staff, Faculty and Affiliates <email@example.com>
Subject: KU creates Task Force on Community-Responsive Public Safety
|KU creates Task Force on Community-Responsive Public Safety|
Students, faculty and staff:
Earlier this summer, we wrote you to share our thoughts on the death of George Floyd and the toxic impact of racism on communities across the country.
In that message, we reaffirmed KU’s commitment to fight racism and discrimination, and to take action to pursue social justice. Additionally, we outlined five steps to effect change locally, the first of which is to convene KU and Lawrence leaders to discuss local policing with the goal of proposing steps to enhance public safety in the KU community.
Today, we embark on that first step by creating the Task Force on Community-Responsive Public Safety. This new task force will be charged with reviewing KU Public Safety policies, practices and procedures; examining national best practices and proposals for change; and making recommendations to the Office of the Chancellor regarding potential improvements to ensure respectful, transparent and community-responsive public safety services.
The task force will comprise approximately 25 students, faculty and staff from across the university and be chaired by Distinguished Professor Charles Epp. Professor Epp’s expertise in law, social change and administrative reform – with a particular emphasis on rights and racial discrimination – will be of tremendous value to this initiative.
Additionally, Lawrence Mayor Jennifer Ananda and Lawrence City Manager Craig Owens will engage with the task force during a series of community listening events in September, and also receive the task force’s recommendations at the end of the process.
The task force will convene at the start of the fall semester and conclude by November, at which point they will share their recommendations with me. Additional information about the task force – including a schedule of public events and an online form for you to provide suggestions to the group – will be available on the Task Force on Community-Responsive Public Safety website soon.
The University of Kansas has benefited immensely over the years from having its own on-campus public safety office, and will continue to do so. We look forward to being part of the much-needed national movement to reexamine policing and public safety to ensure that our practices are sound, equitable and just.
Douglas A. Girod
Read the email here.