U of M senior blasts leadership for the public safety crisis they helped create

“I have no business understanding this better than you.”

U of M student addressing the lack of public safety on campus to university and public safety leadership

On Wednesday evening 8/24/22, the University of Minnesota held its second public meeting to address concerns about deteriorating public safety in and around the university campus.

Panelists included University President Joan Gabel, Minneapolis Commissioner of Community Safety Cedric Alexander, and representatives from the U of M and Minneapolis police departments.

Of note, President Gabel announced a reversal of course with the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). In 2020 President Gabel cited university values when she dramatically cut ties with Minneapolis Police in several areas following the death of George Floyd. After significant negative feedback and a deterioration of public safety on and around campus, President Gabel and the university have been forced to change course and implement a “phased approach” to work more deeply with the Minneapolis Police Department.

Wednesday evening’s meeting lasted 1 ½ hours, and the panelists shared rather predictable information about focus and advisory groups, and collaborative efforts that are underway. But frankly the opening statements and answers to questions, particularly from President Gable and Commissioner Alexander, were tone deaf and reliant on the notion that “crime is up everywhere,” not just at the university. 

The most “on point” moment of the meeting came when a university student asked the first live question. The young Latino woman emotionally described the obvious change on campus since 2019 — an almost lack of police presence, and a corresponding deterioration of public safety. 

When she started as a student, she fondly recalled seeing uniformed police in and around campus several times a day. “They weren’t arresting people or bothering people, they were just there, and it made me feel safe.” She noted that she never heard any student suggest that they felt unsafe around the police. But then in 2020 the university leadership unnecessarily created a hateful climate towards and undermined faith in the police.

“I’m not safe, I know that. I know that it wasn’t always like that. It was the rhetoric on, and the actions taken towards the police by those in power that changed that.”

“You cannot have a climate of safety when you create a climate where it is acceptable to hate a group of people merely because they try to protect us.”

Watch this student’s statement full statement below.

President Gable’s response, while polite, was dismissive. She counseled the student to recognize that there is a “difference between what you are experiencing….and the recognition that crime is up everywhere….and to identify a source and call that a rational conclusion, I’d push back on you on that.”

Leadership throughout our state needs to hear this young woman’s message. Then, rather than dismiss it, acknowledge it and acknowledge the role they played in creating and supporting the deterioration of our police, the emboldening of criminals, and the sad state of public safety we find ourselves in today.