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Literature Department Statement in Support of the Cops off Campus Coalition

 

WE, the faculty of the Department of Literature at UC San Diego wish to express our solidarity with, and full support of, the Cops off Campus Coalition and its call for the removal of the UC Police Department (UCPD) from the UCSD Campus. As a world literatures department dedicated to the study of connections and conflicts between cultural production and social formation, we are fully aware that we have a responsibility to not simply research and teach “literature” in the narrow sense, but to offer students and community members spaces in which they can cultivate critical analysis of important social issues. We feel that no issue demands more critical analysis and concerted action than that of police violence and the deeply interconnected systems of racial capitalism, settler colonialism, misogyny, and heteropatriarchy that it serves. As part of a campaign to remove police from U.S. college and university campuses—and as a segment of a national social justice movement that is calling for depolicing and decarceration in cities and towns across the country—the recent student-led events of Abolition May and the Day of Refusal strike action have issued a collective call for UCSD and the overall UC system to acknowledge the degree to which campus policing is part of a larger structure of state repression that has targeted Black, Brown, Indigenous, and poor communities for generations. Moreover, as a department that prides itself on producing scholarship and learning environments that are grounded in historical analysis, we understand that the recent police murders of those such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ma’Khia Bryant, Andrew Brown Jr., and countless other Black people, fit into a centuries-long pattern of white supremacist violence and anti-blackness—a pattern that has ranged from chattel slavery, to Jim Crow apartheid, to today’s prison industrial complex.

 

Both the current campaign to abolish police from UC campuses and the overall police/prison abolition movement to which it is connected have demystified the well-ingrained mythos that attempts to equate policing with “public safety.” Indeed, as members of a global, multilingual department, we wish to remind the UCSD community that campus police forces, though they have been normalized in the US over the last 50 years, are relatively unheard-of outside the US. University campuses without police forces already exist today. At UCSD, however, the campus is the locus of multiple, overlapping forms of policing, including UCPD, local police, and ICE.

While not performed by the UCPD, the recent heinous beating of Jesse Harris—an unhoused Black man—by members of the San Diego Police Department at the southwest perimeter of the UCSD campus completely debunks the racial state mythology that characterizes policing as offering “public safety.” This horrific act of police terror that occurred within a stone’s throw of UCSD also represents the fact that national issues of police brutality, racialized incarceration, and the criminalization of those facing homelessness, joblessness, mental illness, undocumented status, and other forms of social precarity are very much local issues. While UCSD’s La Jolla campus may appear to offer “protection” for our campus community from acts of police terror, BIPoC students, faculty, staff, and community members have offered testimony to being routinely subjected to racial profiling, arrest, and other forms of violence and intimidation by the UCPD. And, as indicated by our colleagues in the Academic Council in their letter to former UC President Janet Napolitano expressing support for the defunding all UC police departments, this pattern of racist policing is endemic to the entire UC system: “Not only are campus police equipped with weapons … they have also have demonstrated troubling patterns of racially selective enforcement. Students of color, particularly Black students, across our campuses report numerous problematic encounters with campus police, as do many visitors and staff.”

 

With all of this in mind, we support the Cops off Campus Coalition and the broader movement to which it is connected, and we refuse a well-worn, reformist approach to the issues this movement raises. As leading scholar-activists in the broader abolition struggle point out—many of whom are BIPoC faculty in the UC—real safety and security will arrive only through substantive, social transformation, not the lip-service modality of piecemeal reform. Indeed, we are alarmed at the fact that, in the face of the demand to depolice our campuses, UCOP is currently proposing an expansion of UCPD budgets and a further militarization of campus police departments. In the face of this threat, we express our conviction that safety cannot come through a system of racist policing. Rather, we affirm that our communities will be better served through non-repressive models of public safety based on social justice-oriented problem solving, community-controlled safety programs, and the reallocation of funds and resources currently used for policing BIPoC and poor people toward substantive investment in communities under- and unserved by the UC system and the broader social order. We therefore extend our whole-hearted support of efforts being led by Black, Brown, Indigenous, AAPI, and allied students to move UCSD to becoming a truly safe environment for all people by moving away from the current model of campus “safety” based on police power methods of racism and domestic militarization to one based on principles of social justice, community care, and self-determination.

 

Dennis Childs

Jody Blanco 

Ted Kelting

Meg Wesling

Luis Martin-Cabrera

Brandon Som

Ameeth Vijay

Ariana Ruiz

Nina Zhiri

Max Parra

Dayna Kalleres

Hoang Tan Nguyen

Camille Forbes

Shelley Streeby

Lisa Lampert-Weissig

Erin Suzuki

Sal Nicolazzo

Jacobo Myerston Santana

Amanda Batarseh

Dan Vitkus

Amy Sara Carroll

Jin-Kyung Lee

Katie Walkiewicz

Babak Rahimi

Jac Jemc

Page DuBois

Ben Doller

Carol Arcos Herrera

Pasquale Verdicchio

Andrea Mendoza

Stephanie Jed

Anna Joy Springer

Gloria Chacon

Fatima El-Tayeb

Sara Johnson