Tension mounts between students who feel unsafe with armed campus police and senators who disagree with all or parts of the resolution
The Apr. 11 ASUCD Senate Meeting was called to order by Vice President Shreya Deshpande at 6:10 p.m. Senator Noah Pearl was absent for the meeting.
The meeting began with a cultural humility and allyship training, during which controversy occurred between members of the table and ECAC Chair Rina Singh and Commissioner Yalda Saii, both of whom were providing the training along with Deshpande. Senator Alexis Ramirez voiced concerns over a quote that was in the presentation, while Singh explained that the presentation was a hold-over from the previous ECAC chair. The training covered privilege, historical injustices and racial sensitivity, among other issues.
Following the training, the positions of vice controller and controller were confirmed by the table, with Shambhavi Gupta confirmed to the newly created position of vice controller and Kevin Rotenkolber confirmed as controller.
New legislation was introduced after the confirmations. Senate Resolution #10 was introduced by author and seventh-year sociology graduate student Blu Buchanan. The resolution intended to call for the disarmament of campus police.
“What this resolution is for is to recognize the harm that police do,” Buchanan said. “We are talking about managing and mitigating that harm by making it less easy for police to rely on fatal and illegal weapons instead of using other tactics: de-escalation, using crisis counselors, for example.”
Buchanan cited several other similar resolutions that have been passed by a number of institutions and organizations, including one passed by the student association at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The Graduate Student Association at UC Davis has also passed a resolution similar to the one Buchanan presented.
Buchanan stressed that the resolution was based off data that suggests police disproportionately affect marginalized populations in a negative way.
“What we’re fundamentally asking for is to disarm police [and] come up with other alternatives,” Buchanan said. “We know that those alternatives exist — other places have been doing them.”
Public discussion over the bill continued for several hours, with some audience members and senators expressing concern over the lives of both police officers and students if police are disarmed, and others suggesting that opposition to the resolution indicated the lives of individuals who are part of historically marginalized communities were seen as less important. Those in favor of the resolution also emphasized that it has no power to effectively disarm the police. Instead, proponents of the resolution argued that SR #10 would signal to the UC Regents how the student body feels about armed officers on campus and potentially begin a wider discussion regarding the issue.
UC Davis Police Chief Joe Farrow was present at the meeting and made an effort to let the audience and senators know that this discussion was important and that he would like to work with students to make their experience at UC Davis as comfortable and safe as possible.
“I have a long history of interest in mental illness, and we are trying to be the best department in the nation that can respond to people in crisis and give them help,” Farrow said. “We’re working hard to train every member of our department to understand what implicit bias is, what de-escalation is. The disarmament is a huge step — it’s going to take more than just a resolution, but what I would ask is that if we can concentrate on the things that I’m trying to do to try to make people as comfortable as they can.”
During Farrow’s last two years as Police Chief, there were zero incidents of use of any force by police officers, according to Farrow.
“Under our current instruction, we would be the primary [responders] for any incident that occurs on campus,” Farrow said. “If we’re disarmed, we don’t have weapons, [Davis Police] would be the department that would respond for any type of crimes, shootings, person with guns — they would have to come onto campus. Keep in mind what that means: we’re going through all the training that we’re trying to do to be very contemporary; we’re going to be one of the first departments in the state to be fully accredited with all the policies of the 21st century task force on police.”
Senator Andre Spignolio indicated that he would vote no on this resolution due to feeling uncomfortable with some of the statements made in it.
“There are a lot of things in this resolution that I understand and that I do agree with, but there are a few things in here that I don’t feel comfortable putting my name on,” Spignolio said. “First, the history of racial history and racial terror — that general statement is something I’m not comfortable putting my name on. Essentially, my point is I understand a lot of the arguments and I understand why the police officers on campus may not need firearms, but there’s statements in this resolution that I, quite frankly, just don’t feel comfortable putting my name on.”
Spignolio voted no on the resolution, and was referenced by an audience member after the resolution failed to pass because he did not move to amend the resolution. As a member of the table, Spignolio could have proposed changes to the text of the resolution to make it more acceptable to him.
In response to these concerns, Senator Anna Estrada said that particular statements in the resolution were there, because they “are lived experiences.”
Audience members in favor of the resolution were particularly upset that Spignolio and Senator Maya Barak, who also voted no, said they would like to see the resolution come before the Senate again. Audience members advocating for the resolution were dismayed, particularly because drafting the original resolution required a substantial amount of time and energy — things difficult to find as students with several other engagements. They felt that Spignolio and Barak were dismissive of their efforts and the additional work that would be needed to bring a modified version back before the table.
Senators Alexis Ramirez, Sean Kumar, Rebecca Gonzalez and Ricky Zapardiel voted no, along with Barak and Spignolio. Senators Tony Chen, Sahiba Kaur, Victoria Choi, Shondreya Landrum and Anna Estrada voted yes. The resolution failed six to five. Zapardiel clapped after the resolution failed to pass and both Zapardiel and Ramirez left, without comment, shortly after the resolution failed, although the meeting had not yet been adjourned. Chen also left the meeting, citing the difficult emotions that the resolution evoked for him.
The meeting adjourned at 11:30 p.m.
Written by: Sabrina Habchi — firstname.lastname@example.org