Scrolling Headlines:

Question and Answer: SGA president/vice presidential candidates Amazan and Sullivan see ticket as politically bold -

February 28, 2017

Bread & Butter in North Amherst celebrates two-year anniversary -

February 28, 2017

Question and Answer: SGA President Vitale and Vice President Wallace run for re-election -

February 28, 2017

Derek Kellogg: ‘I wouldn’t say any starting lineup is secure at this point’ for UMass men’s basketball -

February 28, 2017

UMass softball shows signs of growth in Texas tournament losses -

February 28, 2017

UMass tennis drops close match against Yale -

February 28, 2017

Notebook: Defending conference champion Rhode Island splits weekend series -

February 28, 2017

Four brilliant and unsettling fictional podcasts -

February 28, 2017

Oscars commercials continue trend of political advertisements -

February 28, 2017

Emmi Beuger’s Day Off – Sanctuary Campus Debate -

February 28, 2017

The process of letting go emotionally is harder than dropping something -

February 28, 2017

Frustrations with Team-Based Learning classes -

February 28, 2017

UMass students show lackluster attitude toward ‘Mullins Live!’ concert -

February 27, 2017

UMass women’s basketball loses in first round of Atlantic 10 Tournament -

February 27, 2017

Ryan Adams perfects his melancholy, widescreen take on 80s heartland rock on ‘Prisoner’ -

February 27, 2017

Exposing the horrific crime of modern-day slavery -

February 27, 2017

UMass men’s basketball successfully drops La Salle 84-71 in confidence-building win -

February 27, 2017

UMass men’s lacrosse’s late rally falls short against Harvard -

February 27, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse struggles to find offense in loss to No. 5 Syracuse -

February 27, 2017

With Perez, Democrats remain in limbo -

February 27, 2017

Police state school

Sabrina Amiri/Collegian

Approaching brightly lit orange flashing LED lights, I set the cruise control exactly to 20 miles per hour and ambled down University Drive toward the Recreation Center. An officer entered into the traffic and raised his hand motioning me to stop my vehicle.

Still yards away from him, far enough to barely make out his hand signals, I inched slowly closer to what I deemed a sensible point from which to obey his orders. His face cringed in exasperation. “Stop the car, stop!” he began yelling, waving his arms frantically – all the while, there was no present danger to either of us or any individuals nearby. Confused and a little bewildered by his reaction, I sat motionless in my car and waited for further instructions. Glancing to the left was another set of flashing lights, this time blue and red, as a policeman was speaking to another student through the window of his car – bummer, I thought, bad luck.

I was instructed to continue moving, slowly of course. As I passed the intersection at the Recreation Center, two policemen were bravely maintaining the peace up the road. I drove up around the bend by the engineering department and there was yet another car pulled over being reprimanded by an officer. Five police in one mile? This couldn’t be a coincidence.

Ok, so perhaps it was just a bad day, with lots of disobedient students – who knows. I gave the police the benefit of the doubt and allowed their presence to slip my mind.

The next day, while driving down Massachusetts Avenue, I passed a police car to my right, one to my left and then took a right turn into a parking lot where two officers stood in waiting. As I passed these two, I peered to my left where on foot, an officer clad in a crisp dark uniform paced ominously forward – in the distance stood another, not on foot, but on horseback.

Everything seemed cold and gray, the Brutalist architecture even more brutal than normal in the distance. Despite the legality of my actions I shuddered, feeling a police presence that I can seldom remember in my four years on campus. This definitely wasn’t my imagination. There were significantly more police posted on campus, and everywhere I went I felt as though I were under increased surveillance.

So, here is the University of Massachusetts – home of dorms modeled after public housing projects, school buildings that resemble fall-out shelters, and now numerous police officers on campus roads and walkways. Great.

The aforementioned elements were not the qualities of a school from which I was seeking to earn a degree. In fact, these attributes are the polar opposite of what I wanted in a university. When I arrived here four years ago, several words echoed out of nearly every professors’ mouths in each of my classes: “The goal of this course is to transform you into a critical thinker.” I like to believe that they have been effective in promoting just that.

A university setting, its education, and the resulting critical thinking are all about emerging out of a rigid structure of understanding towards self-expression, challenging the status quo and becoming truly invigorated by personal and academic interests in a system which can help students flourish, intellectually and personally. Such a notion becomes directly compromised by the institutionalization of a rigid power structure that monitors students to an unnecessary degree. Increased police presence doesn’t promote comfort on campus for me, but represents a troubled method of control from a group of people who hardly represent the demographics of a diverse campus community.

In recent weeks, I have found myself more aware of the increased police presence and a feeling of internal guilt for which I can discern no reasoning. An uneasy feeling dawns on me when I approach campus at the end of my commute, as I count the officers whom I pass by.

I can recall my first and seemingly only interaction with campus police – nodding to red cheeked cadets stationed in my freshman dormitory on my way out for the evening. Ok, so they weren’t exactly what I would call threatening, but their presence did impact the dormitory climate. Very few students at that time were aware of their rights as students and residents in a dorm, many of which became subject to police search without understanding their rights, consenting to searches, or being presented with a warrant. While the resources and funds spent on police appear to have increased substantially, information on students’ legal and personal rights is harder to come by.

As I walk to class today and pass numerous officers and vehicles parked on the side of the road, I think back to several weeks ago, as I watched the student and police interaction during ‘The Riots’ from afar. I have never seen a Southwest riot and the post-Super Bowl setting seemed like a decent opportunity to get a better grasp on them. Despite grave recollections depicted on news stations across the country, students seemed to pose a pretty insignificant threat to police, or even to each other. Police responded by dawning battle gear, mounting horses, carrying batons, and shooting shells at a few bright-eyed drunken stragglers fleeing Southwest. Adorned with smoke and sirens, the scene emerged like a screen shot out of Arcade Fire’s video “The Suburbs.”

While a Super Bowl riot is hardly justifiable, nor of any value to a major percentage of the UMass community, the news hype and the police’s riot gear was undoubtedly excessive.

The degree to which police were prepared to handle ‘The Riots’ and the increased police presence around campus on a daily basis is emblematic of the shifting baselines for campus security. The more police we see on campus, the more complacent we become with their presence. I have heard very few students comment on increased patrolling or even the outrageous funds and resources that we have dedicated to new police cars, buildings, and equipment, for a school with seemingly insignificant crime rates.

A college campus is a location in need of measures promoting student safety, especially in a setting of over 20,000 students. And yes, increased police presence around a work zone for the protection of students and construction workers is sensible. There is a difference, however, between preventative security measures and constant or over-ambitious police intervention. For now, we are no UC Berkley, but I fear we are well on our way.

 

Kimberly Ovitz is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at kovitz@student.umass.edu.

 

Comments
3 Responses to “Police state school”
  1. mason says:

    “So, here is the University of Massachusetts – home of dorms modeled after public housing projects, school buildings that resemble fall-out shelters, and now numerous police officers on campus roads and walkways. Great.”
    hahahaha This is a great description. Please write another op-ed piece.

  2. joe says:

    Kimberly,

    Great article this is going on across the country, students should be concerned about the increased police presence permeating our society.

  3. joe says:

    Here’s a blog about how to deal with police: http://flexyourrights.org/
    I’ve included two YouTube videos of dealing with police encounters:

    Don’t Talk to Cops, Part 1
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8z7NC5sgik

    Don’t Talk to Cops, Part 2

Leave A Comment