Senators passed a resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of unwarranted police presence in dormitories and the creation of a system of oversight for campus police activities last night.
According to Senator Mathew Morrin, one of four sponsors of last night’s motion, the senate needed to establish a policy that prevented future police patrols in residence halls. Morrin called the existing patrols a “complete abuse of police power.”
The resolution, which accused Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael Gargano of being behind the increase in routine patrols of plain clothes police officers, laid the foundation for the eventual creation of a committee overseeing police action on campus, according to Morrin.
“There are a lot of policies that are restricting the cops that aren’t being followed. They’re breaking their own laws,” he said, speaking before the senate. “We need a committee to ensure that the cops follow their own laws.”
Morrin said he saw the oversight committee including both administrators and students, but with a majority student presence.
“The real issue here is that Mike Gargano and Police Chief O’Connor denied the presence of police in the dorms,” Morrin said.
Keeping unwarranted police officers out of the residence halls on campus is one of several issues behind next weeks planned student strike. The campus-wide strike, supported by the Graduate Student Senate and planned for Nov. 15th and 16th, calls for a rollback of student fees, accountability and funding for diversity and student control over student space as well as keeping an unwarranted police presence out of the dormitories.
Student Government Association (SGA) President Aaron Buford encouraged senators to participate and support the strike.
“These issues are very real,” Buford said. “We want to show that our voice is being heard.”
Governor Deval Patrick’s allocation of $1 billion towards the capitol campaign of the University of Massachusetts system allowed for the rollback of student fees, Buford said, as students had paid for many of the expenses in the past.
Buford also called the presence of police in the residence halls an ongoing issue and pertinent issue in campus life.
“[The establishment of an oversight committee] really relies on the student strike because Gargano is not going to listen to anything in this motion,” Morrin said. “We’re going to press for this demand in the student strike and that’s our strategy right now.”
Morrin said he hoped that by passing a resolution demanding the rescinding of police patrols in residence halls he could elicit a response from Vice Chancellor Gargano defending the actions of University police officers.
“We want Gargano to take a firm stance on rejecting this resolution,” he said. “So then we could publicize that.”
Vice Chancellor Gargano could not be reached for comment before press time.
According to Senator Alex Peterkin, the creation of an oversight committee would be in the works over the next week. Removing an unwarranted police presence from the dormitories remained the immediate issue, he said.
“The important thing is that right now police officers are in the dorms, that are people’s living areas, where they’re conducting unwarranted searches of rooms,” Peterkin said. “They’re violating the fourth amendment and that’s wrong and the SGA wants to change that.”
Peterkin said the language in the resolution had been specifically directed against
Vice Chancellor Gargano and not aimed at UMPD Chief Barbara O’Connor.
“Chief O’Connor is just an employee of Gargano’s,” Peterkin said. “Gargano is making the decisions that involve this [issue].”
Chief O’Connor could not be reached for comment by press time.
Morrin agreed with Peterkin’s assessment.
“A lot of police are opposed to these policies,” he said.
Derrick Perkins can be reached at [email protected]