Safety on college campuses is a widely contested issue at the moment and rightfully so. If you’re spending four years or more at an institution that’s basically a second home you should feel safe to conduct your daily business. However, that’s not always the case especially if you’re a black student.
On October 1st there was an incident at my school in which two black students Altaif Hassan and Giavanna Roberson were pulled over by police officers from the local town near my campus in the parking lot of a freshman dorm. They were pulled over because the officers received a tip that a man driving the exact same car that the two students were driving in had a handgun in his car. The police then proceeded to draw several of their weapons including an assault rifle and asked both students to step out of the car individually. This was all happening around 5 p.m. so as students were going to and leaving class they’re seeing this unfold. Once the car was searched there were no weapons found and both students were able to go about their day.
Even though the students weren’t physically harmed, emotional trauma can still greatly affect someone because they might replay that situation in their head or they could have trust issues when it comes to law enforcement.
Historically, as black people these types of instances with police officers is nothing new. Whether it’s people from our grandparents’ generation getting chased with K-9s and sprayed with water hoses to someone our age getting confronted because “our music was too loud”. These instances happen way too often to be considered coincidences.
Photo Courtesy of Alexandria Brooks
Another layer to this situation is campus safety which I touched on in the beginning of this article. My school’s campus police was not notified by the outside town’s law enforcement about their suspicion until after they had searched the car and found no weapons. If this was a such serious situation that potentially put other students at risk, why not notify campus police so that they can send an alert to students to stay inside or be in lockdown?
To address the various questions and concerns surrounding this incident my school held an open forum a few days after it had occurred. When I arrived the room was packed with camera crews from local news stations, students and staff that were all waiting to get answers.
The president of my school Dr. Ali Houshmand opened the discussion by saying “My number one priority is the safety and security of the students and staff. This is an opportunity as a civilized group for everyone to express their views so that we can hopefully come to a resolution.”
His comments were followed by the student government president Rbrey Singleton who mentioned in his opening remarks that “It’s our time now to have this much needed conversation.”
Photo Courtesy of Alexandria Brooks
The floor was then open to anyone who had something to say. Everyone who spoke including Altaif came with their experiences, their frustrations about the handling of the situation and solutions about how to mend the gap between law enforcement and college students especially those of color. (Those personal stories will stay within that open forum.)
This would’ve been an important conversation for the police department that pulled over the two students to hear however they declined their invitation to the event. Luckily, campus police was there to listen to how they can make improvements to ensure the safety of everyone.
After attending the open forum, I still don’t know what to make of this situation and the larger conversations surrounding it. I wish there was more transparency by law enforcement in terms of making it known what their procedures and protocols are when it comes to traffic stops, car searches, etc. As a black woman I would love to not have to consider the worst case scenario if a police officer pulls me over. It would be amazing if college students could actually be treated with same amount of respect and dignity as anyone else.
Maybe I’m asking for too much or maybe the systems at large aren’t working hard enough.
Written By Alexandria Brooks
My name is Alexandria Brooks. I'm a junior journalism major who is passionate and curious about the world. When I'm not writing I'm probably making a latte or endlessly scrolling through Instagram. One I hope to have my own creative platform to showcase my writing and photography!