Policing the People's University: The Precarity of Sanctuary in the California State University System.

AuthorAnanth, Akhila L.

FOR MANY COLLEGE CAMPUSES IN THE UNITED STATES, 2017 WAS a tumultuous year. A series of aggressive executive orders, including the rescinding of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the institution of a variety of so-called Muslim bans, dramatically affected students in the California State University (CSU) system. In Los Angeles, a Cal State LA student was picked up outside her home and spent over a month in immigration detention before being among the lucky to be released; in Hayward, 23 Cal State East Bay students were prevented from visiting countries covered in various versions of the Muslim ban. Amid widespread panic, the authors--current and former faculty at Cal State LA--received an email from the university's president, William Covino, designating the Department of Public Safety as the "liaison between the campus community and state immigration authorities." Such efforts highlighted the unknown commitments of the campus police force and a serious contradiction: What kind of protection can universities provide students in precarious situations when campus police officers are armed agents of racialized violence?

These examples remind us that campus police exist in antithesis to the sanctuary of vulnerable student populations of color, even and especially in public university systems like CSU. To seek a safe haven from a campus police force in this context would be to misunderstand its historical and contemporary function in institutionalizing racial inequality and student suppression when the university's profit or administration is threatened. We must understand these demands as fundamentally a call for true protection for students of color on campuses, from and not by agents of today's racist police state. This article tracks the shifting rhetoric around demands for protection on CSU campuses, in which Black and nonwhite students' demands for protection from city police have sparked expressly racist and aggressive responses from CSU administrators. We focus on two formative moments in that history: First, CSU administrators deployed city police in the mid-1960s to arrest powerful student protests at what is now San Francisco State University. Second, we examine the contested decision in the mid-1970s to arm campus police forces across the CSU system. In each of these contexts, the CSU administration invoked the power of campus police forces precisely to suffocate civil protection for students of color.

Envisioning the People's University and the San Francisco State Strike

The 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education systematized the governance of higher education and created three distinct tiers of public collegiate education. The architects of the Master Plan aspired for their work to allow democratic access to higher education across California. However, the tiers of institutions were divided through exising and pervasive racial and class disparities, which plagued higher education administration in California for decades to come and were contested in popular student movements at the time throughout the state. In Los Angeles in the 1960s, Mexican American students walked out of high schools across the region demanding a more equal and culturally relevant education. Meanwhile at Cal State LA, the United Mexican American Student Association and the Black Student Association joined forces and protested the misuse of admissions acceptances, which led to revised admissions policies and opened the door for more racial minorities and low-income students. Furthermore, the establishment of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) across California universities in 1969 and the establishment of affirmative action across the CSU system in 1973 supported the efforts of students fighting to diversify higher education.

The conflict between the aspirations of a newly diversified student body against administrative consolidation of power set the context for the student and faculty strikes at San Francisco State College (hereafter SF State). Often regarded as the struggle that institutionalized Black and ethnic studies departments in academia, the 1968-1969 student and faculty strikes at SF State had another unacknowledged impact on the vast system of comprehensive universities in California: specifically, the institutionalization of campus police departments in direct response to the demands of Black and nonwhite students for civil protection while on campus. The conflict drew nationwide media attention and the uncharacteristic involvement of rising stars in the California Republican Party. On one side, the Black Students Union, Third World Liberation Front, and (eventually) the American Federation of Teachers joined forces to articulate a multiracial, inclusive vision of US higher education structured to serve marginalized and disenfranchised communities in the post-civil rights urban metropolis (Karagueuzian 1971). On the other side, Governor Ronald Reagan, CSU Chancellor Glenn Dumke, Interim President of SF State and future California Senator S.I. Hayakawa, and the board of trustees of the then-named California State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) seized administrative power to begin the process of institutionalizing armed police officers on campuses.

Discussed in greater detail in a number of other accounts (Karagueuzian 1971, Orrick 1969, Smith et al. 1970), SF State gained historical fame in the 115-day strike and standoff between students and police during the 1968-1969 academic year, during which hundreds of students were arrested and dozens brutalized by the San Francisco Police Department and Tactical Squad. In this heated moment, the board of trustees made no efforts to hide their contempt for student protesters, referring to them in racially charged language as "thugs" with "utter disregard and disrespect for others" (Hart 1967). Acknowledging that the board had thus far taken what he termed a "tolerant" stance, Chairman Donald Hart penned a response to SF State protestors threatening both student and faculty suspension of dissenters. Critically, in this memo, Hart (ibid.) emphasizes the imminent need for "law and order" to be preserved on campuses, with "whatever force ... necessary to accomplish this ... used without hesitation." Hart then encouraged the use of campus police forces as an underutilized tool to be fortified moving forward.

Echoed by language in the chancellor's special report threatening the use of "police and civil authority to protect the personal safety of our constituents and the property of the State," (1) this and other memos from the board conflated policing with students' freedom: "Vigorous enforcement of campus rules on student conduct is essential to preserve the campus...

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