The Black Lives Matter movement has garnered traction over the summer as videos of police brutality against Black people went viral, prompting vocal activism nationwide. On Wednesday, Aug. 26, Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger and Student Association (SA) President Khaleel James announced the formation of a Campus Citizen Review Board (CCRB) to review the activities of the Binghamton’s New York State University Police (UPD).
According to the B-Line News Addition, the CCRB will consist of 11 members including three students, three faculty and three staff members. The two additional members will be co-chairs for the board comprised of Karen Jones, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, and a faculty member chosen by the Faculty Senate. Members will be chosen through an application process and those interested can send a statement of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Committee members will use evidence-based assessments to evaluate UPD’s policies, budget, procedures, training programs and arrest records, provided by the University’s auditor. These evaluations aim to shine a light on any patterns of biases in arrests, “underserved aspects of mental health support and community policing,” and determining policies for adequate policing when needed.
Plans for the creation of the CCRB were originally announced in June. In the June 10 B-Line announcement, Stenger called for the formation of the board among other provisions such as the reallocation of UPD funds to other University services and the creation of the George Floyd Memorial Scholarship.
According to James, Stenger and James have been working on the cultivation of the CCRB over the summer. James said he gained inspiration for the idea with his participation in the Town Gown Advisory Board (TGAB), a BU committee which aims to ensure a positive relationship between BU students and the Binghamton community.
Brandy Henry, a junior majoring in biology, said the CCRB is a step in the right direction, but questioned if it could be implemented to the fullest extent.
“I think it’s a great step toward making the students on campus feel like they’re being heard,” Henry wrote. “However, as a student, I realize that not all campus resources function as [they] should which can be detrimental to those who rely on those resources.”
According to James, he and Stenger created the plan to become a model for other schools to follow.
“On the administration side, remember, this is something that they are trying to push other campuses to do, so, if they don’t take that initiative, then they’re literally not standing on what they speak on,” James said. “And so, I think they’re more inclined to do this and so, that commitment isn’t just something that came out of the blue.”
James admits that both the SA and the administration have histories of not delivering on their promises, but feels that this committee will be different.
“We’re trying to create a new path, a new way for students to engage with their campuses and so, it’s bigger than just me,” James said.
The committee’s findings are public record and, although the board reports to Stenger, it is independent from the administration. James hopes that the faculty on the board will ensure that the CCRB is not an empty promise.
“They would have the power to bring that forward so, it’s hard to argue against a community board that is — for example, on [Stenger’s] side, it’s not just students that sit on the board — it’s faculty, the SA, that stand behind this, it’s a whole community saying, ‘We found this together,’ so it has more credibility in the sense of unity,” James said.
Alexander Jackson, a junior majoring in English, said he will wait and see if the CCRB is effective.
“I at least trust the SA, especially with [James] at the front,” Jackson wrote. “He’s a good guy from what I can tell. But there’s only so much he can do. I do know there are some faculty that are dedicated to social justice and proper treatment so I hope they are picked for the board but I’m not 100 percent confident.”
Juliette Ullman, a senior majoring in history, does not believe the CCRB will work.
“I know that the school has a strong relationship with them, so they’ve tended to overlook a lot of things.” Ullman said. “And, I also know that the city of Binghamton itself is hyper-police. I personally don’t think this will be effective, it does honestly seem kind of performative considering people have been asking [Stenger] and the administration to address racist cops for a while.”
After the announcement of the CCRB, a B-Line News Addition was released on Thursday promising increased police intervention both on and off campus to enforce COVID-19 health and safety guidelines. This announcement came after a crowd of students were photographed outside of Dillinger’s Celtic Bar & Eatery, a bar in Downtown Binghamton, huddled together without masks.
Jackson said he hopes that more police intervention does not equate to police brutality.
“It shouldn’t be much as a problem as long as [the police] follow the policies set out,” Jackson wrote. “Still, more police intervention means more risk for police misconduct. Also, it raises a problem we see in the Black community. They say that we have more criminality, but they over-police our community so of course they find more crime. It just creates a feedback loop and hopefully that doesn’t happen with students.”
Henry, along with Jackson, believe the board is a step forward that will inspire further change at BU.
“If the [CCRB] is truly able to carry out the policies and procedures explained in the announcement, I am hopeful for many positive changes in the campus community,” Henry wrote.