Senate talks CSO reform and accountability
This week’s public Senate meeting was dedicated to listening to student grievances regarding Community Safety Officers (CSOs) and how Senate might bring about reform. The conversation began with Student Body President Aziz Ouedraogo speaking about why this meeting is important for students and faculty alike. Senate, according to Ouedraogo, has been made aware of many more accounts of CSO misconduct this semester than previous terms. Both formal and informal reports have been made to Senate outlining events, such as emails and conversations during their respective office hours.
Vice Treasurer Kodinna Anachebe, who serves as Campus Safety Liaison, added that they have been in contact with several students inquiring about negative experiences they have had with CSOs. Anachebe is also a part of the Campus Safety Coalition, a committee with both students and faculty looking to reform policies and training for CSOs. The board is chaired by Vice President of Student Life Dr. Karnell McConnell-Black and Director of Community Safety Gary Granger. While Granger could not attend the public Senate meeting, McConnell-Black was in attendance and asked several questions about student interactions with CSOs.
McConnell-Black first asked Senate to elaborate on student grievances so he could understand some of the issues that arose in Senate feedback. Ouedraogo began by stating more broadly that students of color have reported unjust enforcement of COVID guidelines against themselves in comparison to white students. While this is not a new phenomenon on campus for students of color, Ouedraogo believed that new CSO responsibilities regarding COVID policy enforcement have exacerbated this issue.
Student Body Vice President Alondra Loza continued the conversation by speaking about the concerns she has heard from students. One of the more serious concerns Loza focused on was CSOs chasing students who run from CSOs. Anachebe added that there’s also nothing in the Community Safety directories about chasing. In her previous years at Reed, Ouedraogo had never heard of CSOs chasing students until this term, and expressed a strong desire to better understand why this term has seen an increase in chasing incidents.
Both Ouedraogo and Senator Orion Pendragon spoke about certain CSOs misgendering students, even when correct pronouns have been verbalized. Ouedraogo said that certain CSOs are well known to community members for repeatedly misgendering students. Pendragon agreed, and noted that CSOs have begun shining bright flashlights into dorm rooms late at night.
Ouedraogo spoke about the broader issues students expressed. She stated that her analysis of the complaints leads her to the conclusion that CSO behavior has evolved away from protecting students to policing them. Multiple senators alluded to CSOs acting with more power and authority than in previous terms. Loza agreed and added that it seems CSOs are searching for problems rather than helping situations presented to them.
After listening to senators speak about student incidents with CSOs, McConnell-Black addressed Senate. He expressed hope for the Community Safety Coalition despite the committee having not yet met. He also stressed the importance of trust within the group, stating that the conversations will be vulnerable and personal. Pendragon, while excited that the coalition exists, asked about the kind of support McConnell-Black was willing to give to the issue both inside and outside the scope of the coalition. While students and Senate do have power, Pendragon stated, there is far more power in the position McConnell-Black holds. McConnell-Black responded and told Senate that he is working with Granger to reform the training CSOs get, as well as a cultural audit about CSOs and holding CSOs accountable. When asked to elaborate on proposed mechanisms of accountability, McConell-Black said he had no ideas about what that would look like, but looks forward to meeting with the coalition to discuss.
While Community Safety Director Gary Granger was not in attendance, he did send a statement to the Quest regarding accountability and reform. In a written response, Ganger called for a change in the conversation around CSO conduct and wishes that “inquiry and curiosity come before conclusions and condemnation.” He also hopes the coalition will serve as a way “to get direct, candid, and thoughtful input from students.”
Anachebe began committee reports with a public statement, “we do not commit tax fraud.” Other than the assurance of IRS compliance, they had no updates. Loza reported that Senator Safi Zenger was trained as Appointments Committee chair and has begun fulfilling those duties. Loza also noted Senate is looking into sexual assault response training from Sexual Health, Advocacy, and Relationship Education (SHARE) and hopes to have updates in the near future. Senator Margot Becker, member of the Bylaws Committee, is looking over all Senate bylaws to ensure that the processes are in accordance with their value systems. Zenger announced that flyers have been put up in dorm buildings publicizing the process of changing advisors. She also plans to meet with the Multicultural Resource Center to discuss considering a student’s identity when choosing their advisor. If implemented, this would help minority students be paired with minority staff, according to Zenger.