Scholar Strike sparks discussion of police reform, racial justice on campuses nationwide

In support of the Scholar Strike movement, held on Sept. 8 and 9, Cal Poly Pomona students, faculty
and staff engaged in discussions regarding racial injustice and police violence.

With the involvement of CPP’s Sociology Department, the Feminist Fight Club and the University
Police Department, the CPP community gained more awareness of the ongoing institutional racism
rampant in the United States. The dialogue revolved around the reforms necessary to toward racial
justice at the university.

The movement, which trended on social media via the #scholarstike hashtag, was coordinated by
Anthea Butler, associate professor of Religious and Africana Studies at the University of
Pennsylvania and Kevin Gannon, director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching.

Butler and Gannon explained to CNN that movement initially intended to bring awareness of the
growing number of deaths of Black Americans and the overuse of police violence; however, it soon
evolved to encapsulate several racial justice issues faced in the United States.

According to the Scholar Strike website, “Scholar Strike is both an action, and a teach-in. Some of
us will, for two days, refrain from our many duties and participate in actions designed to raise
awareness of and prompt action against racism, policing, mass incarceration and other symptoms of
racism’s toll in America.”

Courtesy of Artem Maltsev | @art_maltsev

To continue the momentum, on Sept. 10 the Sociology Department held the virtual Race & Policing Teach-In event during U-Hour that drew 140 participants. Assistant Professors Peter Hanink and Melissa Barragan moderated the discussion about the issue of police violence against Black Americans.

After attending the event, first-year criminology student Tiffany Benitez found that even though the event was virtual, she felt the environment invited students to offer their opinions and respond to others in a positive and informative way to gain new perspectives.

“In high school, I feel we wouldn’t have these meaningful discussions or events about the Scholar Strike and learn how students can help or make a difference,” said Benitez. “By being part of the CPP community, I feel there is hope for change and that anyone can make a difference.” Benitez added that she learned more in-depth information about the Black Lives Matter movement, the different scenarios in which police violence occurs and ideas on what the university can do to tackle racism.

After viewing the data in Hanink and Barragan’s presentation, third-year sociology student
Shandelle Carrillo described how assumptions made by society about police violence toward certain
races are not always correct.

“I believe that this event made a huge impact on me and possibly many others because I am a person
of color, specifically as a Latina,” said Carrillo. “Even though I have not gone through these
issues, other people have.”

Through the Scholar Strike movement, Hanink elaborated on the significance of raising student
awareness by holding events for them. He shared that he also wants to introduce information
gathered by researches that students may be unaware of.

Separate to the event, Hanink shared that he was unable to cancel his classes per the Scholar
Strike initiative due to faculty’s collective bargaining agreement with the California Faculty
Association. He pointed to Article 9.1 which reads, “During the life of this Agreement, faculty
unit employees shall not engage in strikes or other concerted activity that would interfere with or
adversely affect the operations or the mission of the CSU.”

Hanink added, “As a policing and criminology scholar, this event still allowed me to share my
research that is relevant to the Scholar Strike and trending issues today.”

Barragan also mentioned that her senior seminar on mass incarceration and media and crime courses
allowed more flexibility to include information emphasized in the racial justice reforms and issues
in the United States.

“Breaking down these barriers and having honest conversations about these issues are critical to
being able to brainstorm what we as a campus community want to see change and what we as
individuals want to see a change in society,” said Barragan.

The Feminist Fight Club promoted this conversation by informing students of the Scholar Strike
movement via its Instagram account and emailed newsletters.

Feminist Fight Club President Blanca Martinez, a third-year anthropology student, shared that she
participated in the Awareness March and the Red Shoe Protest held at CPP last November. She
elaborated how this involvement expanded on the club’s goals to further support reform and decrease
instances of racial profiling on campus.

“Many students don’t have the time to be a full-time advocate because they are students first,”
said Martinez. “Those students came to better themselves and learn through higher education,
instead they are always in the same group advocating for change.”

The club emphasized its support of racial justice reform and strives to uplift the voices of
minority groups affected by the issues discussed in the #scholarstrike dialogue.

As for administrative action, CPP recently announced a commitment to government policies and the
creation of a police advisory group in collaboration with UPD.

Vice President for Student Affairs Christina Gonzales, who now temporarily oversees the campus’
police department, explained that the 23 California State University campuses are seeking ways to
implement recommendations from the Obama Administration’s Task Force on 21ˢᵗ Century Policing.
This policy will aid all CSU police departments in fostering trust with the campus communities,
according to Gonzalez.

In addition, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on June 15 called “Safe Policing for
Safe Communities” that focused on maintaining a national database to locate officers with multiple
complaints and banning police officers’ use of chokeholds.

The University Police Department announced that it will follow the executive order and suspended
the use of the carotid restraint hold in June previously included in the CSU Use of Force policy
and quarterly training curriculum.

According to Gonzalez, Police Chief Dario Robinson also contributed to the initiative. They both
attended the Student Community Planning on Racial Justice event held on Aug 14 and attribute the
student opinion as jumpstarting the police advisory group.

Gonzalez explained that the group will consist of CPP students, staff and faculty that are
recruited through social media, ASI and other student organizations to receive nominations for
possible candidates. More information regarding the recruiting process will be announced later this
month.

“The work is complicated and not everyone will agree on the outcome,” said Gonzales. “It is
important that we have an open dialogue in a safe environment where we can be educated, understand UPD and offer suggestions for improvement.”

For more information about the #scholarstrike movement, visit https://www.scholarstrike.com/.

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