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Dean Edleson on the Impact of Police Presence on Campus

Beyond the First Amendment: the impact of police presence on campus

Jeffrey Edleson, dean and professor, social welfare | November 7, 2017

The campus has embarked on a series of Free Speech seminars to discuss both the benefits and limits of speech in our society. The most recent to be announced is a panel discussion next week titled “Beyond the First: Healing and Harmful Speech,” which will focus on the impact of hate speech on our community.

Missing thus far in our discussion of recent events on campus is the impact that a highly militarized police presence had on many of our students. My interactions with students in the School of Social Welfare indicates that more concerning than the presence of hateful speakers and their supporters on campus was the presence of over 400 police in riot gear on multiple occasions.

My scholarship in the area of domestic violence has often focused on unintended consequences of well-meaning actions. The events of this past year on campus also require our attention to the unintended consequences of large numbers of police on our campus.

Social welfare students, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, are majority under-represented minority students, what we call here on campus URM students who are of African-American, LatinX or Native American descent. Others identify as GLBTQ or gender non-conforming. For many, they are the first in their family to attend college and have made many sacrifices to come to our campus. So amidst their excitement to start studies this fall they were confronted with lines of police in full riot gear on multiple days during their first weeks at Berkeley.

Click here for more of Dean Edleson's Berkeley Blog contribution, "Beyond the First Amendment: the impact of police presence on campus."