Black student groups want U of M officials to remove racial descriptions from crime alerts
"There are certain looks you get late at night when you have a hoodie on, or even just a U of M backpack," the leader of a black student group told us.
Members of the Black Student Union, Black Faculty and Staff Association, and a handful of other black student groups are asking U of M officials to remove racial descriptions from crime alerts distributed by the university.
During a wave of high-profile crimes that swept through campus last semester, many alerts noted that the suspect was a "black male." (Though there are some exceptions, including the most recent one.) Reached for comment today, Ian Taylor Jr., president of the Black Men's Forum, questioned the value of that sort of description, which he believes negatively impacts how blacks are perceived on campus.
"Let's quantify how much racial identifiers help us identify criminals first," Taylor Jr., a 20-year-old junior, said. "We think crime alerts are important, but using race as a descriptor is our concern."
But in a letter written to the black student groups earlier this week, U of M Vice President Pamela Wheelock argues that "sharing more information in our Crime Alerts, not less, is most beneficial in terms of public safety."
"We have reviewed what other Big 10 Universities and local colleges and universities include, and our practice of including the race of a suspect when it is available from a victim's description is consistent with their practices," she added.
Though officials aren't willing to remove racial descriptions from crime alerts, they say preventing any sort of profiling is a high priority.
For instance, in a letter written to the black student groups last month, University President Eric Kaler said, "Let me be clear: racial profiling can not and will not be tolerated."
But Taylor Jr. said that while he appreciates how accommodating administrators have been in meeting some of his group's demands, "If you look at the crime reports you would suspect that blacks are the only ones committing crimes."
-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.