The Student Government Association (SGA) listened to a presentation on public safety legislation by University officials and endorsed a walkout organized by the Hopkins Coalition Against ICE during their weekly meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
Administrators discussed the results of their interim study on public safety around Hopkins campuses with SGA members.
Hopkins Director of State Affairs Mary Clapsaddle explained that the study serves as useful context for why the University could use a private police force. Senate Bill 793, which aims to create this force, had been introduced to the Maryland General Assembly on Monday, the day before the meeting.
“Leadership at Hopkins took all that we have learned through this nine-month interim process and developed a recommendation that we took to Annapolis to share with legislators,” Clapsaddle said.
SGA representatives expressed concerns that the bill would not provide adequate means to monitor the new police force and hold its officers accountable, but both Clapsaddle and Director of University Initiatives Rianna Matthews-Brown told the representatives that, “as need arises,” administrative hearing boards would be created to judge cases involving abuses of power and improper conduct.
Such boards would be made up of five members: three law enforcement officers from non-Hopkins agencies and two trained civilians.
“There are a number of requirements that would apply to this police department under existing state law,” Matthews-Brown said. “One of those is the Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, which sets the process and requirements around administrative hearing boards... We can have up to two civilian members, and we opt to do the max. That max is set in state laws, but we will continue to hold ourselves accountable to meet this high standard.”
The private police force will also be monitored by the Baltimore City Civilian Review Board, which supervises policing across Baltimore. According to Clapsaddle, not all universities are subject to the Board, but Hopkins decided that working with the Board was the right thing to do.
The speakers also described the new training that Hopkins security guards (and potentially private police officers) will now undergo. This training will place an increased emphasis on helping victims of sexual assault and those in crisis, as well as eliminating profiling.
This training will be continued by a new training director whose identity will be announced later this month.
Several SGA representatives also expressed worry that the addition of a private police force would lead to an uptick in student arrests. The speakers denied these fears, saying that the threshold for arrest would still be the same with a Hopkins police department and that student behavioral issues would mostly still be referred to Student Conduct.
The speakers also told SGA that there are provisions in the bill to target the root causes of crime in Baltimore, which, according to Clapsaddle, would allow the University to show commitment to the community beyond just having a police department.
These provisions, she said, include funding and support for youth works programs, community development and a police cadet program.
“Policing will never solve the problem here in Baltimore,” Matthews-Brown said. “It’s generations of inequity that we need to remedy.”
After the presentation, SGA swore in Claire Gorman as a new junior class senator. The position was originally filled by Omar Lloyd, who resigned. SGA sent the junior class an email on Jan. 7 asking any interested candidates to fill out a form, after which they would be contacted for an interview.
Next, SGA members passed two bills.
The first bill passed requires that at any and all SGA co-sponsored events, materials be present that identify the event as co-sponsored by SGA.
The second allows for the purchase of two winter sleds and four helmets for student use.
While the first bill passed unanimously, several representatives worried that the second bill’s sleds would be a safety hazard. As a result, students who want to use the sleds will be given a helmet and required to sign a liability waiver.
Sophomore Class President Sam Schatmeyer, one of the sponsors of the Community Sleds Bill, explained why he felt the bill was important.
“It’s good to give students a chance to have random fun on this campus, which they never get,” Schatmeyer said. “With something as positive as this that has been properly vetted in terms of risk, I think we would be misled not to pass it.”
After the Community Sleds Bill was passed, SGA voted to endorse the walkout organized by the Hopkins Coalition Against ICE, which took place on Wednesday, the morning after the meeting.
Coalition member, graduate student Conor Bean, came before SGA to request support and promotion for the event, which he described as an escalation of the Coalition’s previous protests, which failed to elicit a favorable response from the University.
The request prompted some uncertainty from SGA members, who expressed concern in supporting a potentially disruptive and loud walkout. Bean told that SGA that the Coalition intended for the event to be only “mildly disruptive” and that although there would be noise near active classes, the protest would not directly interfere with any classrooms.
Executive Secretary Aspen Williams expressed her support for the motion.
“We’re not doing anything against the Conduct Code, and we as a body have already voted to endorse an action like this. Why would we feel as if it’s not our place to do that?” she said. “We need to work on our beliefs as a body, and this is a strong statement to the Baltimore community that we support this [movement].”
The motion passed 19-1 with four abstentions. SGA then emailed the student body with their decision and information promoting the walkout the following morning.