We must keep organizing for demilitarization

By COREY PAYNE and PETER WECK | April 4, 2019

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The Maryland State General Assembly has passed a law allowing Hopkins to form its own armed private police force. This marks the first time that a private corporation in Maryland will have its own police department, authorized to use force and make arrests. 

The University is pushing for increasing militarization even in the face of massive opposition. 

According to the Student Government Association (SGA) referendum, 75 percent of undergraduates oppose the private police force. More than 2800 affiliates signed a petition against it. Students Against Private Police joined Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), UNITE HERE Local 7 and Services Employees International Union (SEIU) 1199 to testify in opposition. A plurality of adjacent neighborhood associations voted against the bill. Nearly 100 faculty members — including almost every black faculty member at Homewood — penned a letter calling the University’s conduct in promoting a private police force “undemocratic.” 

While an armed private police force is new to Maryland, such drastic militarization is more of the same for our university. Hopkins is one of the largest academic contractors of the Department of Defense and has long been an engineer of the military’s deadliest weapons. Over the past year, it’s come to light that Hopkins has held millions of dollars’ worth of contracts with the brutal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — the organization responsible for the violent and inhumane treatment of detainees and the targeting of immigrants in Baltimore and beyond. 

Like the dangerous private police proposal, this dangerous collaboration with ICE has faced widespread opposition. Hopkins students and the local immigrant rights community joined together to hold one of the largest walkouts in university history and delivered a petition with over 2000 signatures to stop the ICE contracts

At every opportunity, the University has steamrolled over any opposition to these acts of militarization and has undermined any semblance of democracy in our community. The administration’s conduct has been nothing short of reprehensible and deceitful. 

Anti-democratic behavior is the modus operandi for University President Ronald J. Daniels and his administration. In the years since his term began, Daniels and his top officials have been centralizing power away from faculty and departments. They ignored the calls for anti-racist action by black students in the wake of the Baltimore uprising. They attempted to push out a unionized security firm after they won a fair contract. They resisted calls for a living wage and displaced worker protection for subcontractors. They have mishandled cases of sexual assault. They’ve resisted graduate student efforts at unionization. And they have retaliated at nurses who are trying to do the same.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Hopkins is not just its elite administrators. 

Hopkins is the students who moved here for a degree but fell in love with this city. Hopkins is the faculty and graduate students who are changing the world through research. Hopkins is the underpaid workers cooking in the dining halls, guarding the street corners, cleaning the buildings and driving the buses. Hopkins is the dedicated nurses who are providing world-class care despite poor working conditions.

Hopkins is all of us. And we’ve had enough. 

In a newspaper, bylines are usually restricted to individuals. But these words are written and endorsed by the thousands of Hopkins affiliates represented by Students Against Private Police (SAPP), Hopkins Coalition Against ICE, Teachers and Researchers United (TRU), Hopkins Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), JHToo, Hopkins Socialists, the Black Student Union (BSU), and the JHU local of National Nurses United (Mid-Atlantic Region, NNOC/NNU).

We’ve come together because we believe in a democratic and demilitarized university. We refuse to allow this administration to take these dangerous actions in our names any longer. Another Hopkins is possible, but not unless we fight for it.

That’s why we demand the following: one, an end to the plan to create an armed private police force; two, a cancellation of contracts with ICE and a pledge to donate all monies received from them to Baltimore’s immigration defense fund; three, voluntary recognition for all workers wishing to unionize, starting with the nurses and the graduate students; four, an elected and voting position on the Board of Trustees for student and faculty representatives.

For too long our voices have been marginalized and disregarded. That’s why we stood together on Wednesday in a way that can’t be ignored. If we want Hopkins to be a model university and a force for good in our city, then it is time for drastic change. Our fight for demilitarization and democracy at this university will continue. We hope you’ll join us.

Corey Payne is a graduate student in the Department of Sociology, an undergraduate alumnus of Hopkins and a member of Students Against Private Police (SAPP).

Peter Weck is a graduate student in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and a member of the Hopkins Coalition Against ICE and of Teachers and Researchers United (TRU).

This op-ed was written and endorsed by the members of Students Against Private Police (SAPP), Hopkins Coalition Against ICE, Teachers and Research United (TRU), Hopkins Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), JHToo, Hopkins Socialists, the Black Student Union (BSU), and local members of the National Nurses United (Mid-Atlantic Region, NNOC/NNU).

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