Students gather in Student Center to protest proposed cop academy


Brian Munoz

Demonstrators hold up a banner Thursday, March 29, 2018, during a demonstration against a proposed police academy at Southern Illinois University in the student center. (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Amelia Blakely , Campus Editor

Approximately 40 to 50 students, faculty, and community members gathered Thursday in the Student Center cafe in opposition to the proposed School of Public Safety, otherwise known as the proposed cop academy.

“Many of us believe that this cop academy will do the opposite of what we want to do, which is to learn,” speaker Joshua Bowens, a senior studying political science said. “We all come here to get a better education, to go out to the world and make a difference; to make a real change.”

In Chancellor Carlo Montemagno’s reorganization plan, he proposed a School of Justice and Public Safety. The school was previously called the School of Homeland Security.


Beginning the rally, a video created by a leaderless student movement in opposition to the proposed school was shown publicly in the cafe. The student movement operates on social media under the title #NoCopAcademy and on Twitter at @NoCopAcademySIU. 

“By occupying black and brown neighborhoods and enforcing laws written for and by the white ruling class, the police are the primary agent tasked with keeping things exactly the way they are by targeting and arresting and murdering people of color at wildly disproportionate rates,” the video said.

Since the Ferguson uprisings in 2014, the video said more people in society are coming to the realization that police use violence and the support of the largest prison system in the world to silence the oppressed voices speaking up for justice.

“Given this context, this police academy is nothing less than an attempt to rebrand SIU as a white university,” the video said. “Universities must act as a tool to challenge the status quo, not as a weapon to reinforce it.”

Student Trustee Sam Beard said in the rally that police have targeted every meaningful social movement that challenged the status quo.

“We like to hold this notion that cops have just always been a thing and that society needs police, which is why they exist,” Beard said.

University and community members opposed to the cop academy said if resources were directed more towards building and supporting communities, specifically minority communities, the police force would not be a necessity.


Nilim Gupta, a graduate student studying electrical engineering said adding more resources to a create and run a police academy takes away resources for the humanistic education that teaches students to understand a person’s experience and perspective before judging them; the type of education the university is known for.

Brian Munoz
Student Trustee Sam Beard speaks to students on Thursday, March 29, 2018, during a demonstration against a proposed police academy at Southern Illinois University in the student center. (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)

“A police academy benefits people who already have money, already have privilege, are already protected in our society,” Gupta said. “That’s just not what, specifically a state and public university needs to be doing.”

The police force becomes necessary when people in a community decide the situations they are in are situations they can’t handle on their own.

“You decide to make that call when you think ‘I can’t deal with this on my own’,” Gupta said. “But, in this society people don’t talk to their neighbors, people don’t feel like they have communities around them.”

A compartmentalized community is created when individuals lack solidarity and camaraderie with other community members. Gupta said when a community exists where people rely on each other the police force becomes less of a necessity.

The campus push-back to the proposed cop academy is not a regional movement; it’s national. According to the Chicago Tribune, a group of Chicago youth staged a “die-in” at City Hall to demand the city of Chicago to redirect the $95 million to fund marginalized communities instead of building a Police and Fire training center in West Garfield Park.

Jesa Brooks-Ausler, a former student of the university said the police reinforce the nation’s status quo of white supremacy and capitalism by repressing minority communities, including the lower class and people of color.

“A university is a place where people of sorts from the community are supposed to come and access resources and to make their lives better,” Brooks-Ausler said. “The police being here is not going to make that more possible. It’s going to make it harder for people to feel safe here.”

Brooks-Ausler said she hopes the administration listens to the students and the community when they say don’t want a police academy in their community.

“Ultimately it’s just about making sure students and everyone else in the community know they have power to oppose these decisions,” Brooks-Ausler said. “Just because the administration decides it for all of us doesn’t make it right and doesn’t mean it’s what we want.”

Campus editor Amelia Blakely can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AmeilaBlakely.

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