After Petitioning and Negotiations, Dickinson Changes Policing Policies


DPS logo and car. Photo courtesy of the Dickinson College Website.

Tessa Busby '24, Staff Writer

Dickinson has agreed to change several policies in an effort to recognize student demands for an anti-racist campus. 

George Floyd’s murder in May sparked conversations about racial injustice in American society throughout the country. Since then, institutions have been making changes to their police departments and the policies surrounding campus safety. Over the summer, the Black Student Union (BSU) created a petition which was co-signed by other groups on campus including the Women of Color Summit and Latin American & Caribbean club. The petition’s goal was to create a college that does not “find the most conservative and status quo measures to give the signal that they care about black life.” 

Students and alumni have responded to the petition and have voiced their opinions on the website where the petition currently stands.

 The petition, which over 2,600 students, faculty, and alumni have signed , has four demands for what amendments could be made to Dickinson’s long-standing policies. The demands include disarming of DPS officers, de-deputizatizing the college’s Department of Public Safety (DPS), retracting the college’s anti-boycott policy, and creating a larger public safety board. 

Keshawn Bostic ‘21, president of the BSU, has communicated with multiple Dickinson faculty and has been working closely with Dee Danser, director of the DPS. Since the petition, the college has agreed to numerous amendments, with plans to implement them in the near future.

The college could not agree to the demand to disarm and de-deputize DPS. If the DPS were de-deputized, Dickinson would then fall under the jurisdiction of Carlisle Police Department , who lack the training that the current DPS officers have. Bostic negotiated a compromise to hire unsworn, security officers called Public Safety Associates (PSAs) who are unarmed. This new group has already been piloted and are making rounds on campus currently. These associates handle lockouts, building checks, and walking students back to their dorm or apartment. This semester is a test run and if all goes well, a larger scale launch of these PSAs will occur in the spring. The goal of this approach is to limit the interaction between students and armed personnel since disarming proved impossible.

The college will also hire Community Service Aides (CSAs) who will be students who will carry out similar duties to those of the PSAs but also will include everyday foot patrolling. These students will be hired by supervising students and will work in pairs. The CSA program and its mechanics is still being developed and are yet to be put into effect, but the goal is to limit student and DPS interaction. This, hopefully, will also foster better relationships between students and officers and adds a layer of accountability. Bostic hopes that “we can greenlight that by the end of the semester” and that the program would be available next semester.

The college met the fourth demand to create a public safety board.  Although it does not have an official name yet, the Community Policing Board or Public Safety Advising Board will consist of students, DPS officers, faculty, and a liaison from Carlisle Police Department (CPD). The students in this position will be elected by peers and, unlike Student Senate, the meetings will not be open to the public. This board is still in the works as well, but Bostic reports the faculty and staff have been very receptive and have even agreed to let three to four students be involved in the hiring process of new DPS officers.

Bostic’s message to fellow Dickinsonians is to be active and that “this is only going to work if we care,” adding that showing that care comes through in the form of action. Although Dickinson has answered the majority of the demands, the goal now is to firmly set in place the new policies, to foster further conversations about anti-racism at the college.