New Council Continues Conversations About Policing On Campus

In the wake of national conversations about policing in the U.S., Dickinson will create a Public Safety Inclusivity Council to gather community input and suggest DPS policy changes, according to a March press release from the college.

Chief Diversity Officer Tony Boston, who will lead the committee, said, “students will be integral to the composition and function of the Council. Not only will they have a seat at the table — informing our deliberative processes — we will also actively seek input from the greater student body.”

President John E. Jones III will appoint members to the council for one-year terms. The committee’s priorities include assessing the campus climate around public safety, examining available data on student perceptions of DPS and providing recommendations to improve Public Safety operations on campus.

“Before arriving at any solution(s), it will be most prudent for the Council to identify what problems exist, and then determine the potential root causes,” Boston said. “If we arrive at a solution without a thorough explanation of root causes, the solutions may in fact fail to resolve the actual problem.”

Boston emphasized three common realms of problems between campus safety and students on college campuses: policies, practices and behaviors, and communication. “These broad categories might hold true at Dickinson,” he said, “or the work at the Council might surface other areas of exploration.”

“It is also worth noting,” said Boston, “that the Council might learn of things that DPS is doing quite well, and with additional resources and intentional efforts they can double-down on these proven strategies.”

This is not the first time a similar committee has been assembled to address policing on campus. After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, a group led by the Dickinson Black Student Union (BSU) created a petition to disarm DPS officers. The petition also called for the creation of a public safety oversight board that included students.

Keshawn Bostic ’21, then-president of the BSU, told The Dickinsonian in a phone call that the 2020 demands were “a response to everything else going on in the country” at that point, combined with “tensions between DPS and students of color” on campus. 

He and other student leaders from the Latin American and Caribbean Club, Asian and Asian American Collective, and the Women of Color Summit met with DPS Chief Dee Danser and V.P. and Dean of Student Life George Stroud to negotiate solutions to students’ discomfort.

Stroud said, “We had conversations with the BSU about their feelings of safety here on campus and in Carlisle locally,” out of which emerged a public safety board, along with several policy changes. Bostic said the meetings were “focused on building relationships,” also a key goal of the new Public Safety Inclusivity Council.

Though that iteration of the public safety board is now defunct — in part due to low interest from students, according to Stroud — the goals of the Public Safety Inclusivity Council are “very similar as to what we were trying to accomplish.”

When asked about his perspective on the new initiative, Bostic reflected that the new committee will “definitely be helpful.” He was, however, “disappointed,” with what he perceived as a consolidation of administration control in comparison to the earlier public safety board. 

Student agency was crucial to the previous board, said Bostic. A Dickinsonian writer was present at every meeting for transparency, and representatives were chosen by the larger student body, not appointed by the President. This time, Bostic said, “it seems much more like the college is controlling the space.”

Bostic emphasized the need to seek guidance from social leaders in diverse circles, not just those that are most involved in college governance. “My worry is that voices that need to be heard may not be heard,” he said.

Bostic told students who want to make a change on campus, “try to come to the table and have a conversation.” “It doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your passion,” he said, “but once you get to the table, you have to negotiate.”

When asked what he would like to see come out of the council’s discussions, Boston declined to predict policy changes “before the Council has truly immersed itself in this important work.” He said, “ultimately, I would like to see sustainable solutions that work for all members of our community.”

Boston highlighted the importance of collaboration between DPS officers, students and other community members. “The work of the Council isn’t to call-out these members of our community and publicly critique their work. Rather, it is to call them into conversation regarding the critical issues of community, belonging, respect and safety.”

“These are the types of conversations that should be happening throughout campus,” Boston said, “after all, we all have a role to play in improving campus climate.”