In light of the response of the UTSA administration, and a particular student organization at the UTSA campus which will remain unnamed, to the presence of fascist and white supremacist rhetoric on campus, we feel it necessary to issue this statement addressing the administration’s response thus far.
In the weeks immediately following the discovery of banners containing racist and fascist rhetoric on the UTSA campus, President Eighmy has taken it upon himself to arrange several closed-door meetings with representative members of various student organizations, several of which have attached their name to the United UTSA Coalition, against the wishes of our organization, Revolutionary Horizon, and against the wishes of the majority of the coalition. These closed-door meetings, and the delivering of a statement authored by Revolutionary Horizon(though Revolutionary Horizon was excluded from being present during its delivery to provide context and further understanding to our position) have resulted in several supposed solutions being brought forth by the President and the university administration, the overwhelming majority of which fail to address the issue of white supremacy on the UTSA campus on any level, let alone an effective and adequate level, and, quite to the contrary, serve only to further the existence of a threatening and un-inclusive campus environment, and to increase the threat posed to the safety and comfort of Black, brown, indigenous, undocumented, LGBT, and other marginalized, non-white students on campus.
To date, President Eighmy and the UTSA administration have made several statements in response to the documented presence of fascist rhetoric on campus containing proposals to increase the scope, presence, and power of the UTSA Police Department on campus, namely; an increase to the frequency of foot patrols conducted by police on campus, an increase to the amount of police officers conducting those patrols, the installation of additional surveillance cameras in various parts of the campus, and a vague proposal for the implementation of a student patrol program, led by and filtered through the UTSA Police Department. In doing so, the President and the administration have characterized these proposals as being progressive and effective steps in addressing the potential threats posed by the presence of fascists and white supremacists on campus.
We reject this notion, and denounce any and all proposed solutions to the presence of white supremacy on college campuses that call for an increase of the power and presence of the police on those campuses, and we denounce any attempts by the President, the UTSA administration, or any student organization to characterize these proposals as existing in relation to and in support of a genuine path to progress. Furthermore, we reject the idea that the police could ever bear any meaningful relationship to an organized effort to dismantle the forces of white supremacy, and we maintain and reaffirm our belief that the institution of policing in the United States, far from possessing any intent or capability to dismantle these forces, serves primarily to reinforce and uphold the very same notions of white supremacy that dominate our social, political, and economic institutions.
The institution of policing in the United States finds its birth in the form of slave patrols, groups of white men that served, during pre-emancipation, to kidnap runaway slaves and to thwart and repress slave rebellions on southern plantations. Post-emancipation, former slave patrols were formally incorporated into the apparatus of the state on a massive scale, and served to protect white communities from the perceived dangers of free Black bodies, and were fundamental to the implementation of exploitative “convict-leasing” programs that overwhelmingly targeted and arrested newly freed sleeves for minor offenses for the purpose of renting out their bodies and labor to the operations of plantations, often the very same plantations they were supposedly liberated from. The oppressive, white supremacist nature of the institution of policing has been maintained throughout its evolution into its modern form, and the oppressive relationship between this institution and Black, Brown, and indigenous bodies can be identified at any point in its evolution; from the use of the police as strike-breakers in repressing and defeating the labor movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to the brutal and often murderous repression that radical Black activists faced at the hands of the police in the civil rights era, the brutalization of indigenous water protectors in North Dakota, and the recent lynchings of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castille, Sandra Bland, and countless others, the police always have, and continue to this day, to serve primarily as the violent upholders of the forces of white supremacy that dominate every facet of our society, the very same forces that are attempting to make their presence known at UTSA.
University police departments are no exception to this reality. The development of university police departments is a relatively recent phenomenon, one that arose primarily in response to the social movements for racial equality in the 1960’s and 70’s, and, more specifically, the de-segregation of public schools and the increase in educational opportunities for people of color. University police departments came into widespread existence primarily as a result of the increasing presence of people of color in institutions of higher learning, and, much like the broader institution of policing in the U.S., campus police officers have, historically and now, often served to repress and stifle protest and dissent originating from Black and Brown students and student organizations. Additionally, 92 percent of public universities, which are significantly more likely to be more racially diverse, have armed police forces incorporated into the university system, compared to just 32 percent of private universities, which are significantly dominated by white, middle-class student bodies, even though public and private universities often exist in cities and communities with similar rates of crime. This juxtaposition between the presence of armed police officers on public campuses and the lack of armed police officers on private campuses, then, is not based on differences in crime rates between the communities that these universities exist within, but on racist assumptions of the inherent criminality of a more racially diverse student body. Campus policing, just like the broader institution of policing, is a deliberately racialized institution, one that acts primarily to preserve and uphold the racial inequalities that exist in broader society within institutions of higher learning, and to reinforce the stereotypical criminalization of Black and Brown bodies.
The UTSA Police Department, and the various university police departments in the San Antonio area, are in no way exempt from this reality, as we have witnessed personally through our own run-ins with the police on campus, and through our interactions and discussions with Black and Brown students. Several individuals loosely affiliated with members of Revolutionary Horizon have been confronted with this reality on numerous occasions. Several months ago, individuals attempting to protest and disrupt the presence of the United States Border Patrol at the University Career Fair were harassed and intimidated by UTSA police officers, who cited false, non-existent portions of the UTSA Student Code of Conduct in an attempt to make them believe that they would be subject to disciplinary, and potentially criminal, action if they continued their protest against the presence of a racist, oppressive federal agency at a majority non-white university. Several weeks ago, several individuals were similarly harassed and intimidated by University police officers while attempting to distribute informational material and engage in discussions with students about the recent events that had occurred in relation to the banner dropping. Specifically, the officer in reference is Officer Trimyer of the UTSA Police Department, who engaged in the same tactic of falsely citing Section 51.232 of the Texas Education Code, and attempted to lead these individuals to believe that he could stop and identify anyone and everyone on the UTSA campus for any reason he saw fit, although Section 51.232 of the Education Code clearly states that an officer may only do so during a period of disruption to the normal functioning and activities of the campus. After these individuals refuted Officer Trimyer’s attempt to intimidate them with false information and educated him on their right to maintain their privacy, they were threatened with arrest for failing to identify themselves, although Section 51.232 (b) of the Texas Education Code clearly states that upon failure or refusal of an individual to identify themselves upon request, they may only be ejected from the campus premises. These are only two isolated examples of the typical behavior of UTSA police officers that students have witnessed on a regular basis. It is not lost on us that the UTSA Police Department appears to be intently focused on threatening and intimidating students speaking out against racism and white supremacy with the use of the tactic of citing false interpretations of state and federal law, and Student Codes of Conduct. We maintain our position that university police departments, and the UTSA police department specifically, have no place in any genuine effort to dismantle the presence of white supremacist rhetoric, organizations, or institutions on the UTSA campus.
The UTSA administration prides itself on its self-appointed commitment to diversity, and rarely hesitates to publicly proclaim its supposed commitment, yet it has seemingly done little, if anything at all, to fulfill that commitment, especially in recent weeks. An administration that actively invites and allows for the presence of Border Patrol agents on a majority non-white campus, one that is home to a significant number of immigrants from Mexico and South and Central America, as well as the first-generation-American children of immigrants, is not maintaining a commitment to a safe, diverse campus environment. An administration that allows for the implementation and continued existence of a blatantly racist campus policy banning the distributing or posting of flyers that are not printed in English, or supplemented with an English translation, is not maintaining a commitment to a safe, diverse campus environment. An administration that allows for, and publicly endorses, the presence of a violent, militarized institution of policing that is founded on and continues to uphold notions of racism and white supremacy is abandoning that commitment entirely. If the University administration is to maintain and engage in any genuine effort to remove and dismantle the presence of white supremacist rhetoric, students, organizations, and institutions on the UTSA campus, then that effort must necessarily include the dismantling of the power and presence of the police on campus. Any supposed effort to accomplish this goal that ignores this necessity, or seeks to accomplish it through the furthering of the power and presence of the police on the UTSA campus is merely a performance. Therefore, our demands are as follows:
- We demand that the President of the University of Texas at San Antonio abolish the campus rule prohibiting the distribution of flyers and/or other materials that are printed in any language other than English and that are not supplemented with an English translation.
- We demand that the University make no invite or allowance to, and prohibit the presence of any city, county, state, or federal law enforcement and military agencies at any official campus career fair, and at any and all tabling sessions or employment opportunity seminars and events, and in any classroom discussions or university-hosted public forums or discussions involving invited guest speakers, to include the United States Customs and Border Protection, the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency, and any other government agency that exists in a law enforcement capacity.
3. We demand that The President of the University of Texas at San Antonio, and the administration at large, discontinue and abandon any proposals made, or steps to implement those proposals, that enlarge the power and the presence of the police on campus, or that involve the police in any way, to include the increased foot patrols and number of officers conducting those patrols, the increase of surveillance equipment on campus, the scheduling or arranging of public forums and town halls hosted in University spaces that seek to include police officers or representatives of police departments as speakers or presenters, and the implementation of a UTSA Police Department-led student patrol.
- We demand the immediate disarming of UTSA police officers of any and all lethal and military-grade equipment, if the department possesses any, and additionally, of any and all non-lethal or less-than-lethal weapons or equipment that have a statistically significant record of severely wounding, maiming, or killing any individual.
- We demand that the UTSA administration begin to address ways in which the presence of the UTSA Police Department can be progressively scaled back, and we demand that this be done with the ultimate, publicly stated intent of a complete and total disbanding of the UTSA Police Department and/or any other law enforcement agency from the UTSA campus, and we demand that this be done in a timely manner, with the implementation of a detailed timeline, and deadline, for this goal to be accomplished, not to exceed six calendar months from the date that this letter is delivered.
- We demand that the President of UTSA author a letter addressed to the student body, detailing and acknowledging the threat that armed law enforcement agencies pose to the safety of the student body, and suggesting guidelines for ways in which students can address issues regarding safety and security on campus that are non-police, community-based, and we demand that this be done with the input of students and student organizations.
- We demand that the President of UTSA issue a similar statement to the presidents of other universities affiliated with the University of Texas system, with recommendations and encouragements that those presidents engage in similar discussions and efforts with students and student organizations on those campuses.
If the UTSA administration truly wishes to maintain a genuine, vested interest in the effort to dismantle the powers and forces of white supremacy from the UTSA campus, these are just a few of the many steps that must be necessarily taken in order to successfully fulfill its obligation to ensure that the UTSA campus is a safe and welcoming environment for non-white students. We encourage the administration to take this letter, and the demands contained therein, seriously. The President has stated, in his response to the original statement authored by Revolutionary Horizon, that there is nothing more important to him than creating a safe environment for all UTSA students. We implore the President to make an active, visible effort to stand by this proclamation, and to do so in a timely and effective manner.