BU4BL strives to bring focus to the Black Lives Matter movement on Butler’s campus. Photo courtesy of BU4BlackLives Instagram.
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In the midst of a global pandemic and a national dialogue on race relations, numerous current and former Butler students united to create BU4BlackLives, an organization focused on bringing the Black Lives Matter movement to Butler’s campus. An introductory post was added to the organization’s Instagram account on June 25, emphasizing the need for Butler University to take “anti-racist action.”
“BU4BL is a solidarity coalition of students and alumni who came together because we are continuously let down by Butler University when it comes to racism on campus,” leaders of BU4BL said in an email interview with The Collegian in July..
On June 29, a subsequent list of 13 demands was released and sent to President Danko and the Butler administration, according to a BU4BL graphic. The organization, composed of anonymous Butler community members, then created a petition asking Butler to respond to the list of demands.
The first demand made by BU4BL was that the budget and itemized expenses for BUPD be released by July 10th. As of Aug. 26, Butler has yet to release the budget. On Aug. 3, BU4BL posted Butler’s response to the demands.
“We do not publicly release University budgets and are therefore unable to meet the request to publicly release the Department of Public Safety’s budget or the itemized BUPD budget,” Butler administration said. The message did, however, say the administration is reviewing the role of BUPD on campus.
Olivia Jacobs, a senior general arts administration major said, “Is the money going towards specific training for dealing with students, either with mental health or in instances of highly racial cases? Or is it going towards weapons? Recently they posted a photo of a bomb dog, which yes, the dog is cute, but why does our campus need a bomb dog? Why is the funding going there?”
BU4BL’s demands then include a reduction of funds going towards BUPD and redirection of those funds into counseling services, specifically for black students and students of color. The organization also demands that all ties are cut between Butler University and BUPD by the end of the 2020-21 academic year.
“There is a lot of concern about unnecessary write-ups, which includes targeting people of color,” Jacobs said. “I would say the overall attitude towards BUPD has never been positive. People don’t trust them. When they see them they don’t want to get their help; they want to run away from them.”
Other demands include stopping all BUPD training involving violent tactics, the disarming of BUPD, a zero-tolerance policy for excessive force within BUPD, release of all BUPD body and dash camera footage, eliminating the mandating of BUPD at public events, making counselors first responders in high escalation situations rather than BUPD, repainting BUPD’s walls depicting the ‘police flag’ and severing all ties between BUPD and IMPD.
As for reasons for these demands, the organization cited previous racist incidents mishandled by the university and a 2016 list of unanswered demands from student organization Bust the B.U.B.B.L.E, which was created by four Butler students to “promote the perspectives” of students of color.
“I believe it’s important for [Butler administration] to be transparent,” Jacobs said. “I also believe that Butler needs to be taking action directly from the voices of students of color and black students, because over my last four years here I’ve seen a lot of initiatives started where it’s mainly just discussion.”
The 13th demand is that student oversight is present in the fulfillment of each demand.
“People are angry. Butler has flaunted their commitment to diversity yet have not once listened to their BIPOC students,” leaders of BU4BL said in an email interview with The Collegian.
While Butler has yet to fulfill any of the demands made by BU4BL, the organization is still putting pressure on Butler administration by asking their Instagram followers to email President Danko and other university officials in support.
In addition to Butler’s response, BU4BL posted their version of Butler Administration’s email, mocking Butler’s lack of response to students of color asking for change.
“I think they could’ve actually acknowledged the demands,” Louise Irpino, a junior creative writing major, said. “Again, as BU4BL mentioned in their post about it, it was kind of a generic business response,”
BU4BL members have remained anonymous throughout all their communication with Butler Administration due to safety concerns. The Instagram account, email and all other BU4BL material does not reference any student names or characteristics.
“To protect our members, we will remain anonymous,” leaders of BU4BL said. “It is disheartening that Butler University claims to be a community of care, yet Black and Brown students are scared to return to campus.”
Even though BU4BL is still waiting for Butler to take action, they are providing means for student action and education. These include resources on abolition, such as readings and videos, as well as the promise of events for live lessons.
“Educate yourselves about abolition!” leaders of BU4BL said. “Educate yourselves about the history of policing. Educate yourselves about why reform is inherently anti-black. Learn why asking the question ‘what about all the murderers and rapists?’ misses the entire point of abolition.”