Students share their thoughts on the recently conducted BUPD survey. Collegian file photo.
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On April 5, Butler sent a survey to all students asking their opinions on various aspects of the Butler University Police Department and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. Questions ranged from various degrees of agreeing or disagreeing with statements to short answer questions. Students were asked about whether or not they feel safe regarding campus life, whether or not they feel BUPD behaves appropriately in various situations, and how they would like BUPD to change.
Antwain Hunter, associate professor of history, is a member of an advisory board comprised of students, faculty, community members and third-party researchers that created the survey. Hunter said the survey is designed to collect digestible data with meaningful results.
“It’s just trying to figure out what [policing] should look like and how it should operate at its best, in a way that sort of recognizes and effectively deals with the diversity of the nation we live in,” Hunter said.
The advisory group and third-party researchers will use the information gathered from the survey to make recommendations to administrators regarding what BUPD’s next steps should be.
The plan is for findings of the task force to be used to develop actual changes within BUPD. However, only President Danko is capable of making those decisions.
Melisenda Dixon, a senior management information systems major, was a member of the advisory group as well. Dixon is currently president of the Black Student Union, and said she thinks there is a tension between BUPD and students.
Dixon said she wants to see administration actually take action to improve BUPD rather than “doing a lot of showing” with things like the task force and the survey.
Paul Ford, a first-year entrepreneurship and innovation major, said this survey is the first action he’s seen from the university that tackles the issue of police reform head-on.
“When I saw the word ‘abolition,’ I knew that they were serious,” Ford said. “I’m not sure if we’re just having real discussion or we’re actually planning on taking real action to make the changes that I think some students on this campus want to see. But I think this is definitely a start to something.”
In terms of changes to be made, Dixon said she would like to see a real distinction between responsibilities of BUPD, IMPD and Butler’s administration, so that students know who they will be dealing with in any given situation.
“I definitely said within the survey that I think officers should not be the first ones to handle mental health crisis and sexual assault,” Dixon said. “I know many people who have very bad experiences with that.”
As these discussions are happening, Derek Chauvin, the police officer responsible for the death of George Floyd, is facing a jury in Minnesota. Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, is working to argue that Floyd died independently of Chauvin’s actions.
Cole McNamara, a senior political science and sociology double major, said he hopes Butler students are aware of the ongoing trial and accompanying movement.
“I hope people are paying attention and being aware that policing as an institution in America is rooted in racism, as well as in homophobia, transphobia and it’s just rooted in oppression,” McNamara said.
Dixon said she has heard instances of students being profiled on campus and wants to see action taken to prevent Butler students from experiencing what has happened to Floyd and countless others.
“It is a big issue on our campus and I think there needs to be more trust, because I would not like us to go viral for a situation happening with one of our offices or one of our students,” Dixon said.
While numbers cannot be released at this time, Hunter said a significant number of students have already submitted their responses to the survey. He said it’s important for students to spend the few minutes required to take the survey so their voices can be heard.