The DEI in Action Series has prompted conversations across campus with some pushback from faculty. Photo by Jonathan Wang.
RYANN BAHNLINE | NEWS CO-EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) recently partnered with the Butler University Police Department (BUPD) to put on a series of events titled “DEI in Action”. Dr. Khalilah Shabazz, vice president and chief diversity officer, said the series aligns with both the university and the Division of DEI’s goals of ensuring a safe, diverse, equitable and inclusive learning environment for everybody.
The DEI in Action Series came about when BUPD senior patrolman Anthony Harrison presented his idea for a 15- to 16-week-long citizen police academy, where both the Butler community and community as a whole could walk in officers’ footsteps to see them through a different light.
Harrison pitched the idea of the academy to Provost Brooke Barnett in September of 2022. Barnett introduced Harrison to Liz Jackson, associate director of industry partnerships, who works in the Office of Program Success and Innovation. Harrison and Jackson worked on the project together for six months, before presenting it to Shabazz in spring 2023.
Shabazz said this series is special to Butler because not many college campus police forces say, “I want to work alongside the DEI division.”
“It seems like a no-brainer, but [BUPD’s] work is just so vast,” Shabazz said. “I think that intentionality is really clear for our campus, and we’ve been able to establish and maintain and build relationships while we’re working through … [topics] that affect society, but certainly come onto our campus because we’re in the city.”
Danny Kibble, senior executive director of DEI initiatives and engagement, said that in the spring of 2020, President James Danko convened and implemented a BUPD task force to review public safety procedures and learned some things that needed to be done differently.
“Butler has an environment, and especially the environment that Chief Conley has with his force, that someone [can] come up to him like Officer Harrison [did] and [say], ‘I have an idea about how we can make us even better and make campus even better,”’ Kibble said.
Harrison echoed this sentiment when he explained the kinds of topics he wanted to bring to the division’s attention for his proposed series.
The first proposed event was titled “Policing in America: Duty and Burden of Minority Police Officers”. Harrison wanted to highlight the challenges people in minority communities can go through while in the police force, specifically what the Black, female and LGBTQ+ communities face when they put the uniform on.
“I think [these topics are] just stuff that we don’t talk about,” Harrison said. “I think that we talk about race a lot, but we don’t really talk about race on the side of officers, what an officer has to deal with, especially after George Floyd. Being a Black officer, it’s tough, because not only do I get [pushback] from my community as being a ‘sellout’ or whatever because I wear the uniform, but I get it from the inside.”
During the second event, “Chasing the Dragon: Opioid Crisis”, Harrison teamed up with the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences to do an opioid addiction panel discussion alongside a screening of the documentary “Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict”.
During the panel discussion, there was a conversation about young people and addiction, as well as the importance of bringing this topic to a college campus.
“We have one of the best pharmacy schools in the nation,” Harrison said. “So, why not bring them on board and talk about this epidemic that we have with opioids? We have many athletes that might have gotten on that Vicodin or might have gotten on that [Oxycodone] for that injury, and they couldn’t get off.”
During the event, organizations such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), participated to give secondary perspectives on the issue. These types of partnerships from organizations outside of Butler are a part of the future of the DEI in Action program.
“This series sparked the desire for continued partnerships [outside of Butler] with the [DEI] division,” Shabazz said. “I’m looking forward to some future initiatives that we’ll continue to work out and also expand and bring additional partners across the institution as a part of the series.”
The third event of the DEI in Action Series was titled “Civilian Response to Active Threats – Strategies for De-escalation”. The presentation incorporated a situational awareness training simulation that immersed students in a challenging real-world scenario, allowing students to recognize and respond to potential threats.
“I want to make sure that [because] we always talk about [the] Butler Bubble and how everyone is so safe, [but] what do we do if something really happens?” Harrison said. “I want to make sure that we put that information on how we can respond if there is an active threat here at the university.”
Lauryn Jones, coordinator for DEI programming and engagement, shared that a future event is coming up in March 2024. The DEI in Action Series will present a repeat session of “Antisemitism and Islamophobia: Understanding Their Real Impacts” which previously took place in November 2023. The event will be facilitated by the Center for Faith and Vocation’s Jewish Life Advisor Michael Aronson and Muslim Life Advisor Anisse Adni.
“The purpose of the dialogue is to bring awareness about the impacts of antisemitism and Islamophobia and not to discuss or challenge a person’s political or personal stance,” Jones said. “While open to all students, staff and faculty, the target audience for this session is for those who were not able to participate in the first offering.”
The event will take place on March 5 from 7-8:30 p.m. in Levinson Family Hall Room 125.
Butler ID is required.
The overall focus of the series is to talk about timely topics associated with current events that are happening or have happened in society within the past few years.
“Antisemitism isn’t a new thing,” Jones said. “Police brutality isn’t a new thing. And so I think that though we are a new division, and though we are still getting campus acclimated to our new division, I think the fact that we are having this conversation still speaks volumes of where we are and I think where we continue to be.”
Despite Shabazz and Harrison’s satisfaction with the success of the program, some faculty members pushed back against the event and have ideas for how to make the programming better.
Dr. Teigha VanHester, assistant professor of race gender and sexuality studies, attended the first event of the series and found the objectives to be a bit “obtuse.”
“I think there was the best of intentions on behalf of BUPD and DEI, yet there was little prep work done to be intentional about orientation,” VanHester said in an email to The Butler Collegian. “The narratives were oriented towards the police perspective and not so much the positionality of the students who have past trauma with the police. It felt to me as though the police were putting an unpredictable amount of pressure on the students to foster relationships when as a professor and at an institution of higher education, it is our job as Butler employees to reach out and facilitate those connections with our students.”
While these are tough topics and tough conversations to have, VanHester suggested some ways to improve how this dialogue happens.
“I think these conversations are hard and do need to happen, but there must be ground rules and an open dialogue,” VanHester said. “I think a way to improve it is to center the experiences of our students.”
While Harrison did not mention any of this negative feedback, he did express a wish for more student, faculty and staff engagement in the series.
“I get that it’s busy, but I thought the individuals that attended, they all walked away with something,” Harrison said. “That’s the biggest goal.”