Yesterday, on April 11, 2023, President Percy emailed the PSU community informing us that our sworn officers are carrying firearms while on patrol. He said he was making this statement for “transparency.” Yet, it has been reported by the media that these patrols began in February.
This is just the latest in a series of failures by this Administration. It is utterly unacceptable to make such a decision in a vacuum and with a total lack of transparency; with no input from the community, from faculty, staff, academic professionals or students; and with no apparent consideration for the effects that these decisions have on the learning and teaching conditions felt on the ground. What is even more frustrating, is that the full University Public Safety Oversight Committee was never consulted about this change prior to its implementation.
At PSU we pride ourselves on offering an education to students so that they can be in partnership with community, make real world change, and approach their communities understanding problem-solving approaches that are developed from the ground up. None of these values have been reflected in the process by which the Administration silently decided to change this policy.
As a union, PSU-AAUP has consistently stood in opposition to the arming of campus safety officers. In 2014, about 70% of respondents to a survey of PSU-AAUP members indicated that opposition. That same year about two-thirds of Faculty Senate members opposed the original armament decision. Similarly, students and student groups have largely opposed armament. Since then we have called for disarmament to President Shoureshi, gathered to mourn Jason Washington’s killing, reacted to Campus Safety Plans, called on Campus Public Safety to live up to their promises for unarmed patrols, and joined sibling AAUP unions in Oregon calling for disarmament of campus police.
So many of us stand against arming campus sworn officers because there are other, better options that could be utilized that would better address the issues we face on campus, but with much lower risk to everyone.
Armed patrols have never and will never make our campus safer. Firearms solve none of the problems we face as a campus. In fact, firearms may lead to further escalation and result in another killing.
We call on the Administration to immediately engage in a genuine way with campus communities around this issue.
We further call on the Administration to immediately fund and support engagement and de-escalation teams on campus. This is a better approach to handling campus safety issues related to substance use disorder, mental health crises, and houselessness. In fact, there are organizations in Portland—such as the Portland Peace Team, founded by PSU Professor Tom Hastings—that can support our campus community to learn to do so.
As a university, we are committed by our stated values to serve the city. We enter into community partnerships to solve real-world problems. It’s time to live up to our values.
Yours in solidarity and deep sadness,