Tufts’ Working Group on TUPD Arming anticipates releasing new recommendations regarding TUPD’s arming status this semester, Executive Vice President Mike Howard confirmed in an email to the Daily.
The working group was formed following the release of the university’s Campus Safety and Policing Workstream final report in February 2021, which recommended creating a working group focused on addressing and potentially reforming TUPD’s arming status. The report estimated that if implemented, “this group’s work could take approximately 12 months and would include a lengthier and more comprehensive communication and engagement effort than the [Working Group on Campus Safety and Policing].”
While the Working Group on TUPD Arming seems to be on track to follow a timeline similar to the one proposed in last year’s final report, some community members do not feel that the working group has communicated in a transparent and effective way regarding its recommendation process.
The Student Prison Education and Abolition Coalition, an umbrella organization for groups at Tufts that engage with carceral justice work including the Tufts University Prison Initiative of Tisch College, Tufts Petey Greene and Tufts for a Racially Equitable Endowment, launched a letter-writing campaign in December calling for the WGTA to release the results of its arming survey.
The survey, released to the Tufts community in September, asked participants — including undergraduates students, graduate students, faculty and staff — to select how comfortable they would feel with TUPD, local police departments or mental health professionals responding to various safety threats with varying levels of arming.
According to Tatum Schutt, a SPEAC organizer, little was done to communicate that survey results were made public.
“While the results are now available online, the WGTA did little to publicize their release of this information, let alone directly contact anybody who expressed interest via email,” Schutt, a sophomore, wrote in an email to the Daily. “As a result, the data is only accessible to those who go out of their way to search for it … When they knew the student interest was there, why couldn’t they have announced that the data was available?”
While she appreciates that the results are available publicly, Schutt added that for the university to truly embody its mission to become an anti-racist institution, initiatives must go beyond task force meetings.
“We appreciate the progress reports available online. Communication and transparency are important. So are power and action,” she wrote. “Within liberal institutions there is an extensive tradition of co-opting of the language of change and responding with incrementalism that does not disturb the baseline power structure at play. At Tufts, this can look like waiting for student leaders to burn out, go abroad, and graduate, establishing work committees accountable to no one, drawing out timelines, and using proceduralism to excuse inaction.”
Schutt hopes that the WGTA’s conclusions will lead to serious reforms. She cited Tufts Action Group, an anti-racist faculty and staff organization that was formed following the murder of George Floyd, as a group that should inform the WGTA’s recommendations. Tufts Action Group’s demands, which include abolishing TUPD, garnered support from over 2,000 students, faculty and staff during summer 2020.
Howardnoted that while the policing model Tufts currently utilizes is common, the WGTA is researching alternatives. These models include proprietary and contract security departments with varying arming statuses, including armed, unarmed and hybrid models.
“One theme that we heard consistently throughout our discussions with community members is support for flexibility in response, greater reliance on mental health resources, and low preference for greater involvement of municipal police,” Howard wrote in an email to the Daily. “Many of those who participated in our surveys and discussions indicated that they are interested in differential response, which allows for public safety responses to vary depending on the nature of the call, the campus, and other factors.”
Of the 2,959 total survey responses — 2,040 of which came from the Medford/Somerville campus — the majority were against an armed response to mental health calls, noise complaints and public intoxication. Some respondents supported armed TUPD or local police departments’ responses to physical assault and theft or robbery, with 56% and 54% favoring such a response, respectively. Over one third of all respondents were undergraduate students, and 62% percent of respondents were white. Forty-nine percent of respondents were female, with an additional 10% of respondents’ gender identities listed as unknown or not listed.
“We appreciate the commitment of the working group over the past several months as it has studied this issue, engaged the community, and examined the university’s options,” Executive Director of Media Relations Patrick Collins wrote in an email to the Daily. “We anticipate that the group’s findings will be made available to the community in the next few weeks.”
Schutt hopes the findings will reflect the university’s commitment to becoming an anti-racist institution.
“We are glad that faculty, administrators and the single undergraduate student representative seem to have discussed arming seriously, and we look forward to hearing their conclusions,” she wrote. “Should they conclude inaction and minimal reform, we will be ready to welcome them into serious discussion of alternatives to policing in our shared community and to resist.”