BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – As demands across the country increase for schools and municipalities to reexamine budgets for security and local police departments, some students at the University of Colorado Boulder are calling for the university to end contractual relations with the Boulder Police Department and reduce funding for university police. Students want the school to reallocate that money to other programs like housing and mental health services.

“I think Boulder should take a step into making actual changes in how they fund campus safety and public safety,” said Ruth Woldemichael, a junior at CU Boulder, and interim vice president of the Black Student Alliance.

(credit: CBS)

Woldemichael and recent CU Boulder graduate Olivia Gardner are spearheading the effort to make sweeping changes at the university.

The women sent letters to the university’s chancellor in the last couple of weeks, asking for the changes in campus security structure, and requesting the campus police enforce anti-racism training and remove officers with forceful complaints. To read the first letter, click here. To read the letter sent June 12, click here.

“It’s important that students feel safe on that campus, we hear from alums that don’t ever want to come back to Boulder, and that should never be an experience that anyone has,” Woldemichael said.

By cutting its police budget, Woldemichael and Gardner said the university should use the funding instead to implement an additional educational requirement for antiracism, invest in high school recruitment strategies geared toward students of color, and create stronger mental health resources for students of color, among other ideas.

“So, actually addressing how our students are harmed, how our faculty are harmed, and making sure it doesn’t happen again, then healing can actually occur, instead of more harm,” Gardner said.

Gardner said so far the school has not done much in response to their letters, however school officials have mentioned to them that they are reexamining their relationships with the Colorado Correctional Industries, whose prisoners are said to have built some of the furniture for the university.

“So there’s some hope there,” Gardner said. “That was an actual response in regards to something they’re doing instead of ‘we can’t do anything.'”

Gardner and Woldemichael also started a petition, which they said has already received more than 4,700 signatures. To see the petition, click here. 

Art for the social media campaign launched by Woldemichael and Gardner. (credit: Ruth Woldemichael)

The women also launched a social media campaign Monday, asking members of the CU Boulder community to share their stories of race relations on campus.

“Being in the moment where everyone is out protesting, we wanted to have a space where it didn’t require people to gather, because we want to be conscious of social distancing,” Gardner said.

CU Boulder issued this statement to CBS4:

In a recent letter to Black Student Alliance leaders, Chancellor Phil DiStefano reiterated the university’s strong commitment to continuing to collaborate with student leaders and with the broader campus to overcome systemic racism and inequality at CU Boulder.

The university has started to review statutory requirements related to its partnership with the Colorado Department of Corrections and plans to re-examine campus procurement practices in the near term.

The CU Police Department has implemented recent guidance on policing practices and will continue to do so as it moves toward national accreditation. The department is active in community engagement and has implemented trainings on implicit bias, community policing, conflict de-escalation and other best practices. CUPD has a productive working relationship with the Boulder Police Department on issues of community safety that serve all CU Boulder students––including students of color. BPD has been a key partner during floods, wildfires and other safety emergencies, in helping CU promote safety at large public events, and in assisting with the investigation of crimes against students of color. Chief Doreen Jokerst is committed to working closely with her counterpart at BPD, Chief Maris Herold, to continue to make progress on issues of concern to the Black community and other communities of color about police conduct, community engagement, and transparency.

Kati Weis

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