Guest Viewpoint

(Maisie Plew/Emerald)

Editor's note: This piece reflects the views of the authors and not those of Emerald Media Group. It has been edited by the Emerald for grammar and style. Send your columns or submissions about our content or campus issues to letters@dailyemerald.com.

Dear University of Oregon President Michael Schill; UO Board of Trustees; and UO Police Department Chief Matthew Carmichael,

We represent undergraduate students, graduate students and law students of diverse backgrounds and experiences standing together in solidarity with the Disarm UO movement. The movement to disarm campus police is both necessary and righteous. The police instill violence and fear in our community, particularly for BIPOC, unhoused, mentally ill, disabled, LGBTQ+, undocumented and working-class communities. By its nature, UOPD is ill-suited to prevent crime, unlike programs such as CAHOOTS. However, the underfunding of social services in favor of expanded policing is a core dynamic by which the fundamentally unjust carceral state expands.

We are aware of the argument from UO and its administration that UOPD makes our campus safer, but we believe these claims are unsubstantiated. In August, following years of organizing by activists, Portland State University’s president vowed to disarm their campus police. If campus police can be disarmed on an urban campus in a major city, they can be disarmed here in Eugene too. Additionally, through our analysis of publicly available data on UOPD’s operations, we've found that between 2012 and 2018 UOPD were more likely to use violent force on the public than arrest someone for assault. Through testimony and a lawsuit filed against the university, we also know that UOPD officers disproportionately target Eugene's unhoused population. They criminalize individuals profiled as houseless simply for being on UO property, which is still public and rightfully accessible to the entire community. In 2018, UOPD officers aimed their weapons at an innocent, unarmed UO student outside the EMU after confusing the student for a suspect. As recently as last year, the UOPD was forced to fire an officer for assaulting Eliborio Rodriguez, falsely arresting him, then falsifying evidence to support an arrest. Eliborio’s tort claim against the university ended with his murder by an EPD officer.

We also believe that the UOPD, and policing generally, creates a toxic culture that normalizes and justifies subjugation of BIPOC, unhoused populations, the working class, disabled people and the LGBTQ+ community. Former UOPD officer James Cleavenger's wrongful termination lawsuit exposed these blatant biases in the department. The lawsuit revealed the infamous "Bowl of Dicks" list, a roster of regularly discussed "enemies" which included students, faculty and administration. The department's targets of displeasure included the ASUO president, for their opposition to UOPD carrying handguns. The list had a preponderance of BIPOC public figures along with pejorative and disparaging references to LGBTQ people and culture throughout the document. The lawsuit also revealed that Lt. Brandon Lebrecht, Cleavenger's superior, was largely behind the list and even openly stated his racist belief that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and was "secretly Muslim." Ultimately, Cleavenger was harassed out of UOPD for his comments ─ years prior to his hiring ─ in opposition to the Department of Public Safety, the precursor to the UOPD, having tasers. UO paid James Cleavenger over $1 million when forced to settle the suit. 

We fully understand the complexity and seriousness of this issue. This has a visceral and immediate impact on our daily lives. Given this, we ask that the UOPD be disarmed, defunded and dismantled with funds reallocated to other resources both on campus and in the community that will be effective in actively preventing and addressing harm in our community. We need this change now, and we implore you to listen and act.

Signed,

ASUO Senator Ella Meloy

ASUO Senator Nick Keough

ASUO Senator Jenna Travers

ASUO Senator Kyle Geffon

UO Young Democratic Socialists of America (UOYDSA)

UO College Democrats

Muslim Student Association (MSA)

Reclaim UO

Radical Organizing Activist Resource (ROAR) Center

The Student Insurgent

UO National Lawyers Guild (NLG)

Climate Justice League (CJL)

Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER)

Cascadia Action Network (CAN)

Coalition Against Environmental Racism (CAER)

MECHA

Students for Choice

Oregon Criminal Defense Law Student Association (OCDLSA)

UO Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (APALSA)

UO Green Business Initiative Student Association (GBISA)

UO Latina/o Law Student Association (LLSA)

UO Jewish Law Student Association (JLSA)

Journal of Environmental Law and Litigation (JELL)

Land, Air, Water (LAW)

Sunrise Eugene

LGBTQA3