by Steph Holton
“We want real diversity, not a police state university.” This was the first of many chants taken up by the group of walk-out participants stationed on the Millar Library steps last Tuesday afternoon. Members of PSUSU sported shirts reading #DisarmPSU because Black Lives Matter. One speaker announced, “We are here fighting oppression.” Another claimed that “the police are a tool of capitalism used to oppress people.” Roughly 150 students joined in the cheering and chanting, and a few dozen stood on the outskirts observing but not participating.
After learning that I don’t support the Disarm PSU movement, a member of PSUSU asked if I supported protesting the way the administration instated armed campus safety officers. Like most of the other students I have spoken to, I am frustrated by the way the administration seems to ignore student opinion. However, I think it’s easy to overlook the fact that arming CPSO was not a light decision. Some things to consider:
- Portland State University is a completely open, public university in the heart of downtown, which experiences the daily movement of 30,000 students. For all of the unique and completely rad aspects about this environment that we students love, it carries very real safety concerns.
- Our armed CPSO are fully trained and sworn police officers who have a sworn obligation to keep the public and their fellow officers safe. They carry guns only for the defense of themselves and others. Using weapons is considered only in the face of a lethal threat. No officer wants to pull the trigger.
- Arming CPSO does not impact student diversity. Fighting institutionalized racism is a necessity, but I believe the way to do this in our own community is to create bonds of mutual respect and trust between the student body and CPSO. CPSO was not established, and does not operate, for the purpose of discrimination.
But what do you think? One could debate this matter endlessly. Gun safety is a very real issue, but it is also very complex, and it’s entirely separate from our dissatisfaction as students with the procedures of the administration.