Students convene for NUPD advisory board

Jessica Allen

Students representing every campus organization, from Alianza and the Associated Student Government to the Women’s Center and the Kellogg School of Management, came together Thursday for the first official meeting of the Northwestern University Police Department advisory board.

The advisory board was created in response to student suggestions after an alleged racial profiling incident last year in which Communication senior Joshua Williams was stopped repeatedly while walking through the Allen Center, 2169 Sheridan Road.

Vice President for Student Affairs William Banis extended invitations to NU community members to participate on the board and said Thursday was an important day for NU to address the racial tension sparked by recent campus incidents.

“We’re looking at the future, dealing with what we need to,” he said.

The overarching goal of the UP advisory board, Banis said, is to create an inclusive, unified community. The board will address complaints regarding racial profiling on campus, as well as UP efficiency.

“This is their house,” Banis said of the UP. “And they take pride in protecting their house and the people in that house. We do have high expectations for them, and I think we need to acknowledge that.”

The board will include students and faculty, with representation from both the Evanston and Chicago campuses. A proposed list of about 20 representatives from various campus organizations was presented at the meeting.

Banis gave the board four starting objectives: enhancing the transparency of the citizen complaint process, building and sustaining trust and confidence in UP, gauging the community’s perception of police-community relations and opening channels for dialogue.

According to Banis, NU currently provides three outlets for community members who have faced discrimination: they can report to any of the offices of the Deans of Students from each school at NU, approach the Office of Equal Opportunity and Access or use the online EthicsPoint system to submit discrimination concerns.

EthicsPoint, which NU has used for about four years, is an online system that allows complainants to remain anonymous. According to Banis, submissions go through the university auditor to the Board of Trustees, who can then investigate the complaints.Several students at the meeting said they hadn’t known about this third avenue and expressed concern that the NU community at large was likely unaware of EthicsPoint as well.

Weinberg sophomore Abigail Chu represented the Asian Pacific American Coalition at the meeting and said no one – neither administration nor students – is solely to blame for NU’s recent racial tensions.

Chu added initiatives like the advisory board and University President Morton Schapiro’s e-mail about last weekend’s blackface incident show NU is taking an active approach toward solving conflicts and relieving tensions.

The advisory board is distributing a brochure entitled “What Should I Do If I Am Stopped By The Police,” as part of its educational outreach effort. The board also discussed increasing training for faculty and staff on how to respond to community issues in a manner that is sensitive to race and ethnicity and does not offend community members.

Rita Winters, associate dean of administration and finance at NU School of Law, said tense situations often arise because of general misunderstandings and miscommunication.

SESP senior Alex Sims, a member of the Coalition of Colors, said she wants the board to advocate for students as much as possible, as students are not adequately utilizing the current systems in place for reporting discrimination.

“I would really hate to see the board become like the other avenues,” she said.Lewis said UP should communicate with the board when they receive a complaint against an officer and specify the nature of the complaint, who is charged to investigate the complaint and the outcome of the investigation.

The board plans on holding their second meeting after Thanksgiving break.”We’re not perfect,” UP Chief Bruce Lewis said. “But we’re sure interested in learning. We take all complaints seriously.”[email protected]