In defense of the new protest policy that tries to muffle student activism by creating obstacles like prior registration, Director of Community Standards Kevin Kraft said that the policy was created for “safety concerns” and that it would “assist the university in coordinating police presence on campus.” But is it desirable to have police at student protests?
Let us be frank: The presence of TUPD does not make us safer. I am not comforted to see TUPD show up, above all because they are armed. I am scared that people walk around this campus with guns. I say this as a student with white skin from Turkey. How does Mr. Kraft think black and brown students feel when police officers arrive to take care of “safety concerns”?
I grew up in a society where carrying and displaying weapons designed and used for killing is not as normalized or common as it is in some parts of the United States, so I am afraid to see guns on my campus. I shudder seeing guns on TUPD belts on my way to class. It is a scary thought that TUPD passes me on the street with the capability of killing a student if they are suspicious. And of course, it is scarier for people whose communities are often targeted by police.
It is an indisputable fact that bringing in weapons designed for murder to any situation worsens outcomes; it does not improve them. The ‘good guy with a gun’ argument promoted by the National Rifle Association, and other arguments that claim that arming people will resolve a situation, are wrong.
Guns often do what they were made to do: kill. They escalate situations. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to imagine the scene from the Netflix show “Dear White People” (2017–) happen at Tufts where a party is being shut down and in the commotion a police officer escalates the situation by pointing a gun at a black student. Guns do not resolve conflict. They end conflict through killing or maiming or by displaying the threat of these. Bullets are final, and people make mistakes. We are fallible. We are especially prone to mistakes because we have biases. Like all people, police have biases too. But unlike all people on this campus, they carry tools of murder on this campus.
Police in various places, including the United Kingdom, have demonstrated over decades that community policing does not require firearms. The same level of safety, if that is actually what is desired, can be achieved through non-lethal means like various sprays or tasers, which can inflict as much pain on a person to get them to stop whatever undesirable action they are engaged in without ending their life.
If Tufts really cares about the safety of its students, it should stop putting up obstacles to student activists for their support of dining workers’ unionization and instead seriously reconsider its position on having guns on our campus. This is an issue beyond the protest policy: It concerns the everyday safety of all students. Do we really want to live in a community where guns are ever-present? I know I don’t, and I suspect many Tufts students will agree.