SU’s Action Plan to Combat Bias and Racial Profiling at WashU

Dear Fellow Students,

On July 17, you received a message from Student Union regarding an off-campus incident involving incoming WashU students and neighborhood police officers.  The racial profiling to which several of our peers were subjected is completely unacceptable, yet devastatingly common. This was one instance of the discrimination and prejudice that our university’s minority students face every day on and off WashU’s campus—the type of interactions that black and brown individuals in this country are forced to face without reprieve.  Such cases of bias, prejudice, and discrimination have become commonplace in the lives of far too many people.

As Student Union, we know that we leverage very little direct control over the Clayton Police Department and our city’s past and ongoing struggles with racially motivated harmful acts. However, being aware of our scope of influence does not inhibit our drive for change—we must all do what we can to take steps forward as individuals while pushing forward those around us.  We do have power to affect change at this university, and an ability to connect student voices to the individuals who control the potential for systematic change. In acknowledging our limitations, regretting past failures, and accepting our responsibility to you as students, as peers, and as human beings, we promised you a plan of action.

The following list outlines concrete initiatives that encompass Student Union’s immediate steps to combat bias and racial profiling on and around our campus.  This path has been decided through discussion between Student Union officers, outreach to students and student group leaders, and communication with university administration and staff.  This list is not exhaustive and will adapt as we continue to listen, leave space for existing voices to be heard, and create opportunities for fresh dialogue and perspective. We welcome your feedback, your opinions, and your help. We promise to:

  1. Host a town hall meeting that connects students directly with WashU administration and campus area police departments.
    1. Collaborate with the Washington University Police Department (WUPD), the Clayton Police Department, and other neighboring police departments to assemble a panel for a town hall-style meeting where students can ask questions, connect directly with police leaders, and hold individuals accountable to the promises they have made.
    2. Invite University administrators to participate in the panel discussion so students are able to address university-specific concerns such as campus security.
    3. Collaborate with other campus groups to establish a self-care space at the town hall meeting, as well as a debriefing space after the meeting.
  2. Strengthen collaboration with WashU Votes and the Gephardt Institute to encourage the student body to leverage its political influence over local and national elections.
    1. Meet regularly with WashU Votes and the Gephardt Institute to encourage increased civic engagement by WashU students.
    2. Work with WashU Votes to educate the student body on registering to vote, how best to capitalize on opportunities to utilize one’s voting power, and how to leverage one’s political voice as a means of supporting peers.
      1. Create and distribute graphics for students to easily obtain voter registration information.
      2. Support WashU Votes events, throughout all election cycles, to ensure that voter engagement is kept at the forefront of students’ attention.
    3. Launch the provision of direct access to voter registration information on Student Union’s election ballots.
  3. Emphasize more heavily the expansion of mental health and personal resources through the Habif Health & Wellness Center and other campus partners.
    1. Work in coalition with the multitude of student groups currently fighting to expand mental health resources on WashU’s campus.
    2. Continue to provide financial and conciliatory support to making mental health services accessible to all students.  This goes beyond merely providing services to students, but ensuring that those services are appropriately staffed and accessible to all
      1. Create and distribute graphics for students to easily access the resources provided by Habif Health & Wellness Center.
    3. Build from Student Union’s existing $50,000 contribution to the Habif Health & Wellness Center’s efforts to expand provisions for students in the arena of mental health.
  4. Improve bias training programs for on-campus services, including Student Union, WUPD, and other campus partners.
    1. Set the expectation of 100% of Student Union membership attending at least one diversity training and one interpersonal violence training in the 2018-19 school year.  This is a starting point and a baseline—Student Union will actively pursue increasing the frequency and breadth of facilitations, which we expect all representatives to undertake while in student government positions.
    2. Work with the CDI to ensure a WashU-tailored race relations training is created for all WUPD staff with student perspective and voice in mind. We are also working with WUPD to publish their current extensive list of the bias-related trainings.
  5. Advocate for improvements to the Bias Report and Support System (BRSS).
    1. Ask the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) to resume publication of the BRSS Summary Report, which has not been released on the University website since 2015.
    2. Pledge to work with the CDI to seek direct student involvement in the upcoming re-evaluation of the BRSS system throughout the 2018-2019 school year.
    3. Create supplementary avenues for student voice in the process of improving the BRSS system, including but not limited to focus groups, surveys, and poignant student group outreach.

Each of these action items requires collaboration across multiple groups—whether it be students, administrators, off-campus entities, or on-campus programs.  With this in mind, we have begun and will continue to communicate with administrators, student leaders and community members to accomplish the goals which we have already set forth, and to provide effective channels for strong student input in all future conversations.

Please feel free to reach out to any representative of Student Union with questions, comments, or concerns.

Your Student Union

Grace Egbo, SU President —
Steven Kish, Vice President of Administration —
Shelly Gupta, Vice President of Finance —
Charlotte Pohl, Vice President of Programming —
Rory Mather, Vice President of Public Relations —
Olivia Williams, Speaker of the Senate —
Alia Nahra, Speaker of the Treasury —
Toni Aguilar Rosenthal, Diversity Affairs Council Chair —
Joel Anderson, Diversity Affairs Council Member –
Sophie Scott, Outreach Committee Chair —
Agneesh Dasgupta, Budget Committee Chair —
Andrew Kocins, Activities Committee Chair —