Dear Campus Security,
My name is Domenica, and I am a fourth-year Trent University student. I am the current Vice President of The Association of Black Students at Trent University, Peterborough Campus. This is an open letter addressing the lack of minority representation within campus security.
As a black student, my experience in Peterborough has not always been the best as I have encountered discrimination due to my race. However, I did not expect to encounter such experiences within the university setting. I admit I have had unbiased experiences with campus security in which they have been able to address my concerns. However, they are minor in comparison to the discrimination I have faced and witnessed due to the racial disparity. There is an obvious problem as I have had many more negative experiences with campus security which have been evidently based on my race and ethnic background.
An example of such an experience, my friends and I were approached by acting Residence Don on Duty. After he clearly could not understand my friends who had a thick accent, he decided to call campus security and described us as being “difficult”. Campus security arrived and only listened to the concerns of the Don and did not address us with any respect. Campus security also did not understand the accent of the person whom they were speaking to, and because of that, concluded that we were being difficult.
Being in such a situation is frightening. The power dynamic was not in our favour, and security escalated the situation by threatening to call the police. Although we had been playing our music loudly, in this situation I do not think that being threatened with the police was necessary. We need more understanding of the climate surrounding folks of minority groups and the police. Unfortunately, this happens quite often, and as a black person I have been conditioned to fear the police from childhood. This was a clear example of an abuse of authority by both the residence don and campus security. Unfortunately, such stories are not uncommon within minority groups in Trent. I have heard stories of students being unable to comfortably express themselves due to the clear power dynamic that is being portrayed by campus security.
These are issues that must be addressed. Campus security must take action in order to ensure that BIPOC students on campus feel safe within the campus setting, and more comfortable using the services provided. I believe that hiring an individual who is a visible minority would begin to fill that gap and introduce a more racially unbiased environment for students. I also believe that campus security staff, especially those interacting with students daily, should be subjected to mandatory anti-oppression training to gain the skills needed to interact with students of different minorities.
It is essential to point out that a visible minority hire would make students feel more comfortable in reporting instances of harassment due to race, as these instances do occur on campus. From my experience, it is easier to be vulnerable to someone who you know can understand you and has seen the world through your eyes. It is hard enough that as a black person, I will always be subjected to racism as there are people in this world who will never understand that my life matters. However, this will not stop me from speaking up for myself and other minorities around me. We deserve to be respected within the campus. I believe that having the support and understanding of campus security will allow others to follow suit and implement the change that needs to be taken.
Domenica James Othwolo
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