SGA Student Services Seeks to Reconcile Relationship with NUPD Through New Initiative

As a committee of the Student Government Association, or SGA, responsible for Improving the lives of all students, Student Services has often been the driving force behind projects ranging from housing, food, Husky Cards, and on-campus medical and mental health services. Now, members of the Student Services Committee have also recently entered into an open and consistent dialogue with the North East University Police Department, or NUPD, through open Senate conversations and meetings available for the student body.

Assistant Vice President of Student Services Charlie Zhang, a sophomore Sociology and major international affairs combined, further broadened the real focus of this initiative.

“We are working with the NUPD and community engagement officers to establish a dialogue with student representatives, SGA members and the student body as a whole,” Zhang said. “The ultimate goal is for students to more easily respond to concerns of the NUPD administration, while promoting student safety and resources. “

The Student Government Association acts as an intermediary between the student body of the North East and the NUPD. The role of the Student Services Committee is twofold: to establish fundamental relationships with the NUPD and to present this information to student groups to facilitate dialogue. For example, one of the goals is to address the wide range of doubts that students have regarding medical amnesty (the right to seek medical assistance for an emergency related to alcohol or another drug without being subjected to disciplinary action) and how it can be used.

“We want to answer virtually any questions or concerns from students in order to promote mutually beneficial relationships for both parties,” Zhang said. “This is especially important for answering questions regarding cultural competence, racial disparities and arrests on our campus. “

This project began last year in response to widespread protests against police brutality across the United States. Sebastian Chavez, vice president of student services and a third-year industrial engineering and political science graduate, said witnessing racial injustice among the police force created a sense of mistrust that grew. echoed on campus. Chavez also said that after seeing this reaction, the committee decided to try to open more communication with the NUPD in the hopes of establishing a connection.

“At the end of the day, NUPD cannot do its job if the students in the North East don’t trust them to do their job. And there is a very valid concern that we have lost that trust, ”said Chavez. “This is something we wanted to try and help recover for the benefit of both NUPD and the students on campus. “

Asked about the progress being made, the two committee members said that NUPD officers were open and eager to have stimulating conversations with the students and to strengthen this relationship.

Staff Sergeant John Farrell, Head of the Community Engagement Unit at NUPD, explained how this project can be seen as one of many ways to create experiences where discussions can take place. .

“It would be an opportunity for engagement. And engagement is the foundation of our department, ”said Farrell. “We believe that for our community to be a safe, secure and more trusting environment between the NUPD and the people we have sworn to serve, there should be meaningful engagement.”

One of the challenges the Student Services Committee has encountered so far is successfully representing many different cultural communities to the NUPD. To overcome this hurdle, the committee is working with other student organizations on campus, such as the Sexual Assault Response Coalition, or SARC, to expand awareness of its resources.

“It’s not just that we’re going to be working with SARC or cultural groups on campus. It’s more about the fact that if we could try to work with each of these groups a little bit to try to answer these different communities, their different experiences and the different questions or concerns that they might have, then I think that that’s ultimately our goal, ”said Chavez. “So all these groups that are ready to contact us and are ready to enjoy working with us and we will too. “

Individual students who wish to voice their complaints to NUPD can contact the Police Department directly or request assistance from Student Services. Asked about the effectiveness of this new initiative in bringing about change, Chavez said that while the SGA has no administrative authority, acting on these complaints is crucial for the NUPD.

“We don’t have a real vote as students. But for [NUPD] to do their job, the feedback we hope to be able to provide and the concerns we hope to be able to resolve will hopefully enable them to do their jobs better, ”said Chavez. “There is therefore a stake in all respects to come together in this coalition and be able to work together on this initiative. “

Farrell also felt the same.

“While there are certainly criticisms or concerns about the way we handle anything, as people called to protect and serve the community, we listen and if a change needs to happen, let it be. be so, “Farrell said.

The Senate meeting scheduled for November 15 will discuss this initiative. Sessions of the Senate are always open to all students and take place at 7 p.m.

Farrell said he hoped the return of the students to campus could help tremendously in building a stronger relationship. He mentioned events like Cooper Community Resource Dog First Birthday and giving s’mores and hot chocolate as past occasions for NUPD not only to increase awareness of the resources they offer, but also to reconnect with students.

“I think good things are happening, and [NUPD] should take an opportunity like the one that SGA offers to have a conversation, answer questions and find out what people are concerned about… what they envision, what their fears are and what they like about what we do ”, Farrell said.