Participating in University Safety

Student protests aimed at defunding college/university police departments create a dichotomy for many administrations across the US. How can higher education institutions create safe environments for their communities, when the security system itself is considered a threat by those very people?

Long term, broad and deep participatory processes offer a potential route to finding a viable solution to this problem. However, such processes will only bear fruit if they are authentic and much more than lip service from administrative bodies designed to placate students.

Such participation processes must generate genuine transformation. Empowering entire communities to collectively re-imagine every aspect of their security infrastructure is a possible route to achieving such transformation successfully and peacefully. Whether we are talking about crime prevention—which can include improvements to support mental health services and creating employment or scholarship opportunities for local communities —all the way through to fire alarms and safe working practices in research laboratories, all of which may involve institutional police to some extent.

Deliberation Gateway is looking for expressions of interest from partners and/or participants to create a learning community for supporting the design of these kinds of complex participatory processes. We aim to nucleate a community that will meet periodically over the next year to help campus communities across the country explore participatory strategies specifically designed for US higher education to address this safety dichotomy.

We aim to provide a time efficient process in which participants will meet monthly and generate much of the content for each other. In the first instance we will explore the issue of safety and hear from participants what is happening in, and around, their campus communities. Thereafter, with support from the RSA, we will use our networks to find resources to support learning and exchange of best practice. We hope that institutions and individuals participating in our support community will gain a clear understanding of participatory processes that are truly effective. We will also offer long term follow up meetings to assess the outcome of any participatory processes that campuses employ.

Such participation is only likely to succeed on higher education campuses if it is long term. As a result these participatory processes could become permanent fixtures at universities, inculcating students and staff with a culture of participatory and deliberative values that could permeate into lectures as a useful learning mode, as well as into wider society as students and staff move through their universities into other commercial, academic, governmental and political organizations.

We would like to hear from any staff, faculty or student governments at any US institution that are interested in learning more about co-creating continuous participation exercises across their campuses aimed at developing local safety policies. Please contact the Deliberation Gateway directly to register interest. Please also sign up to our mailing list to get monthly updates and news from the DG community.”

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