University of Minnesota removes race description from vague crime alerts

The University of Minnesota announced Wednesday that they will be removing a suspect's race from Crime Alert descriptions after receiving feedback that it "unintentionally reinforces racist stereotypes of Black men, and other people of color, as criminals and threats."

"In the course of this campus-wide conversation, members of our community have raised the issue of the negative impact of using race as part of the suspect descriptions in the crime alerts,"  U of M President Eric Kaler said. 

According to a statement released Tuesday, students have shared that the race descriptions affect their sense of feeling safe on campus. 

"They express concern that Crime Alerts that include race reinforce stereotypes of Black men as threats and create a hostile campus climate," Vice President Pamela Wheelock said.

Wheelock said discussions addressing the issue have been taking place over the past 18 months.

"Most of the discussion has centered on two equally important pieces to the campus safety puzzle: whether our University community is safe, and whether our University community feels safe," Wheelock said.

Campus is significantly safer than it was a year ago – in part due to an increase in police patrols and expanding late night campus transportation. 

"But the second puzzle piece, whether our community feels safe, is much more subjective and personal," Wheelock said.

To help with the issue, Wheelock announced the removal of race in Crime Alert descriptions when there is "insufficient detail to reasonably aid in identifying a suspect."  But, when there is an adequate amount of information to help in identifying a suspect who presents risk, race will be included.

"This new approach advances public safety while recognizing the harm caused by using race in otherwise limited suspect descriptions," President Kaler said. "While not all will embrace our new approach, I want to assure you that we have heard and sincerely considered the diverse voices and opinions that have been shared."

The Federal Clery Act requires schools to warn the campus community of threats to students and faculty, but has no specific mention of whether or not race should be included in circumstances outside of hate crimes.

:::: UPDATE ::::

This afternoon, Whose Diversity?, the student group that occupied U of M President Kaler's office earlier this month as part of an effort to persuade administrators to change their policy regarding racial descriptions in crime alerts (among other issues), made a case that the changes announced today aren't enough.

In a release entitled "Minor Changes in Crime Alerts Not Enough at the University of Minnesota," the group writes, "Whose Diversity? believes these 'changes' are merely bread crumbs meant to pacify dissent and halt further actions toward justice."

"The administration wishes to end the conversation here," the statement says, adding that the new policy will still result in the majority of crime alerts including racial descriptions. "But moderate concessions are not enough to ensure the safety of students of color on this campus, and Whose Diversity? will not stop calling for substantive change until justice is served."

The statement goes on to make a case that America has a problem with black people being shot by police officers.

"Racialized crime alerts put the psychological, academic, and physical survival of students of color on the line," the statement concludes. "It must be asked: how committed is the administration to truly ensuring that Black lives matter on this campus? On what side of history does the University administration want to be?