An independent commission will investigate whether Greencastle police acted appropriately in the melee of Sept. 23 between students, staff and members of The Campus Ministry USA.
At a faculty meeting Monday, DePauw President Brian Casey recounted the events of Sept. 23, which resulted in one male student and staff member of color being taken down by Greencastle police.
Greencastle police and sheriff’s office determined that the gathering of DePauw students and The Campus Ministry USA qualified as “unlawful” protest and this gave them license to intervene in the interest of safety.
Greencastle Mayor Sue Murray, City Attorney Laurie Hardwick, Police Chief Thomas Sutherlin and DePauw administrators agreed to establish an external review panel. They will examine the events and actions of that day to offer recommendations to the University and the city.
The committee will be looking at “the ways in which we can work to create a safer and more just campus and town environment for all who live and work in our community,” DePauw President Brian Casey told faculty Monday afternoon.
Casey said he had reviewed the body camera tapes from the Greencastle police but found them to be inconclusive.
According to Casey, it has been concluded that student Avery Nash was handcuffed, while staff member Andrew Smith was also taken down but not handcuffed. Both were released without arrest. A white female student threw coffee into the crowd which hit a police officer. She was removed by an arm hold, detained and released as at the site.
“A significant number of students perceived the police presence as designed to protect the protestors, rather than the students,” said Casey.
Women’s Studies Director Tamera Beauboeuf called on Casey to issue a public statement denouncing the police action.
“To what extent is the university using its clout to muscle to push the city and the police to realize the problem of racism,” she said. “This would not have happened to a white person, I think we all know that and I would like some sort of public acknowledgement of the problem.”
Faculty pressed Casey for more action. History Professor Glen Kuecker asked Casey if the university was considering filing a civil rights action.
”It’s my perspective that their civil rights were violated in this instance,” said Kuecker.
Casey repeatedly said that he is hoping the continued dialogue with city officials will create more substantive change. He is also hopeful the external review will guide both the university and the city in safer practices and clearer protocol.
Casey said he believes making a statement against the police would prohibit the university from coming to the table with the police to have these discussions.
A report from this external commission is expected in early December.
“It has to be quick,” said Casey. “They need time to do the work but speed is important here.”
English Professor Karin Wimbley challenged President Brian Casey’s fear and stressed the urgency to improve the quality of life for people of color in all of Greencastle.
“I’m afraid to walk down the street, I live alone. I live in Greencastle, I’ve had problems at Wal-Mart. I don’t go there after dark,” said Wimbley. “So I am really not interested in your fear, I’m interested in your actions, you’re the leader here and I’m really sorry you had to check your own racism against one of our students because I am a person too and we have hung out.”
This discussion at the faculty meeting is a continuation of campus wide discussions of campus climate and safety that have spiked since Sept. 23.