Posted January 17, 2013 by Cooper Point Journal in News
 
 

Student Group’s Public Records Contrast with Mission Statement


During last year’s Spring Student Activities Fair, students might have witnessed a unique event: in addition to all the student groups tabling in Red Square, two of Evergreen’s police officers were also present, allowing students to ride the police department’s Segways.

The college had purchased several of the easily-recognizable vehicles the previous fall, and this was the first time that Evergreen police allowed students to use them. Standing beside the police were members of Police Awareness and Student Safety (PASS), a recently-formed student group that had coordinated the Segway rides. PASS says its mission is “to foster and build a safe, healthy, non-hostile environment on campus by working with the students, administration, faculty, staff, community, and emergency responders at the Evergreen State College to increase the level of education and self-awareness and facilitate a dialogue about relevant issues.”

However, recent documents, released by Evergreen following a public records request about the student group, reveal a different picture. On January 23, 2012, a member of PASS wrote to Evergreen police chief Ed Sorger that “Our project for this quarter is to write a management plan to propose a solution to a problem your organization is facing.”

PASS’s Past

Later in Winter Quarter, on February 16, Sorger received an email containing the “draft action plan” that PASS had written to solve a problem faced by the police. According to the draft action plan, Police Services is “currently encountering a difficult time in their mission to outreach the community. The plan that PASS is looking to execute is to create a dialogue between the community, administration, and the Department of Police Services.”

Though PASS claims to support dialogue, their draft action plan suggests that they only support a dialogue which leads to certain conclusions. Section 7.4 of their draft action plan, titled “Needs,” reads as follows:

Real: To convince the community to welcome and support Police Services

Perceived: To dial down the level of tension that exists between Police Services and the campus community in order to allow the community to be more informed and educated about the importance of Police Services and safety in general

Political: To have traditional perspectives about safety fit in a liberal campus environment.”

Among the methods listed in the draft action plan for achieving this sort of restricted dialogue was a documentary film. According to the description of the documentary in Section 4.1, titled “Outreach Plan,” “The documentary will be about the hate that Police Services encounter at Evergreen.” Yet the fliers distributed by PASS to promote the film, titled “F the Who?”, portrayed the film as an unbiased investigation of attitudes towards the Evergreen police.

The flier reads as follows:

“F the who? F*** them or love them, there are police at Evergreen. History over the past 40 years has shown varying levels of tension over the presence of armed police at Evergreen. In 2012, is the volatility alive and well? Or has radicalism died at Evergreen?”

The fact that the flier’s description of the documentary is different from the description in the draft action plan is not the only interesting element of the flier.

The flier also claims that there has been “tension over the presence of armed police at Evergreen” for the college’s entire history (40 years at the time the flier was printed), but according to a history of Police Services written by Andrew Sernatinger and published by the CounterPoint Journal (another Evergreen student newspaper) in April 2009, there have only been armed police since the 1996-1997 school year –  less than half of the school’s history. Prior to that school year, Evergreen had unarmed “Public Safety” employees, who had no weapons and only limited police powers.

PASS’s communication with Police Services

The recently released records also show a number of other actions that could cast doubt on the group’s stated intentions. On February 16, a member of PASS sent Tim Marron, the sergeant of Police Services, an email with multiple links about an Evergreen faculty member, Peter Bohmer.

The links all concern Bohmer’s involvement with different protest movements. At the end of the email, the PASS member asks, “Is the school aware of his past?” Several days earlier, on February 13, a member of PASS sent Sgt. Marron two links to Tumblr accounts, one of which belonged to a member of the Olympia anarchist community, and another which had apparently re-posted an item from another Olympia anarchist.

What are they doing now?

PASS was less visible during Fall Quarter this year. It seems that they have been dedicating much of their time to supporting the Introduction to Law Enforcement program, taught by Sgt. Marron.

The documents released show that PASS members helped to organize a significant number of course activities and wrote significant parts of the syllabus. The syllabus also refers to the program as “a partnership between PASS and the Evergreen Police Department.”

Here, as in other areas, their close collaboration with Police Services may cause doubt about their stated mission of neutrality and these questions will continue to be relevant until PASS clarifies what their organization really aims for: “to foster and build a safe, healthy, non-hostile environment on campus…and facilitate a dialogue about relevant issues,” or “to convince the community to welcome and support Police Services” and “to have traditional perspectives about safety fit in a liberal campus environment.”

To view the public records and other documents on which this article was based, please visit:

http://olypublicrecords.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/police-awareness-and-student-safety

By Austin Nolen