As the Organizing Committee of the Graduate Workers of Columbia, we condemn in the strongest possible terms Barnard Public Safety’s use of racial profiling and physical force against Alexander McNab, a Black student, on Barnard’s campus on the night of April 11, 2019. Six Public Safety officers surrounded the student and pinned him down against a cafe table. These acts of racial profiling, discrimination and violence are unacceptable under any pretext. Furthermore, this incident was not isolated. In an interview with the Washington Post, McNab mentioned that he had been profiled several times by Barnard and Columbia security in the past. Racial profiling and anti-Black racism are daily experiences for a number of students on this campus.
Between this incident and that of December of 2018 in which multiple students of color were harassed outside of Butler Library, it is abundantly clear that Barnard and Columbia are not safe spaces for Black students. We demand better: cosmetic changes are not enough.
When students of color are not safe on campus, it is impossible for TAs and RAs to foster an effective environment for learning or research. The administrations of Barnard and Columbia must take concrete steps to change Public Safety’s role and to ensure that such incidents do not occur again. McNab has made clear in an interview that the problem isn’t individual Public Safety officers: “They’re a manifestation of a larger problem, and I think that when we have these kinds of witch hunts where we focus on specific individuals, then we ignore the system that created those individuals”. The university must also heed the voices of student groups, such as SoCA and BSO, who have pointed on numerous occasions to the injustices faced by students of color on campus. Barnard and Columbia administrations must work to make both universities inclusive institutions that do not police Black people, whether they are students or visitors from the wider Morningside/Harlem community. The university must welcome everyone regardless of race, nationality, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, immigration status, religion, or any other identity.
Here is an article by Alexander Mcnab featured in The Eye: https://www.columbiaspectator.com/the-eye/2019/04/23/i-am-more-than-my-id/
We also suggest signing the following petition, originally created by Columbia University Women of Color Pre-Law Society: https://bit.ly/2UokzGo