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Following criticism HWS says campus safety will change uniforms

Changes are coming to Hobart and William Smith Colleges, coming off the heels of a critical race controversy caused by some recent comments from President Joyce P. Jacobsen.

Marty Corbett, the associate vice president of Campus Safety announced on Friday, July 17th that his office is changing their uniforms, which resemble the regalia worn by officers in blue.

In a campus wide email, Corbett acknowledged that although the death of George Floyd is certainly not the first death or last one in police custody, this moment in time is undeniably different.


“Unfortunately, we know too well that this is not the first time a person of color has been murdered by the very people sworn to help and protect them. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Freddy Gray and Michael Brown are just some of these victims, and each time I hope upon hope that it will be the last, until it happens again. Yet somehow this time was different,” he wrote.

Corbett, a 32-year veteran in law enforcement started asking himself the tough questions by self-critically gauging his own active participation in the industry, even in this public platform.

“Was that time wasted? Did I help my community? Or was I conditioned not to see that I was part of an institution designed to advance systemic racism and further the oppression of people of color? These are difficult questions that I must continue to probe as I look forward in my work and life,” Corbett considered.

But now, Corbett, a POSSE sponsor, still promises to continue pursuing progress in the fight to redress structural racism on-campus alongside the newly appointed Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Khuram Hussain.


“That is why I pledge to do more. Campus Safety will continue our ongoing staff development with Khuram Hussain and others to educate ourselves about institutional and structural racism, the daily struggle experienced by our students of color and how we can earn trust,” he added.

In the immediate meantime, however, Corbett shared that their uniforms are about to undergo a wardrobe change including no more badges, all in an effort to “signal that we are available to support the safety and well-being of students.”

“I have also directed that our uniforms be changed.  We will no longer wear police-styled uniforms and carry badges. We have heard for too long from students of color and others that the uniform signals an appeal to law enforcement culture, and this change is long overdue. Your campus safety staff are not police officers, we have no powers of arrest, we do not carry instruments of violence and we reject that culture,” he expressed.

Although Corbett’s decision has been largely incited by the recent current events surrounding Floyd’s death and national outcry, Hussain shared with FingerLakes1.com that he has been “planning this for a long time.”

“Campus Safety has been working on a culture shift,” Hussain told FingerLakes1.com.

While the Office of Campus Safety is shaping its physical appearance, he closes with words of encouragement and a commitment to center the voices of students of color first “to listen, learn, support and amplify” their voices.

“This we must do. I want you to know that I and the other members of the Office of Campus Safety hear you, we see you and we stand with you in this moment and always,” he concluded.

Editor’s Note: Read the full-email below.


Marty Corbett – Friday, July 17, 2020

To our Hobart and William Smith Community,

Over the past few weeks, a number of respected members of our campus community have written to you to express their concern and outrage about the murder of George Floyd by members of the Minneapolis police department. I write to you today heartbroken but in solidarity with those voices.

I too watched in horror and disbelief as the life left George Floyd while his killer, a person who swore an oath to protect all members of his community, kneeled on Mr. Floyd’s neck until he was dead. Unfortunately, we know too well that this is not the first time a person of color has been murdered by the very people sworn to help and protect them. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Freddy Gray and Michael Brown are just some of these victims, and each time I hope upon hope that it will be the last, until it happens again. Yet somehow this time was different.

It was different because thousands of people came together across our nation, including right here in Geneva, and took to the streets in righteous outrage and protest, demanding an end to these murders and meaningful change in law enforcement, only to be met in many instances with brutality and oppression. It was also different for me personally as I now question the more than 32 years I spent in law enforcement. Was that time wasted? Did I help my community? Or was I conditioned not to see that I was part of an institution designed to advance systemic racism and further the oppression of people of color? These are difficult questions that I must continue to probe as I look forward in my work and life. 

That is why I pledge to do more. Campus Safety will continue our ongoing staff development with Khuram Hussain and others to educate ourselves about institutional and structural racism, the daily struggle experienced by our students of color and how we can earn trust. I have also directed that our uniforms be changed.  We will no longer wear police-styled uniforms and carry badges. We have heard for too long from students of color and others that the uniform signals an appeal to law enforcement culture, and this change is long overdue. Your campus safety staff are not police officers, we have no powers of arrest, we do not carry instruments of violence and we reject that culture. Our new uniforms will signal that we are available to support the safety and well-being of students. In all of our work, we want to focus on collaborating with members of the Hobart and William Smith community to provide a safe and secure living and educational environment that nurtures the academic and social growth of our students.

Nothing I write today can adequately convey how I felt watching first a murder, and then the abuse of those who dared to speak out. And while I would never presume to claim that I know how our students, faculty, staff and community members of color felt in those moments, I can say that I recognize your grief, your suffering, your anger, your outrage and your call to action. As was so powerfully written by our student trustees, we at Campus Safety also commit to our students of color “to listen, learn, support and amplify your voices.” This we must do. I want you to know that I and the other members of the Office of Campus Safety hear you, we see you and we stand with you in this moment and always.                                      

Sincerely,
Marty


Marty Corbett
Associate Vice President of Campus Safety
Hobart and William Smith Colleges

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