Education

Citing Stigma, The University Of Minnesota Removes Race Descriptions In Crime Alerts

Facing backlash for allegedly stigmatizing minorities — particularly black men — the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities announced on Tuesday that it will no longer include racial descriptors in crime alerts issued to students and faculty.

“This change supports our public safety goals while recognizing the harm that the use of race in crime alerts causes for some members of our community,” the university, which has nearly 50,000 students and is located in Minneapolis and St. Paul, said in a statement.

“Moving forward, the University will use descriptions only when there is sufficient detail that would reasonably help identify specific individual suspects or groups of suspects [e.g., some combination of gender, race, clothing, height, body type, build, accent, tattoos, hair color, facial hair],” the university stated.

The change came about after an 18-month long “campuswide conversation” in which members of the school’s community “raised concerns about the use of racial descriptors as part of Crime Alerts.”

Under the new policy, the university’s chief of police and leaders with University Services will decide on a case-by-case basis whether to describe suspects by race.

With the shift, the university joins the University of Maryland as the only Big 10 schools — out of 14 in the conference — to issue crime alerts without racial descriptors.

The school’s new policy is also out of whack with others in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Using race descriptors in the reports is “common” in the metro area, the statement reads.

“The goal is to comply with federal law and provide timely, useful, actionable information that community members can use to keep themselves safe, while reflecting the University’s commitment to ensuring a welcoming and respectful campus,” the statement continued.

While the school acknowledges that many students prefer to have all descriptive information about criminal suspects made available, it feels that the cost of reinforcing stereotypes is too great to continue with the policy. (RELATED: Minnesota Radicals Demand Mandatory Transgender Classes Because Of Colonialism OR ELSE)

“For some, knowing they have all the information available about a crime, including the complete suspect description, makes them feel better informed and increases how safe they feel. But others – particularly Black men – have shared that suspect descriptions that include race reinforce stereotypes of Black men, create a hostile campus climate, and negatively affect their sense of safety.”

According to the College Board, the school’s student body is 70 percent white, nine percent Asian, four percent black, and three percent Hispanic. Nine percent of students are listed as non-resident aliens. Another three percent are two or more races.

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