Office of Inclusive Excellence

Editor's Introduction to Spring 2023 Diverse Perspectives

January 24, 2023

By Chrissy Hernandez, Sara Salazar Hughes, Joanna Wong

How do we foster a world, community, university, and relationships in which our interconnections with one another are nourished, our differences are celebrated, and our needs are met? How do we build an educational institution that centers the most directly impacted by the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racial capitalism and makes possible the kind of dreaming, organizing, and action that can bring about community-affirming radical change? How do we take seriously the generations-long call, that manifested in the nationwide uprisings in the summer of 2020, to address systemic racism in the United States and the central role of police and prisons in producing and maintaining racial hierarchies and injustice? 

Dear Campus Community, 

We start this abolitionist edition of Diverse Perspectives with these questions as an invitation to us all to reflect, dialogue, and dream about ways in which our campus might create true safety and security for all whom our campus serves, including the surrounding communities.  

What is this edition of Diverse Perspectives about? 

Within the current socio-political context, there is urgency around the work of developing and implementing alternatives to punishment-based responses to harm and nurturing abolitionist imaginaries. Our goal for this issue is to highlight affirmative visions of abolition, or ways to center love, care, and community in our ways of being in the world. Questions that guided the submissions from students and faculty include:

  • What are different ways we can think about abolitionist futures for our campus communities and for ourselves?
  • How do you think through and center abolitionist principles, including transformative justice, in your personal, relational, and/or institutional life?
  • How do you make abolition actionable?

We recognize that not everyone on our campus identifies as an abolitionist. We know that some share specific abolitionist values and principles, while others reject its basic project. As does any movement for transformative societal change, abolition requires that we “lean into the dream side of our minds” and center a vision for the world that we want to build together.  We hope that this edition will offer an introduction to the interventions of abolition and a portal into considering how these interventions might transform our campus for the better. Prison-industrial complex (PIC) abolition requires a commitment to some basic principles; these include: calling for the elimination of policing, imprisonment, and surveillance; rejecting the expansion or legitimation of all aspects of the PIC; and refusing premature death and organized abandonment (Mariame Kaba, pp. 133-4). These refusals should be understood as fundamentally generative in vision–meaning that the refusal for organized abandonment, for example, demands in its place deep investment in those who are made to be the most marginalized in our communities, our campus, and our classrooms. The project of PIC abolition requires centering the needs of those most impacted by policing, surveillance, imprisonment, and criminalization in order to transform these systems and institutions. 

What Is ADEC? 

The Abolitionist and Decolonial Education Collective (ADEC) is a group of faculty, staff, and students that came together in the summer of 2020 with the mission: 

To collectively imagine, organize, support, and enact abolitionist and decolonial visions of education at CSUMB through on-campus activism and community-building, political education, pedagogical dialogues, reparative work, and building coalitions among students, faculty, staff, and community-organizers.

And the vision of: 

A CSUMB rooted in transformative justice, liberatory educational practices, and interconnection that supports students, faculty, staff, and community to have the resources and tools to foster accountability in our day-to-day lives for systemic and interpersonal harms-past and present.

Since our beginning, we have hosted campus teach-ins and a speaker series on issues ranging from police on CSU campuses to supporting formerly incarcerated students and their families to abolitionist responses to interpersonal harm. We launched a campus-wide survey about the experiences of students, staff, and faculty with police. We’ve created critical dialogue spaces to reflect on our praxis as educators and organizers. We organized the Block Party Against White Supremacy which brought East Campus neighbors together to reject white supremacy within our community. And we’ve continued to try, make mistakes, learn, and grow to be able to foster the kinds of community that offer an alternative to traditional academic norms based on hierarchy, competition, distance, and transaction. 

While it is tempting to position our campus as an “oasis,” untouched by the violences and oppressions that sparked the 2020 uprisings, we know that this is not the case. Based on the 2021 survey hosted by ADEC, we learned that, consistent with national trends, students, BIPOC, and LGBTIQA+ participants reported lower levels of trust and safety with UPD and also more fear that UPD might harm them or their family. While we are heartened by the recent passage of AB 1997 and interest amongst our campus leadership to address policing, we are cognizant that such interventions, as noted by the UC Academic Council regarding similar attempts, can be “narrow-bore and technocratic reforms that [fail] to address the underlying roots of racialized policing.” While we recognize that true transformative justice cannot be fully realized within a state institution, we believe strongly that transformative justice principles can serve our campus to pursue true safety for all of its stakeholders. 

As a collective dedicated to advancing abolitionist and decolonial principles both at CSUMB and in the wider community, we express our support for the statements and demands around anti-racism issued by the CFA, by the Black faculty at CSUMB, and by CSUMB faculty and staff in support of Black faculty at CSUMB. We echo stated concerns about the lack of campus action in addressing systemic racism at CSUMB. We emphasize that too often, for students of color and particularly Black students, police are a source of harm, fear, and distress, rather than safety and security, both on campus and in the wider community. As our colleagues indicate the need to better recruit and retain Black students and faculty, the need for a review of campus law enforcement, and the need for the adoption and institutionalization of an anti-racist agenda on campus, we argue that must include an examination of the role police, including campus police, play in creating an atmosphere in which Black members of our campus community feel unwelcome, targeted and isolated. 

As abolitionists, we believe that the best way to ensure meaningful harm-reduction for all students, faculty, and staff on campus is to reduce our reliance on police and punishment as mechanisms aimed at creating safety on campus. We know from first-hand accounts and experiences of faculty, staff, and students that rather than ensuring a safe and secure community, the presence and overreliance on policing produces an environment of fear, surveillance, violence, and harm. Police do not prevent crime; rather they are activated once harm has already been done, often in ways that exacerbate that harm, particularly for BIPOC faculty, staff, and students. Rather than investing our resources and theories of change in punitive justice, we are informed by transformative justice, which requires addressing the roots and ecosystems of harm–including, importantly, institutional harm–and nourishing the roots and ecosystems of care. In order to more holistically understand and address safety, the space must be made for different kinds of cultural and community practices that already exist for addressing conflict and harm. We must also listen to system-impacted individuals about how to best address the multi-generational impacts of policing and incarceration, and to offer material support as part of essential reparative work. 

In line with these principles, we put forth the following Calls to Action that ensure we as a campus community recognize and address the role police play in systemic injustice at CSUMB and beyond. These calls to action fall under three key areas:

  1. Advocating for/supporting faculty, staff, and students in their interactions with police on campus and in the community. These strategies and solutions aim to address the current reality of policing on campus and in the nation by offering Know Your Rights trainings, as well as designating individuals who will act as advocates for community members to better navigate interactions with law enforcement.

    We need an independent place for faculty, staff, and students to report issues with law enforcement, including options to anonymously make reports recognizing the deep power imbalances between police and students. We further need to establish a clear place for faculty, staff, and students to report racial discrimination on campus. This could be the Title IX/DHR office, though currently there is no information on their website outlining the process for filing racial discrimination complaints.

    We also echo the CSUMB Black Faculty call for researchers (and/or an independent task force) to conduct studies of faculty, staff, and student experiences with law enforcement on campus, past and present, and to provide outreach and support. These accounts should be documented and archived so that they cannot be set aside or brushed under the rug, and to bring to light the systemic nature of police harm on campus and in the community.

  2. Reducing and/or removing police on campus. These strategies seek to review and reevaluate police resources and budgets as well as policies in housing, faculty orientation, and other aspects of campus life that encourage and often require students, faculty, and staff to engage the police to deal with a wide variety of issues. These include eliminating ‘zero tolerance policies’ that are a hallmark of punishment-oriented harm reduction, and that are well-known to have a disproportionate negative impact on Black and other marginalized people. These also include the creation of a committee tasked with reducing/removing police from campus policies and identifying alternatives to respond to harm.

    We need to increase counseling services on campus, specifically hiring Black counselors, providing veterans’ services, providing services for survivors, and training counselors in social justice-oriented counseling.

  3. Establishing alternative structures and mechanisms for campus safety and wellness that seek to address root causes of harm and recognize the central role of care, compassion, accountability, and love (not punishment) in creating safer communities. Here we move toward imagining and building alternative structures for campus safety and security including: 
    1. The creation of a Transformative Justice Center on campus to offer alternatives to addressing harm outside of policing and punishment. The Center would provide mentorship and support for students, especially students of color, when facing conflict. 
    2. The implementation of community mental health models and better resourcing existing mental health offerings. Students who are experiencing mental health crises should feel confident that the first responder will not be police who are not mental health professionals. 
    3. The creation of explicit resources and supports for formerly incarcerated and system impacted students, including those whose family members are system-impacted.  

What are the individual pieces included in this abolition edition of Diverse Perspectives?

This first collection of pieces in the Abolition edition illuminate the potential of collective societal actions to center care and loving community partnerships to cultivate mental and physical health and wellness for all. 

  • Bell and Lagunas’ piece, Spreading Awareness and Care: It’s Easier Than You Think provides context for abolition movements past and present, highlighting how policing has historically perpetuated racialized violence and oppression in society and on college campuses. They identify alternatives to violence with emphasis on specialized responses to crisis situations. 
  • To delve deeper into issues of policing and the university, we share the first panel discussion from the ADEC 2021-2022 Love, Healing, and Abolition Speaker Series with panelists Drs. Xhercis Mendez, Ahkila Ananth, and Sriya Shrestha of the California State University.  
  • The second piece by D’Costa and Ybarra, Mental Health Abolition: Considering Radical Communities of Healing, expands on how mental health and community wellness are intertwined. They call for community-based healing practices that center the histories and collective healing practices of racialized groups, and recognize the harmful impact of systemic racism and carceral systems. Dr. D’Costa also participated in a panel on community mental health models, with Asantewaa Boykin of MH First, as part of ADEC’s 2021-2022 Love, Healing, and Abolition Speaker Series, the recording included in this collection. 
  • In Kicking the Ball for Community, Corpening reflects on how connection, play, joy, and a commitment to actualizing a more just world are central to the CSUMB Abolitionist and Decolonial Education Collective. 
  • Salazar Hughes’ What We Pay Attention to Grows… concludes our first collection. She draws our attention to feminist abolitionist scholars and the critical questions they pose that guide reimagining transformation for a present and future that center “care, love, and healing” in a society free of systemic violence. 

Our second round of submissions speak to one of our community norms in ADEC, to “lean into the dream side of your mind,” to imagine beyond what is. Abolition requires that we imagine a different world, because being able to imagine it is the first step to building it. 

  • The opening piece in our second round of the abolition issue is a poem by Daniel B. Summerhill, what i imagine my mother meant when she said you sound like one of those conspiracy theorists after i tell her nobody should be in prison. The poem begins with “imagination is a possibility we don’t yet have / a language for.”
  • Peterson’s contribution, Abolition: The Only Way Forward, describes how policing on campuses and in our communities does not lead to more safety, but rather to more harm, and calls for a world with no prisons, a world in which everyone has everything they need to not only survive, but to thrive. 
  • Continuing the theme of abolishing policing on campus and supporting formerly incarcerated and system-impacted students, we share A Panel Discussion with Berkeley Underground Scholars, addressing needed support for system-impacted folks in higher ed and the contradictions of doing abolition work in institutional settings. 
  • In Liberalism and Abolition: A Question of Ideals, O’donnell compares the ways in which liberalism, as universalizing ideal, obscures inequality and harm, while PIC abolition requires that we attend to and ultimately abolish the ways society is stratified by privilege and exclusion, policing and imprisonment. She invites CSUMB students to join the newly founded student club, the Abolitionist and Decolonial Learning Collective (ADLC), to imagine and build a world rooted in transformative justice rather than unrealized claims to universality. 
  • A third event in ADEC’s Abolition Speaker Series featured a conversation with abolitionist feminist organizer Richie Reseda, centered on transformative justice and addressing patriarchal harm. As steps to building the world we want to live in, the discussion touched on the need to bridge organizing and culture as a way to grow feminist abolition in our communities, the importance of centering care in abolition feminism, and the skills we need to build in order to show up for each other in right relationship. 

Finally, Shrestha asserts that We Are Living in a Time that Demands Radical Visioning, which begins with the facing of hard truths often obscured by racial capitalism and the prison industrial complex, and demands that we devise, imagine, and grow alternative and social transformations that do what prisons and police are supposed to do: reduce harm in order to create safe, thriving communities.