Office of Inclusive Excellence

Spreading Awareness and Care: It’s Easier Than You Think

January 24, 2023

By Nevan Bell and Melissa-Ann Lagunas

Challenges due to Covid-19, social injustice, and personal hardship have catalyzed movements to address the sociopolitical obstacles addressed in the introduction to this newsletter. For example, civil unrest due to police violence towards Black communities has sparked college campus communities’ interest in police abolition––defined as the reallocation of funds, resources, and responsibilities from law enforcement to community-based organizations that promote prevention, safety and support for the general public. Additionally, several movements have gained momentum through increased interconnectivity and care for one another. A theme that binds these movements is the need to rebuild from the fallout of recent crises that have brought down those around us and ourselves. The ability to rebuild and improve not only comes from within ourselves but from our peers and institutions. 

In an institutional sense, it is vital to center accountability, the needs of the community, and harm reduction. To continually foster care for our communities, institutions must first demonstrate an authentic commitment to marginalized groups and take action to build a sense of belonging to increase collectivism and inclusivity, among others. Accordingly, true accountability will be key for institutions to identify and correct mistakes with transparency. This may restore trust between institutions and the communities they serve. An effort must be made to provide alternatives to address systemic issues aside from admitting guilt and taking accountability. This process should include steps to reduce harm (and eventually eradicate harm) from sources that create barriers to achieving equity. Institutions must embrace transformative justice to implement these changes, whether it is the abolition of police, creating equitable experiences to mitigate racial capitalism, or further improving the quality of life for marginalized populations. 

Alongside institutions, individuals can create the change they wish to see in their communities. On an individual level, we can deepen our relationships to increase inclusivity and foster love among one another. This may come from sharing a personal narrative to create a sense of belonging, intimacy, and trust. Community organizing is an example of intentional positive relationship building; bringing people together to address one common cause may cultivate communal growth. Community organizing initiatives have supported the development of programs to raise awareness about important social topics and groups to support people challenged by personal hardships. Such relationships may lead to positive growth and interconnectivity. The pursuit of care and rebuilding ties in the community often starts with a movement. 

One movement that has always been in the people's best interest is the movement for abolition. A critical step in the abolition movement on college campuses is for the campus communities to voice concerns and demand changes. College campuses nationwide report an increase in students wanting less intimidation from armed officers policing their universities and more community-based engagement from service providers dedicated to prioritizing the well-being and safety of all persons. These student concerns are reflected in the results of a  CSUMB campus survey inquiring about participant experiences with police. Among students, staff, faculty, and administration, there were prevalent themes such as police reform, community involvement and connection, less policing and police presence, and check of police powers. As students, we have seen continual institutional failures and a lack of change that comes with said failures. This has created a campus community that lacks trust in the administration and services, such as the campus police. Coupled with this, police presence has led to a decreased sense of belonging and safety. We see how our community, among many, must heal and be given the proper tools to counteract further harm due to systemic failures. 

When looking to the future, we can implement changes to our communities, such as police defunding and removal from integral parts of our community, and rethink punishment. Abolition can be actionable––removal of police from places such as schools and universities in concert with substantial investment in community engagement and resources. Such actions would allow for an increased sense of belonging and safety among community members who experience the most harm through policing and lack of community resources, as well as removing the fear associated with policing (e.g., punishment and retaliation) that accompanies police presence for racialized communities. An important factor to remember is that police abolition is not about eradicating the existence of law enforcement. Instead, it is about transferring some of the many responsibilities and roles assigned to police officers to professionals best equipped to manage high-crisis situations (e.g., mental health experts, violence interventionists, victim advocates, and community leaders). This is only one example of how to best center love, care, growth, and progress in our local areas and on an institutional level. 

To make meaningful changes we wish to see, we must take steps to not only center our communities with care, love, and anti-violence but to positively transform our communities. Whether it be the results of the data from our shared research project or injustices televised nationally, there is a clear need to take action. To spread awareness, love, and care is much easier than one could imagine. 

For more information about results from the CSUMB Campus Policing Survey, see Nevan Bell and Jennifer Lovell’s presentation, “Campus Perceptions of Policing and How to Improve a Sense of Safety. 

Nevan Bell is an undergraduate psychology student and researcher at California State University, Monterey Bay, who is heavily interested in decreasing the equity gap in his local communities. 

Melissa-Ann Lagunas is a clinical psychology PhD student and researcher at Seattle Pacific University interested in the wellness of ethnic and minority populations. Both have seen the importance and impact of fostering love and interconnectivity in the community through the integration of abolitionist ideals through their research with Dr. Jennifer Lovell and the Abolitionist and Decolonial Education Collective.