The ubiquity of dome-security and mobile-tower cameras makes the University of Minnesota seem less like a public university and more like a private police state. What is the purpose of mobile tower cams? Public safety? Or public surveillance?
The Myth of Community Engagement
Cedar Riverside, located just a few blocks from the West Bank, is home to many immigrant and refugee populations, most of whom are East African and Muslim. The Cedar-Riverside community is one of the most vibrant spaces of black sociality in Minneapolis. The University of Minnesota, however, has a very different perspective on Cedar-Riverside. Despite being a public university committed to “community engagement,” the University of Minnesota maintains a paternalistic and exploitative relationship with many communities of color, including Cedar-Riverside. To many East African youth, the University of Minnesota is far from public. When they walk on the West Bank and are harassed by UMPD or even the Campus Security Monitors, they are reminded that the University of Minnesota simultaneously represents both an ivory and anti-ebony tower. “If you see something, say something”-logic is embedded within the University’s security culture. What happens when what or who people see always already “fit the description”? What does it mean to “fit” what you are racialized to be? What does it mean to be hypervisible and hyper-surveilled at the same time?
Surveillance & Policing
The University, like many other institutions with intimate links to the carceral state, has its own police force that thrives on fear. Student fear. Faculty fear. Staff fear. What does it mean when the same technologies that make some people feel safe, make many others feel unsafe? Both dissent and defense at the University of Minnesota is criminalized. Those committed to anti-oppressive work know that “the only possible relationship to the University today is a criminal one” (Harney and Moten 2013: 26). Hence, those who accept the responsibility to defend multiply-marginalized students at the University of Minnesota know that they are more likely to earn an arrest record faster than they earn a degree. The same security devices this University uses to “protect” students are the same technologies they use to criminalize student activists.
What does it mean to be policed by people who aren’t police? Did you know that black, brown, and Indigenous students at the University of Minnesota are always already surveilled by their fellow students, professors, administrators, coaches, and other employees of this securitized institution?
Harney, Stefano and Fred Moten. 2013. The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black
Study. New York: Minor Compositions.