Terence Crutcher Matters to Student Affairs
Trill or Not Trill?

Last night, I truly felt my stomach turn and my heart break. A text with video footage would change my evening for the worse. I hit play to watch another innocent Black male killed by a police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Not only was this man shot, but with his hands raised, just as I was taught to do by my parents, or a simple game of cops and robbers as a youth. As my eyes watered, I began to read the article and background of this individual. 

Reading this article, Terence and I had a connection to his situation. It reminded me of a time when I was leaving class and the vehicle I owned broke down. My car randomly overheated and left me stranded on the highway after a long day of classes. I did as taught by my father to get out of your disabled vehicle for your safety. I, like Terence was leaving college classes. Cops pull up to the scene of Terrence standing outside his car in a non-threatening position with his hands up. Thereafter, the actions of the officer lead to another African American individual shot dead.  Now, it’s time to have an honest discussion why this matters to student affairs professionals and college institutions. 

Programming
 We all know, as student affairs professional, programming is a key element during the school year. I think the first place we need to look is our own campus police or authority that deals directly with crime on and around campus. We need to have events with these individuals to bridge the gap and minimize the tension.  Let’s start implementing events that can help students understand who’s who amongst the campus police. Community policing should definitely be on our campuses. Community policing is a strategy that focuses on police building ties and working closely with members of the communities!  Our students should also be aware of how to report crimes, mishandling or abuse from police and compliance during routine stops on your campus. Let’s stop assuming police and students are one big happy family. 

Admit your privilege. 
In life, nothing upsets me more than an individual trying to justify injustice amongst oppressed groups. Privilege comes in all shapes, situations, and sizes. Let me give an example. As a person who grew up with two parents in a house, that makes me have some form of privilege. I don’t know what it’s like to live in a single parent home. I did not have to stop extracurricular activities or put college on hold to support a household for the missing parent. As an individual with this knowledge, I did not compare my situation to these individuals in tight situations at home. Back to the point. STOP telling yourself you understand how it feels to be Black and pulled over when you actually have no experience. I have been stopped by officers well over 15 times without receiving any ticket. Four times, I was pulled over for simply “fitting the description.” If you never fit the description of the criminal justice system, then in most situations YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND. Understanding is listening to your students and having platforms to help students express their concerns and incidents. Nothing hurts more than telling Privileged individuals about being pulled over. The responses went as follows:

  • Did you have on a hood or hat?
  • Did you come across as threatening? 
  • Did you comply?
  • Why were you in that neighborhood? 

No matter the answer to each of the above named questions, let’s stop justifying bad cop behavior. Instead, identify how to end this. Show empathy to your students. All cops are not GOOD, unfortunately. Being pulled over can be very traumatic please offer some empathy. 

Don’t silence the voice.
The University of Missouri is a beautiful campus I must say, but a couple years back they tried to silence the voice. Race and rape seem to be two topics that are deemed unspeakable by top officials. At Mizzou, years of racial tension being pushed aside led to a viral protest and firing of a chancellor. Please do not justify why your student shouldn’t protest unless you have a better solution. As I mentioned, programming can play a part here as well. Administer programs that describe the power of protest and steps needed to make Institutional changes in a positive manner. If you don’t have a solution, back away and let the students spread their voice. The one thing I enjoy about college is the power of the students’ voices. No other educational platform gives students the power to speak so don’t silence the students. If you are willing to stand for your students and injustice on their behalf, do it! 

As I close, let me say my deepest condolences to the family of Terence Crutcher and his four children. Before leaving, ask yourself this, if Terence Crutcher were alive, what would you say if he came to your office with concerns? Terence Crutcher matters to student affairs. 

 

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Lenny Williams is one of today’s most gifted leaders in inspiring youth and countless individuals to pursue their career and educational dreams. As an 
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