End corporate relationship between the St. Petersburg Police Department & Eckerd College

End corporate relationship between the St. Petersburg Police Department & Eckerd College

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EC SAFA started this petition to To President Damian G. Fernandez, The Eckerd Board of Trustees and Deans Harrison and Annarelli

The Student Alumni Faculty Alliance (SAFA), working with the Afro-American Society and the EC Feminists, calls for an end to the corporate relationship between the St. Petersburg Police Department (SPPD) and Eckerd College. 

This demand is a response to the public string of murders at the hands of police and the growing support for the Black Lives Matter movement. We join students and faculty from the University of Minnesota, Ohio State, University of Illinois, Northwestern University and many other colleges and universities nationwide that have already or are actively calling for their schools to end their relationship with police departments. 

The Student Alumni Faculty Alliance demands that Eckerd College:

  • End the contractual relationship that allows the St. Petersburg Police Department to conduct live summer training exercises on Eckerd campus. In a time when municipal, state and federal lawmakers are restricting overly-violent police procedures, we refuse to allow the St. Petersburg Police Department to practice no-knock drug busts, hostage situations and other tactical training procedures on our campus. 
  • End the policy of weekend police patrols through Eckerd’s campus while strengthening the relationship of trust and respect between Eckerd students and Eckerd campus safety.  
  • Invest in summer activities that will forge and strengthen the relationships with St. Petersburg’s non-police population, especially Black, Brown and Indigenous people whose urban space we share. Southside St. Petersburg is a community filled with educators and organizers who would better represent the diversity and inclusion for which Eckerd claims to strive for. This reinvestment in life outside of Eckerd means divesting from the very institutions that are built to harm Black, Brown and Indigenous people.  

The Racist History of Eckerd College & National Police Violence 

Eckerd College was established with racism ingrained in its structure. In 1963, Howard Kennedy applied with the help of the local NAACP. This chance to integrate Black students within the college was shot down, displaying a clear racist bias within administration. Students and faculty erupted in protest and many faculty members resigned.  Soon thereafter, Kennedy was offered a full scholarship to Bethune-Cookman College, despite never having applied. Not knowing who made this application on his behalf, Dr. Kennedy saw this as a likely attempt by Eckerd administration to deter him from entrance to their college. Instead, he enlisted in the army to obtain his education through military service. While serving, he received news through his sister that Eckerd announced they had admitted him as their first Black student, despite him never actually attending the college. 

To this day, Eckerd still erroneously claims on their website that Kennedy was the first Black student: “June of 1962 - All but two faculty members submit their resignations to the Board of Trustees to protest decision not to admit first Black student. In October, the Board reverses position. That young student, Howard Kennedy, later becomes a member of the Board of Trustees.” Kennedy, like many of Eckerd’s African American, Hispanic, Latino/LatinX and Black and Brown international students, had to wait for Eckerd to catch up with the changing moral landscape of this country. Clearly, Eckerd has not sufficiently caught up, as the demographics of our school do not reflect the changes in the world since 1963, or even the surrounding Black community which Eckerd sits so neatly in. Given the current climate and continued unjust actions towards people of color in America, we cannot afford to wait for Eckerd to catch up this time - immediate change is a necessity. 

In March of 2020, Breonna Taylor was murdered in her sleep by police officers. The police report marked no injuries, but she was shot eight times. In May, the world watched as Police Officer Derek Chauvin from the Minneapolis Police Department choked George Floyd to death. Regardless of the reason for arrest, the use of lethal force was not required and his death was unjustifiable. But George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were not the first to be unjustly murdered by the police, and unless we actively choose to hold police departments and officers accountable for policing as it presents itself today, they will not be the last. 

Eckerd College has a longstanding relationship with the St. Petersburg Police Department. Police officers train in our dorms during the summer and assist with gate patrol on the weekends and during large-scale events. This same police department patrols and often terrorizes the neighborhoods of Southside St. Petersburg, a predominantly Black community. The St. Petersburg Riots of 1996 were an immediate response to the murder of Tyron Lewis -- an unarmed African American teenager -- but also a long-term reaction to the department's history of racism and brutality. More recently, the St. Petersburg Police were seen actively instigating and agitating protestors during the George Floyd and Black Lives Matter Protests. Videos of officers throwing tear gas and shooting rubber bullets at the members of the community they swore to protect made their rounds on social media. The very same SPPD that patrols Eckerd’s gates during the school year. 

While we recognize the claim to reform the SPPD, as seen with the recently proposed Community Assistance Liaison Program, without drastic and continuous disengagement of police presence on the streets of St. Petersburg, SPPD will continue terrorizing Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). Continued support of the St. Petersburg Police Department actively tells Eckerd students, specifically Black and Brown Eckerd students, that Eckerd truly does not care for their well being or their lives. Without responding to the specific perspectives of students of color, they often feel as though they are simply a diversity number on a dataset. 

The persistent and collective memory of racist police violence places a heavy burden on the mental and emotional health of Black, Brown and Indigenous students who already live in fear of being targeted by the police outside of Eckerd. As a private institution, it is Eckerd’s responsibility to put pressure wherever necessary to make not only Eckerd, but also the surrounding community a safe area. In a time where colleges and universities across the nation are calling for a separation from the police, we demand that Eckerd makes the decision to create a safe, welcoming place for its BIPOC students.   

The call to remove the existing police presence is not and should not be the responsibility of Black and Brown individuals. Rather, it is up to institutions like Eckerd College that are operated, managed and controlled primarily by a wealthy white contingency, to distance themselves from inherently racist social structures. You cannot call yourselves an inclusive and diverse institution while simultaneously upholding the oppressive structures that plague modern society, and perpetuate systemic racism.


EC Student Alumni Faculty Alliance

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