The Breonna Taylor Initiative at the University of Kentucky
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Dear President Capilouto, Dr. Wright, and the members of the Board of Trustees,
Breonna Taylor was a former UK student who harbored ambitions and goals to make a difference and was passionate about serving her community and Kentucky at large. She had the potential to continue making a difference as an EMT in her Louisville community, but unfortunately, her potential was brutally taken from all of us at the hands of Louisville Metro Police Department.
The Commonwealth of Kentucky has been extremely delayed in its investigation into the outcome of Breonna Taylor's murder. The blood is not on the University's hands, but the need for change is evident after the unrest and revelations bought up by her murder.
We as united students, faculty, alumni, and community members urge the University to take an aggressive stand and be at the forefront for a new model of campus culture, campus policing, and community engagement. The University of Kentucky can be remembered as an institution that has authored change and helped lead more dialogue, reform, and reconstruction in our communities across the Commonwealth, and the communities across the country and world that our students, alumni, and faculty also represent.
We stand with Breonna Taylor, and we urge the University of Kentucky to stand with her, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and the countless others murdered and fighting against the systemic racism in our country today.
Specifically, we demand the University of Kentucky:
Rename the Kirwan-Blanding complex/space in memory of Breonna Taylor.
Revoke admission from Kendall Johnson regarding disparaging racist comments as well as entering into a field where people of color are killed because of bias.
Commit to diverse growth on campus by expanding funding for scholarships for minorities and women, as well as expanding criteria for scholarships (not to lower the merit, but to create a system that is aware of all socioeconomic and cultural outcomes).
Expand funding and organizational support for diverse organizations on campus, and encourage diverse growth within groups on campus by mandatory diversity and inclusion training for campus organizations and increased funding for organizations as they improve their diversity.
Commit to protection of campus workers, especially of color, as furloughs and staff cuts have decimated local communities and removed essential income from families. Furloughs and staff reductions have disproportionately affected workers of color.
Increase Sexual Assault Prevention training for all students, preferably through mandated in-person courses repeated every year.
Recognize the VIP/Counseling center as excused absences, and increased SA training for faculty, as well as a strengthened, visible, and direct relationship between the VIP/Counseling centers and UKPD to respond to situations of sexual assault, violence, and intimidation of students on campus.
Greek organizations should be externally reviewed for discriminatory and predatory conduct, including increased oversight over repeat offender organizations.
Metrics and statistics regarding criminal investigations, university investigations, and Title IX should be accessible and transparent.
Remove any symbols and glorification related or in connection to the Confederacy on campus, and review all symbols and university property for the opportunity to highlight the broad impacts of diverse citizens of the Commonwealth who have led change, reform, and societal impact, especially women and minorities.
The University must fund the Commonwealth Institute for Black Studies, as well as increase funding for departments serving, researching, and educating regarding underrepresented minorities. The University also must join the Universities Studying Slavery Collective to increase awareness and knowledge regarding the impact and history of slavery
Limit UKPD budget growth to only expand in proportion to the growing numbers of students, faculty, staff, and fans on campus, and make UKPD one of the first agencies to receive cuts before any academic, student support, faculty budget cuts
Commit to the removal of any and all equipment purchased under the 1033 program by UKPD, as well as banning the use of tear gas and any derivatives (smoke grenades, flashbangs, etc.), and banning the use of any rubber projectiles or firearms intended for rubber bullet use.
Create an oversight committee made up of students, community leaders, and faculty to oversee any complaints and use of force by UKPD or Lexington PD on campus property and the surrounding area frequented by students. This committee will be empowered by the University but completely independent in its investigations, established for the protection and best interests of students and the community.
Expand training for UKPD police, security officers, and dispatchers well beyond the five month police academy mandated by the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training, as well as require courses and certification in basic social work, and up-to-date bias training. This will transition the current UKPD policies of essentially "recommending" expanded training to requiring it and requiring more. UKPD will serve as a new model for law enforcement agencies across the country and the Commonwealth.
Limit the officers deployed on patrol throughout campus during the day, as well as limit the officers deployed on campus overall with a deadly weapon. In addition, expanded training should be required for officers to possess mace/pepper spray. Officers should mainly be positioned in UKPD offices, not in learning environments. Officers with a deadly weapon should only be required for use as a last resort, a standard adopted by other law enforcement agencies.
End qualified immunity for university police as well as university administrators. A path for accountability and transparency must be clear and external for members of the community.
End any relationships with organizations and/or unions that support the occupation of communities and the militarization of the police within those communities. Relationships with organizations with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), and LPD (Lexington Police Department) must cease. These relationships have been clandestine and contribute to a police state and occupation of campus.
Support people of color, women, and the LGTBQ+ community across
the Commonwealth by expanding the recruiting program and increasing access to education in communities disadvantaged.
Black faculty representation has to increase to 15%, reflecting the demographics of Lexington, as limited faculty representation continues to correlate with retention rates for black students and students of color.
The Movement for Black Lives at the University of Kentucky recognizes the demands and concerns brought forth by other groups during this trying time, including the United Campus Workers of Kentucky chapter as well as Cooperation Lexington. We ask the University recognize demands of all organizations representing the marginalized groups and workers in our Wildcat communities.
The Commonwealth of Kentucky, the City of Lexington and the Government of Fayette County, as well as the University of Kentucky all play critical roles in developing a new equitable, safe, and constructive community. The University of Kentucky has an opportunity to step forward and author change by leading the beginning of these healing processes.
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