On March 15, three police cars arrived at Sneaky Park after a new member presentation from historically black sorority Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. Shortly before, music was playing and people were mingling. Two Campus Safety officers pulled up soon after, reporting that the police were responding to a noise complaint.
With the La Verne police station directly across the street from campus on Bonita Avenue, this over-response was upsetting. One officer could have approached the scene and ask us to quiet down. Instead, three squad watched from inside their cars, parked on the other side of the street.
By the time they showed up, the music was off, the DJ was packing up and people were saying their good-byes. Police could not say anything because their supposed reason for being there had ended.
When organizations like Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity and Sigma Kappa Sorority host rock paintings at the rock in front of Founders’ Hall, I have never seen or heard of noise complaints made, or at least not responded to by authorities.
The SAE members that attended the presentation said they never had such an issue. However, Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority, an organization with a majority of Latinx members, experienced police showing up at their late night events like Rock paintings in 2015, alumna Mia Smith said.
Police cars are known to ride around La Verne looking for trouble, and I’ve seen them pass late night campus events plenty of times. Not one of them I have experienced has gotten profiled the way SGRho’s presentation was that night.
As many sisters from other chapters and other Divine Nine, or historically black, fraternity and sorority members were present, a police car was sure to ride by, notice more black people congregating than usual, and decide to react incompetently.
This was not the first time something like this has happened.
In 2013, the University’s Black Student Union hosted a fundraiser in the Campus Center Ballroom where other schools and Divine Nine Greek organizations were invited to mingle and dance with students.
Smith, who is black, said that the University required police to be present as security. Officers checked guests’ hair and clothing at the door for illegal items. Dances hosted by CAB never require security. If anything, having Campus Safety officers present would be sufficient. Nonetheless, such obvious bias toward one of two groups under the same circumstances is ridiculous and harmful.
In fall 2017, BSU planned a basketball tournament that never happened; the athletics department demanded there be security as well. I attended a soccer tournament hosted by Latino Student Forum a few weeks before the projected basketball tournament date and saw no security present.
When the first two members of SGRho had their new member presentation in fall 2016, police officers showed up as well.
It is disrespectful to blatantly use racial biases to determine the urgency of authority presence and the necessity of security at events.
Unfortunately, for us to invoke change, we must persistently knock on the doors of the majority to merely be heard, let alone yield support.
Black students at ULV should speak up, ask questions and make their concerns known in order for reform to happen. Police misconduct is only one issue in the pot of cultural problems the University is yet to solve. Black students cannot thrive here if they do not feel safe having events on campus because they fear the community that is supposed to protect them.
Tyler Evains, a senior journalism major, is editorial director for the Campus Times. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.