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Student Actions Prompt UMN To Rethink Its Relationship With Minneapolis Police

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

University of Minnesota students let their president know that they are taking a stand against the Minneapolis police. Following the death of George Floyd earlier this week, a group of students demanded that their school end its relationship with the city's police department. Their letter says, quote, "We have lost interest in discussion, community conversations and donut hours. We no longer wish to have a meeting or come to an agreement. There is no middle ground." No middle ground, they wrote.

The letter was signed earlier this week by the university student body president, Jael Kerandi. She joins us now from Minneapolis. Welcome.

JAEL KERANDI: Thank you.

CHANG: So this letter, it was part of a petition, I understand, that you sent to your university president, Joan Gabel. And she has agreed to, quote, "adjust" the university's relationship with the police department. First of all, what does adjust mean to you? And does that go far enough for you and your fellow students?

KERANDI: Great question. And I think what I recognize here is university and higher education works a lot slower sometimes than the rest of the world. So the demands of the letter ask for a 24-hour response. And for the response that I believe we got within 24 hours is very satisfactory, but I believe it does not stop there. I don't believe that this is the end of those relations and only quoting two different changes that would be made. But I definitely believe that it has to go further than this.

CHANG: OK.

KERANDI: And it has to be more - I'm not exactly sure what adjust means (laughter) in the context used, but it definitely removes some of the relations that were previously existing at some of the events I knew police were present in Minneapolis.

CHANG: Tell me why severing the relationship with the police is what you ultimately want.

KERANDI: So, one, it's one step. It's a beginning step. It's not the ultimate end of all of this.

CHANG: OK.

KERANDI: But I think it was important because if you look at the trends and the history of the Minneapolis Police Department, I don't think that reflects the university's values. And if the university states values and diversity inclusion and ensuring that those students feel safe, having the presence of the Minneapolis Police Department would be an exact contrary to those value statements. Secondly, there's been instances where Minneapolis police have been present on campus and a negative experience has occurred.

CHANG: Oh, interesting. Well, may I ask, have - what have your personal interactions been like with the Minneapolis police up until this point?

KERANDI: Yeah, so I was actually at the event I'm specifically describing, which is the Somali Student Association event that happened in spring of 2018 and linked in my letter some sources where you can read the statement, and I want to give them that voice for others to read that statement. But it was just a lot of very aggressive behavior, behavior that caused trauma - there were children present at the event - and just a lot of actions you would not wish to see on a university campus, where students are paying tuition to use these buildings and be on the campus that they are paying for.

CHANG: OK. Well, we have less than a minute left, but I am curious - you said that this is just a first step, severing the relationship with the police. What would you like to see after that?

KERANDI: We need to evaluate our own police department. The University of Minnesota has their own police department, and we've also - students have felt similar reactions we - with our police department, and we need to examine those relations as well. And we need to get to the root of what's causing this on student - on campuses and evaluate the presence of police and what that does for different students on our campuses.

CHANG: Jael Kerandi is the student body president of the University of Minnesota. Thank you very much for joining us today.

KERANDI: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF D NUMBERS' "XYLEM UP") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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