Being transparent with students about their partnership with TPS is the bare minimum. The bar is on the floor.
By Abeer Khan
I remember when I first got my acceptance notice from Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU). During my lunch break, I was sitting inside my communications technology classroom, logging onto the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre website for the twentieth time that week alone. Suddenly, I noticed something looking different on my screen.
It said I had been accepted. I had finally weaselled my way into TMU’s (allegedly) very prestigious School of Journalism and I was over the moon! After spending countless nights on my portfolio, pestering my English teacher for higher marks and praying desperately every night, my dream finally came true.
In my head, I had a very idealized version of this university. I thought it could do no wrong. It was in the heart of downtown Toronto, had some cool programs and a cool geometric-shaped building that would make for some hot Instagram stories. I had the notion that this school, which prides itself on diversity, equity and inclusion, would be a place free from the racism and intolerance I was familiar with in high school.
I looked at this school through rose-tinted glasses. Today those glasses have been shattered—a direct result of the countless times this university has disappointed me and much of its student body, especially racialized students.
Earlier this month, the school announced in a Toronto Met Today statement that there will be increased security measures in Kerr Hall and on campus following a months-long safety audit. This announcement came after TMU introduced several additional “security enhancements” prior to and during the fall 2022 semester. According to the school, security guards, officers and crime prevention specialists will be “visibly” placed to monitor areas on campus with an emphasis on Kerr Hall.
TMU also said it will continue its partnership with the Toronto Police Service (TPS) to have officers patrolling campus, which the school said in November that it started prior to the fall semester. This partnership entails having “officers on foot and bike patrol who proactively engage with our on-campus community to provide an additional layer of support for our security team.”
These new measures are in response to sexual assaults which have occurred in Kerr Hall in March and November of 2022. And while I understand the need for more safety and do not discount the pain and fear many students—especially women—feel, increased security is not the answer.
As I stated in an editorial in November following the fall security announcement, it’s important to understand who security and increased policing protect and who it ostracizes. For Black and Indigenous students and community members especially, increased security presence and policing can be uncomfortable and unsafe—and something many student leaders fought against just a few years ago.
This is not the first time the university has tried to partner with cops on campus. In 2019, they announced a special constables program which they subsequently cancelled in June 2020 following backlash and activism from Black and Indigenous community members.
It’s a known fact that the TPS has a strained relationship with Black and Indigenous people. In 2020, it was found that TPS used force on Black people about four times more than the rest of the population and Black Torontonians were five times more likely to experience force from police than their white counterparts, as reported by the Toronto Star.
While I’m not surprised that TMU would soft-launch its partnership with TPS as opposed to being open and transparent about it, I am deeply disappointed and concerned. And you should be too.
I looked at this school through rose-tinted glasses. Today those glasses have been shattered
What’s different this time is that the university didn’t have the common courtesy to publicly announce this partnership. A student or community member wouldn’t reasonably know this information, given the convoluted way in which TMU announced this partnership.
The hushed nature of TMU’s partnership with TPS also means one thing is clear: the university knew what they were doing was wrong. And in doing so, they’ve broken the little trust they had with students.
TMU students—especially Black and Indigenous students—deserve transparency from their school, especially in regard to their safety.
Universities are spaces where students come to learn, expand their knowledge and find a community. Students pay thousands of dollars in tuition to attend this school. They trust that in exchange for an exorbitant amount of money, they will receive a good education in a safe environment.
People trust this administration to also be transparent with them. It’s an unspoken contract. But if this school continues to treat students like commodities as opposed to human beings, they are going to break their relationship with students forever.
The Eyeopener calls on TMU to reconsider its partnership with Toronto Police pending consultation with communities that will be most affected. We call on TMU to consult Black and Indigenous community members in their decisions proactively, not after the fact.
We call on the university to look for meaningful ways to address safety concerns on campus that do not centre increased security, policing and surveillance on campus. And we call on TMU to start telling us what they’re doing behind closed doors because we deserve to know.