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Black students, faculty want race IDs out of U of M crime alerts

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Fearing racial profiling, several black students and faculty members at the University of Minnesota are lobbying U of M administrators to remove race descriptions in school crime alerts, WCCO Radio reports.

According to the station, members of several organizations made the request in a letter to President Eric Kaler and Vice President of University Services Pamela Wheelock on Dec. 6.

Several organizations took part in the request, including African-American and African Studies, the Black Faculty and Staff Association, the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association, the Black Men’s Forum, the Black Student Union, and the Huntley House for African-American Males.

The concern continues following a rash of crime incidents on or near the U of M's Twin Cities campus during the fall semester.

The Minnesota Daily reported last week that university police sent out 17 alerts for 23 separate incidents in the fall – the highest amount for any semester at the Twin Cities campus in six years.

One of the crime alerts, issued following an armed robbery attempt in Anderson Hall Nov. 11, incorrectly identified a black student as a suspect in a surveillance photo. The university followed up by issuing a photo of a different black man, calling him a "person of interest."

While the groups said in a statement that they unanimously agree campus safety is of "utmost importance," the "efforts to reduce crime should never be at the expense of our Black men, or any specific group of people likely to be targeted. In addition to causing Black men to feel unsafe and distrusted, racial profiling is proven to inflict negative psychological effects on its victims."

Black Men’s Forum President Ian Taylor Jr. repeated the plea in a meeting Wednesday, saying the "repeated black, black, black suspect" description only "discomforts the mental and physical comfort for students on campus because they feel like suspicions begin to increase."

Wheelock said in a formal letter earlier this week that she was concerned about the belief by some that there was "an increase in racial profiling," yet said there was no reason to change the way suspects are identified in crime alerts.

“I firmly believe that a well-informed community is an asset to public safety, I believe that sharing more information in our Crime Alerts, not less, is most beneficial in terms of public safety, especially when that information is available," Wheelock said.

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