Barry Saunders

Police substation has no place on Shaw campus – Saunders

The campus of Shaw University on Sunday. The university is making an effort to establish a Raleigh Police substation on campus.
The campus of Shaw University on Sunday. The university is making an effort to establish a Raleigh Police substation on campus.

The only thing more heartbreaking than the president of Shaw University requesting that Raleigh police open a substation on campus is the realization that she felt the need to ask Raleigh police to open a substation on campus.

Running a close second in the heartbreak sweepstakes is the fact that students seem cool with it.

By no means were the five students to whom I spoke recently meant to be a representative sampling of the mood of the campus, but their feelings on the matter ranged from welcoming to indifferent. That’s no difference at all.

Is the campus under siege by marauders breaching its walls to wreak holy hell on the Baptist school’s campus? Were students a’feared of strolling across campus to the library or to the science lab lest they be accosted?

Actually, no. Sure, Shaw has the same problem with crime as any other campus located in an urban area, but there has been no reported uptick in crime to explain President Tashni-Ann Dubroy’s request.

None of the five students have actually been a victim of a crime since being on campus, but that didn’t mean they weren’t fearful of becoming victims, doesn’t mean they didn’t welcome the increased police presence.

Jahlil Horton, a freshman from Raleigh, enthusiastically supported the idea as a way to keep students safe from “hurt, harm and danger,” he said. “We live in a pretty bad time, when a lot of things are going on around here. Even last night, I heard gunshots – I believe they were gunshots” – close to campus.

Phillip Cheek, a freshman majoring in social work so he can become a probation officer, would also welcome the substation. “It’s a small campus, but because of where we’re located, there is a lot that happens around us,” he said. “Being downtown, we’re in range of everything that happens, right in range of drug dealers and everything else. I feel we’d be safer if there were a substation on campus.”

Both students also said they hoped having police on campus would strengthen the relationship between the students and police. Sounds good in theory, sure, but as we’ve seen too often in high schools, proximity doesn’t necessarily foster fondness or affection.

Shaw should hold a special place in the hearts of all African-Americans, being founded – as it was – mere months after the Civil War ended in 1865. The surrounding community should rise up and protect it from those who would defile such a sacred shrine to education, education being the key to breaking the invisible shackles that hold so many back.

Shaw held a special place for me before I ever set foot on its storied campus: When I was a whippersnapper headed to church, my aunt would give me money on Sunday morning to put in the collection plate – with the admonition not to stop by King’s Grocery and spend it on Now & Laters. Of course I’d stop by the store anyway – or at least at Mr. Alex Hines’ house, strategically located directly across the street from the church and where you could get cookies and candy even cheaper than at King’s.

Now I ask you, how much temptation could one kid resist?

I’d usually, though, save enough to make some noise in the collection plate when the reverends Diggs, Gilchrist or Sawyer took up their weekly collection for the missionaries of Shaw University.

A recent N&O story noted that Dubroy made her request for a cop shop on campus a week after a man was gunned down on South Blount and East Lenoir streets. That’s near the campus, not on campus.

Protecting the students is undeniably her main responsibility, but another should be forging a partnership with the community. Just as the entire neighborhood should have a proprietary interest in protecting Shaw, Shaw should be directing its intellectual resources toward improving the lot of the neighborhood and welcoming residents who may only set foot on a college campus when taking a shortcut to that McDonald’s.

Years ago, an unbearably bourgeois former friend of mine lamented that most HBCUs are in inner cities.

That’s precisely where they should be, I told him, and those schools’ social science eggheads should be working on solutions to the intractable problems besetting such communities – so maybe dudes will stop gunning each other down right off campus. For instance, those kids studying to become probation officers?

Why not send ’em out into the community to mentor young kids now so that they won’t end up on probation? That goes for you, too, St. Augustine’s University.

In Jesse Jackson’s commencement address at St. Aug’s in 1976, he expressed way more eloquently than I can where black colleges should be and what they should be focused on.

City Councilman Corey Branch, who represents Southeast Raleigh, was asked in an earlier story if he thought a police substation on campus would heighten tensions between police and Shaw students. Branch’s milquetoastish non-response response?

“Well,” he said, “this was at the request of the university.”

Well, councilman, nobody asked you at whose request it was. Show some leadership and get to work on bridging the gulf between the university and the community. Nobody needs a university – or a councilman – that’s in a community but not of that community. Branch has shown a willingness to do that in the past, and this is a perfect opportunity to bring the university and the school together for a mutually beneficial Kumbaya moment.

Barry Saunders: 919-836-2811, @BarrySaunders9