A Message From the President on Students’ Call to Defund the Poughkeepsie Police Department

Dear All,

I stand in solidarity with our students and the larger community in mourning the life and protesting the horrific death of George Floyd. In the midst of the outrage over the injustices that continue to occur in our nation, I am moved by the outpouring of peaceful protests that voice our grief, seek an end to the violence, and advocate for change.

Vassar students are passionate advocates of justice, and we appreciate you bringing forward your concerns and frustrations with law enforcement. I understand the very real frustration with bias that exists within the criminal justice system. For me, it is important to distinguish policing with hate and prejudice from policing with a deep commitment to the humanity of all people.

Vassar, like the rest of the Poughkeepsie community, relies on the police department, as we did when a student was seriously injured at a crosswalk last year, and in the investigation of the white supremacist who posted flyers on our campus, which lead to his identification. We appreciate our partnerships with the Town of Poughkeepsie and its police department, and we believe the only way to move through this is to continue to work in collaboration with them to promote law enforcement that is humane, just, and accountable. 

Vassar Safety & Security is a part of the Vassar community. It is not a police force, but rather is made up of community members employed to help Vassar. While we recognize that there have been incidents involving this group in the past, our Safety & Security team has worked diligently, with the leadership of Arlene Sabo, to bring a more community-oriented approach to safety and security on campus. Director Sabo has introduced anti-bias training, created new policies and procedures in partnership with the campus community, and has implemented the recommendations of the Margolis and Healy Public Safety Management Study completed in 2014. Director Sabo has also been an active member of the Engaged Pluralism Initiative since its beginning in 2017.

We support the Black Lives Matter movement, and the protests demanding justice for George Floyd and the many others who have been unjustly stopped, arrested or, even, killed because of the color of their skin. We have been supporting the peaceful, nonviolent protests in our community with personal protective equipment (PPE) and other resources to help keep the gatherings safe. This is just the beginning. We recognize our responsibility to be vigilant in our efforts to promote justice and accountability and make change where and when we can. 

I appreciate you reaching out with your concerns, and look forward to our ongoing discussions about how to make Vassar and our world better for all.

Elizabeth H. Bradley, President
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604