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Barnard Campus Police Accused Of Racial Profiling For Pinning Down Black Student: Gothamist


Alexander McNab surrounded by several campus security officers (Facebook)

Barnard College has placed half a dozen campus safety officers on administrative leave, after video surfaced this weekend showing them pinning a black student to a countertop and demanding he present ID.

The video, captured by fellow students on Thursday night, shows at least six security officers surrounding Alexander McNab, a senior at Columbia University, inside the Barnard library. Two of the officers push him onto a table, as he repeatedly begs them to “take your hands off me.” Even after he gives them his identification, the officers continue to hassle him, with one apparently doubting that he is an “active student.”

According to McNab, a pair of campus cops followed him into the Milstein Center at 11 p.m. on Thursday after he entered the building without showing his student ID. In an interview with the Columbia Spectator, the 23-year-old said that decision was intentional, as he’d previously been racially profiled by campus security. In one instance, McNab says, he was running barefoot to the water fountain from dance practice when he was stopped by an officer, who asked whether he was homeless.

“Because of all of that, I said ‘Nah, that’s not happening again this time,'” McNab told the Spectator. “What I didn’t see coming was when they got the other Public Safety officer to come to the side and pin me to the counter…I hadn’t made any threats, all I said was I’m not going to show you my ID. I don’t understand where that came from.”

The encounter prompted protests and listening sessions within Barnard College and Columbia University this weekend. Both schools have released statements, and have vowed to hire an independent investigator to look into the incident. However, Barnard President Sian Leah Beilock’s first statement, which did not explicitly mention racism, was deemed “unacceptable” by some students, who accused the administration of “framing it in the language of ‘bias’ and not the racist violence that it is.”

As the Spectator notes, tensions surrounding the Columbia and Barnard public safety officers have come to a head in the last few months, as students have accused the officers of harassing people of color, and of turning a blind eye toward white supremacist incidents on campus.

In a follow-up statement released Sunday, Beilock said: “The confrontation puts into stark relief what some members of the Barnard College community, particularly people of color, have been saying about their relationship with the Office of Public Safety and the lack of trust they have in it to keep them safe. We must ensure that public safety officers act equitably toward all and that the community trusts this will occur. That work is now underway, effective immediately.”

All six officers will remain on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.

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