SFU releases report on Black alumnus arrest

Conclusions suggest that there is no evidence of racial profiling, student groups express discontent with report

PHOTO: Ahmed Ali / The Peak

Written by: Michelle Young, News Editor

Content warning: descriptions of police violence. 

On March 11, president Joy Johnson released a report to the SFU community detailing the conclusions of a Black alumnus’ campus arrest

The report, which was conducted externally by Andi MacKay of MacKay Boyar Law Corporation, concluded there was “no evidence of racial profiling” or “lack of training in de-escalation techniques.” Further, MacKay stated SFU’s policies were clear and properly implemented, adding the alumnus was aware of COVID-19 policies. 

The findings come after the alumnus was arrested at the SFU Burnaby Mountain campus “for causing a disturbance.” When “an officer attempted to arrest him [this] led to a physical altercation between the two resulting in the officer being placed in a chokehold. The RCMP officer then pepper sprayed and tasered [the alumnus].” 

The event caused students to question “whether racial profiling played a role in the arrest.”

MacKay recommended SFU “should improve its definition of ‘community member,’ its policy regarding alumni access during the pandemic” and “should have its communications reviewed from an equity, diversity, and inclusion perspective.” 

The report added, “On December 11, 2020, the [a]lumnus’s interactions with a University Member caused them reasonable fear for their safety such that they requested a safe walk from CPS [Campus Public Security],” clarifying “CPS engaged with the [a]lumnus because of the University Member’s safe walk request.” 

MacKay concluded, “CPS could not permit the [a]lumnus to remain on campus after being alerted to the safe walk request.” She added security called the RCMP once “the [a]lumnus became aggressive and refused to leave campus [after given] multiple opportunities to leave.”

The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) responded to the statement, “We are deeply concerned by the lack of concrete findings and recommendations of this investigation. We take issue with multiple elements of the report.” They said the alumnus was not aware of the safewalk request and was asked to leave campus under the basis of COVID-19 campus guidelines “which were vague, conflicting, and not widely accessible.”

They added it was a concern that to their knowledge, there is no CPS policy “that state[s] SFU [s]afewalk requests result in an automatic and immediate removal of a person from campus.” 

The SFSS concluded, “[SFU] must commit to taking tangible action led by racialized voices in tackling these systemic problems. SFU’s vague, inequitable, and inaccessible policies, always gives space for institutions to disportionately target marginalized communities.”

The SFU Black Caucus also responded to the statement, “Nothing in the report explains the violence that was unleashed on the alumnus [nor] indicates why the police were justified in this use of force.” 

Johnson said the event “has reinforced concerns about racism on our campuses and that SFU needs to continue to take real and meaningful action to address systemic anti-Black racism and increase inclusion of Black and Indigenous people and people of colour.” 

She encouraged the SFU community — particularly Black students, alumni, faculty, and staff — to reach out for support if needed.