AAPD steps up patrols to police student behavior with U-M ambassadors

Thursday, August 20, 2020 - 9:42am

The Ann Arbor Police Department releases details on social distancing enforcement Thursday morning.

The Ann Arbor Police Department releases details on social distancing enforcement Thursday morning. Buy this photo
File Photo/Daily

The University of Michigan and Ann Arbor Police Department are offering some clarity as to their plans to manage off-campus student behavior this fall. 

Four canvassing teams of two to three people — made up of students, staff, faculty, volunteers and community engagement officers from the Division of Public Safety and Security and AAPD — will walk across campus and near-campus neighborhoods seven days a week from noon to midnight. They will rove daily from Aug. 20 to Aug. 30, according to an AAPD release.  

After Aug. 30, ambassadors will work Thursday to Saturday for the rest of the semester. The teams will “serve as a visible presence and reminder to students and other community members of the need to follow public health guidance.” 

Off-campus students can opt-in to an address registry at the end of the COVID-19 module sent out earlier this week. An optional Google Form asks students for their full name, current Ann Arbor area address and phone number. 

The AAPD release instructs community members to call a hotline at 734-647-3000 to “report non-emergency issues in off-campus student housing areas.” Ambassadors will reach out via text or phone to addresses reported on the hotline.

If the address is not registered, ambassadors will go to the site “in hopes that their presence may encourage concerning behaviors to cease,” Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones told the Ann Arbor City Council Monday. 

Jones said the hotline is a way to avoid law enforcement involvement initially. However, the line will go directly to DPSS after ambassador shifts end at midnight. She noted that ambassadors will not be asked to put themselves at risk by confronting large parties. 

Ambassadors will wear maize and blue t-shirts with “Michigan Ambassador” on the front and “Taking care of Maize & Blue” on the back. Student ambassadors will be paid $11 an hour, per an email from Jones to the Campus Climate Advisory Council. 

University President Mark Schlissel and other University officials emphasized that the program is designed for peer-to-peer accountability in an attempt to reduce the need for law enforcement. 

“It’s not really an extension of the police or something…,” Schlissel said in an interview with The Daily last week. “So you’ll undoubtedly forget on some occasions to pull your mask over your face as you walk from some part that’s off campus onto campus, or as you rush out of your apartment or a student rushes out of their dorm room. So, these are people that are just going to remind you, and we’re hoping that a lot of enforcement really comes from changing norms.”

People across the country protested police brutality this summer as protestors demanded justice following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department. In Washtenaw County, protestors also spoke out after a video emerged showing a county deputy punched Ypsilanti resident Sha’Teina Grady El in the head multiple times. Throughout June, waves of protests swept Southeast Michigan as tens of thousands of residents came to support the Black Lives Matter and anti-police brutality movements. 

After Jones’s presentation at City Council, Councilmember Ali Ramlawi. D-Ward 5, expressed concerns with the enforcement aspect of the program.

“To me it’s all carrot and no stick, and I’m not very comfortable with a policy that just doesn’t have any consequences,” Ramlawi said. “It’s thought out on the education side and that’s what the University does well, obviously, and I’m a little uncomfortable without any repercussions for failing the social contract.”

Schlissel told The Daily students can face disciplinary proceedings for violating public health guidance, but said he hoped “it doesn’t (happen) very often.”

“Students who fail to come into compliance when they’re partying in town after multiple admonitions and many different tiered levels of reminders ultimately will be brought into the student code pathway or receive a citation that will be very expensive to them,” Schlissel said. “But that’s the last resort.”

Many universities across the country have taken much stricter measures to control risky student behavior. Tulane University threatened partygoers with suspension or expulsion. Albion College, a small liberal arts school about 50 miles west of the University of Michigan, will use a tracking app on students’ phones to make sure no one leaves campus for the entire semester — with suspension as penalty. 

As of Wednesday, August 19, Washtenaw County has restricted outdoor gatherings to 25 people or fewer in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area.

Daily Staff Reporter Calder Lewis can be reached at calderll@umich.edu