Editor’s note: This petition, written by graduate students Rachel Levitt (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Nick Estes (email@example.com) of the American Studies Department at the University of New Mexico, is being circulated in support of Professor David Correia. They ask that you Sign the petition at Change.org.
Robert G. Frank, President
University of New Mexico
Scholes Hall Suite 144
One University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131-0001
Dear President Frank and the UNM Board of Regents,
We, the students, faculty, staff, and alumni from the University of New Mexico (UNM) and colleagues from around the world, would like to express our support for Associate Professor of American Studies Dr. David Correia. He was arrested June 2, 2014 with 12 others at the City of Albuquerque Office of the Mayor, participating in a community action against rampant police violence. While others arrested were charged with criminal trespass, Dr. Correia was charged with a felony, “battery against a police officer.” It was this charge that prompted a statement from the UNM administration, namely UNM President Bob Frank, that censured Dr. Correia’s activism. By invoking the idea that the University “will monitor” Dr. Correia’s activist “behavior,” UNM administration implies that scholar activism is menacing. Furthermore, UNM’s statement implies that Dr. Correia’s actions are grounds for termination by citing section “B5: Separation from the University” of the UNM Faculty Handbook.
We feel that the limiting and narrowing faculty’s academic freedom and freedom of speech in this way sets a negative precedent that affects all UNM’s constituents—faculty, students, and staff. It creates a climate of fear and suspicion against those working towards social justice, since police violence affects us all.
For example, many UNM students, faculty, and staff have been increasingly embroiled in efforts to challenge the very same police violence in Albuquerque that Dr. Correia was protesting the night of his arrest. In addition to many other incidents of excessive use of force, police harassment, racial profiling, and intimidation, 40 individuals have been shot, 26 of them fatal, by law enforcement officials in Albuquerque since 2010. As a result, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated the Albuquerque Police Department (APD). Their report found that APD’s deadly use of force is not only unconstitutional but is part of an institutional culture rather than the behavior of a select few officers. With this culture of state violence, many have rightly called for swift and drastic changes to the oversight and behavior of the APD.
A significant part of Dr. Correia’s scholarship and activism points out that police brutality is deeply rooted in historic and ongoing racist and colonial practices that marks the poor, the homeless, people of color, and Indigenous peoples as disposable. Dr. Correia has published numerous pieces of public scholarship and has given a TEDx talk on the issue of police brutality in Albuquerque. He is a noted scholar on the history of social movements in the Southwest. It is his scholarly expertise that informs his activism, not the other way around. Dr. Correia on multiple occasions has put his body and privileges on the line to intervene in city politics that continue to resist DOJ reforms—reforms that identify the need for just and accountable oversight of APD.
Rather than being potential grounds for termination as UNM’s official public statement suggests, Dr. Correia’s activism, community engagement, and scholarship addressing this violence is a testament to the kind of work that can and should be done, and is being done, by scholars. We, the undersigned, support Dr. Correia’s deep commitment to this kind of work. We demonstrate this support by standing with him and the Albuquerque community at many of these demonstrations and meetings, both physically and in spirit.
Like Dr. Correia, we know and live with the reality that the members of the UNM community most at risk for deportation, harassment, imprisonment, assault, and murder by the police are the very same populations UNM claims to value and serve. They are certainly the same populations that finance and give UNM its unique, diverse, and dynamic identity. These populations also include many of the faculty and graduate students in the American Studies Department. “Diversity” and “community” are not mere buzzwords or resources for the University: they are obligations. These obligations require standing up to injustice even if it is met with retaliation.
We would like to see the University of New Mexico, its President, and its Board of Regents offer their public support for activist scholars, such as Dr. Correia, who take the University’s commitment to diversity and community engagement seriously. We realize we are asking the University to run risks that might garner media attention and strongly worded letters of opposition, but it is nothing compared to the risk so many of us run walking down the streets of Albuquerque in the present climate of police brutality. Please join us in commending Dr. Correia and all those working to curb ongoing police violence.
 A copy of the Department of Justice Report can be found here: http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/documents/apd_findings_4-10-14.pdf. As the report explains, “While officers may be required to use force during the course of their duties, they must do so respecting constitutional guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures. For too long, Albuquerque officers have faced little scrutiny from their superiors in carrying out this fundamental responsibility. Despite the efforts of many committed individuals, external oversight is broken and has allowed the department to remain unaccountable to the communities it serves. Based on our investigation, we find that the department engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force during the course of arrests and other detentions in violation of the Fourth Amendment and Section 14141”(p. 2).
For additional information see the following:
Official statements from University of New Mexico:
Public speeches and scholarship by Dr. Correia on police violence in Albuquerque:
Statements of support:
Videos of the protest:
Additional reports on APD violence: