Pratt held a Campus Safety Community Dialogue open to all students, staff and faculty at noon EST on June 25, 2020. Moderated by Jasmine Cuffie, Pratt’s Coordinator of Health Education and Promotion, students and administration discussed the role of policing on campus—both from the Pratt Department of Public Safety and the New York Police Department (NYPD)—and touched on a larger conversation of Pratt’s role in gentrification, the inclusivity of Pratt’s current pedagogy and how we can address the safety of marginalized student communities. Cuffie mentioned that Thursday’s discussion was “not the last conversation . . . or call to action.” Based on student responses to the forum, another meeting of this nature seems likely.


This article will not include direct quotations from students. The dialogue was purposely not recorded (through video or audio) in order to give students an opportunity to speak freely without fear of their responses being recorded. Students’ comments, concerns and questions will be paraphrased, and all students’ names will be left out.



Who Attended the Meeting


Nearly two hundred students, faculty, administration and staff attended the session. President Frances Bronet began the discussion with a reaffirmation of Pratt’s recent statement regarding discrimination and racism on campus. She stated, “As your president, I renew my commitment . . . to eradicate racism.” She was present for the entire ninety-minute discussion, briefly speaking on Pratt’s role in gentrification in the middle and coming back for some brief closing statements at the end.


Dennis Mazone, Pratt’s Assistant Vice President for Campus Safety and Preparedness, spoke about Pratt’s relationship with the NYPD and possible ties that could be severed. He was joined by other members of Public Safety, though he spoke on behalf of the department.


Other speakers included Helen Matusow-Ayres, the Vice President of Student Affairs; Nsombi Ricketts, Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; Judith Williams, Title IX Coordinator; Cathleen Kenny, Vice President for Finance and Administration; and a variety of students from different majors and student organizations.



Pratt’s Relationship to the New York Police Department


Mazone clarified many questions that students had regarding Pratt’s relationship to the NYPD, especially the eighty-eighth and sixth precincts, which are the closest locations to the Brooklyn and Manhattan campuses. He explained that there is no financial relationship “in any way, shape, or form” with the NYPD. Pratt partners with city agencies such as the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) and the New York City Department of Health (DOH), and Mazone stated that Pratt’s current relationship with the NYPD does not differ from these other relationships.


In the past, the NYPD has been allowed onto campus to conduct investigations involving Pratt students; for example, NYPD personnel have spoken to Pratt students on campus rather than require them to come to a precinct location for interviews or other investigation purposes. NYPD personnel have also come onto campus to help with security for larger events that  Pratt itself cannot aptly secure, such as the Comic Arts Brooklyn event in November 2019. Pratt also runs a toy drive during Christmastime in conjunction with the eighty-eighth precinct.


Students requesting complete severance from the NYPD inquired as to the necessity of some of these reasons for the NYPD to come onto campus. Mazone said that there are opportunities for “tremendous collaboration with other people” and that the NYPD could be utilized by campus security in fewer instances. However, a complete severance may not be possible in instances where an arrest must be made, as Pratt Public Safety does not have the jurisdiction to arrest people, or in emergencies involving Pratt students that do not happen on campus. When a student calls 911, they will receive city first responders, often including the NYPD. Using the number 3540 will contact Pratt Public Safety instead of the NYPD, though Mazone says that in emergency situations, he will not dissuade anyone from calling 911.


Matusow-Ayres seemed optimistic in Pratt’s ability to limit contact with the NYPD. She stated, “We aren’t going to wait until the city releases more on this . . . we are already working towards solutions.”


In compliance with the Clery Act, students are able to view statistics regarding the NYPD’s presence on campus. That report can be found here or in the Public Safety office during business hours.



Presence of NYPD Vehicles On and Near Campus


Pratt students inquired about the presence of NYPD vehicles on and around campus. Mazone clarified Pratt’s relationship to these vehicles and their removal following student dissent.


After the first night of protests in Brooklyn, the NYPD’s eighty-eighth precinct contacted Pratt Public Safety and said that two of their vehicles near campus had been damaged. They requested the use of Pratt’s parking lots to store their vehicles, and Pratt Public Safety acquiesced. Once students learned of the presence of police cars on campus, they requested their removal. Within 24 hours of hearing the complaints, Mazone called the commander of the eighty-eighth precinct and explained that they would no longer offer the parking lots for their use. Vehicles were “promptly removed” from Pratt property after that phone call.


Students also asked about the commonality of police cars at Emerson Gate. The NYPD had put a patrol in place due to an “uptake of crime in that neighborhood,” but upon hearing of student concern, Mazone contacted the eighty-eighth precinct and requested the patrol be removed.


Regarding the parking of NYPD personnel’s personal vehicles behind Cannoneer Court, Mazone said that this issue has also been resolved and cars will not be parked there anymore.


If the NYPD must come onto campus for any reason, they are no longer permitted to park on campus. A situation arose recently in which NYPD personnel came onto campus to investigate damage done to a Pratt Public Safety vehicle, and they were not permitted to bring their vehicles onto campus.


Pratt does not have jurisdiction over the streets surrounding campus. Though Public Safety can limit or prevent interaction on campus, they cannot limit or prevent vehicles from being present on surrounding streets.



Addressing the Need for Change in Pratt’s Relationship with the NYPD

Matusow-Ayres stated, “I’m really interested in engaging our students and more members of our Pratt community [in this conversation].” Other members of administration were quick to agree. Kenny expressed a strong interest in forming a student-run committee that could meet with Pratt Public Safety and NYPD personnel to address safety concerns on campus and work towards solutions that do not involve the NYPD.


Mazone explained Pratt Public Safety devotes resources to “students helping students” to decrease the amount of situations that would require NYPD intervention.


It was briefly mentioned that the commander of the NYPD’s eighty-eighth precinct would be interested in meeting with Pratt students to address concerns. No information regarding this comment has been confirmed.  



Role of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Campus Safety


Nsombi Ricketts, the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, spoke on behalf of DEI. She explained that DEI had launched some training efforts for faculty and staff in February. They continued throughout the semester, albeit moved online amid the COVID-19 pandemic. These were not mandatory training sessions, and she says that DEI is interested in working on specific training for Public Safety personnel.


However, Ricketts announced that all faculty, staff, and students will be required to complete diversity training online through Everfi this coming fall. She hopes to eventually move to in-person training, but online training is essential during the pandemic. She encourages anyone with questions to reach out to DEI.


Ricketts also addressed concerns of a reduced budget for DEI. “Everyone will have adjusted budgets . . . that’s just the reality,” she said. However, she clarified that DEI has “consistent support” and that “any changes [to our budget] will not hinder what we do.”



Pratt’s Role in Gentrification


As the conversation progressed, concerns about Pratt’s role in the gentrification of surrounding neighborhoods emerged. President Bronet asserted that “[this forum] is not the time for me to go through [policies of this nature],” but she expressed interest in picking up this conversation in a different dialogue at a later date. She believes that there is a lot to discuss and rectify, but did not want to veer the conversation away from campus safety.



Closing Comments


As the session wrapped up, Cuffie asked students what topics they would like to explore in similar forums in the future, hoping that this one was “the first of many.” Students recommended discussions addressing concerns with Residential Life, a wider call for transparency and an analysis of Pratt’s current pedagogy and wealth distribution, among other demands of the Student Government Association’s Letter to the Pratt Administration.  


Students also requested that in the future, the administration should speak less and allow students to take the lead. Some requested a student-moderated session in which a student takes on the responsibility of leading the discussion, or a student-led session in which the administration does not speak at all.


President Bronet closed with this statement: “We are listening, and we have much work to do.”


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For further resources, see The Prattler’s article, “Ways to Take Action Against Police Brutality & Show Up for Racial Justice,” or the Student Government Association’s Resource Document.





All of us here at The Prattler are distraught and outraged by the recent events of police brutality and racial violence around the country, as well as the unlawful deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others. In Pratt Institute’s statement on the matter, President Bronet reconfirms our belief that it is “further heartbreaking that this is happening at a time when people are already isolated, disheartened, struggling economically, and frightened about the future.”

While President Bronet’s words on the current injustices facing our nation and community ring true, we as a newspaper believe there is so much more we must do. As a publication, it is our responsibility to use our platform to inform the student body and elevate marginalized voices, as well as speak out about injustices and systemic oppression at large. As a community—at Pratt and beyond—it is our responsibility to do our part. 

We’ve compiled an ongoing list of local and national organizations to donate to, resources to educate ourselves with and other ways to continue the fight towards ending police violence and racial discrimination. More will be added.



National & Minneapolis Resources

The GoFundMe campaign organized by George Floyd’s family—who was killed by police last month in Minneapolis—helps to directly cover funeral/burial costs and legal fees. A separate campaign has also been started for Floyd’s six-year-old daughter to provide financial care moving forward. 

Justice has also not yet been served for Breonna Taylor, the young woman who was shot and killed in her home by police on March 13. A GoFundMe set up by Breonna’s sister, Bianca Austin, is available to donate to. 

There is also a GoFundMe accepting donations for Wanda McCade, the mother of Tony McDade, a black trans man who was murdered by the Tallahassee Police Department on May 27th, as well as Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed by officers in Georgia on February 23.

A campaign has also been set up for David McAtte’s mother. David was shot and killed on June 1 in Kentucky after police and National Guard members fired into a crowd of curfew violators.

Donations to Unicorn Riot, a worker-managed alternative media source, help fund the spread of information, bringing crucial news about activist work and civil disobedience to those who might not be able to access it otherwise. 

Reclaim The Block aims to defund the Minneapolis police and move money towards other areas of the city.

Black Visions Collective, a Minneapolis-based organization, is dedicated to “Black liberation and collective liberation,” according to their website. Donations go towards funding their campaigns and developing the voices of emerging Minneapolis Black leaders.



Local Resources

Though Brooklyn Bail Fund has reached its demonstration bail goal, further donations go towards keeping the organization running and helping to dismantle the prison industrial complex. This includes freeing immigrants from ICE detention centers, ending pretrial detention in New York and paying bail in cases that could have major systematic impact.

Donations to No New Jails NYC helps to keep the city from building new prisons and diverts funds from police towards community causes, like housing costs and ending homelessness. 

Communities United for Police Reform aims to end discriminatory policing in New York City and help educate people about their rights when approached by authorities.

Supporting Black-owned restaurants and businesses in the area are also good ways to help. Dom N’ The City has a list of 25 restaurants you can order from, and Black Owned Brooklyn is dedicated to raising awareness about other local businesses.

In addition to supporting your community in New York, you can also help from wherever you may be located for the summer. Rolling Stone magazine has a list of individual state resources, providing bail funds for local protests and community aid, among other causes, in almost every area of the country.


Petitions 

Signing petitions—along with emailing and calling your representatives—is another great way to take action. The following petitions can help to enact local and national change, all while taking just a few moments to sign.

Justice for Tony McDade

Justice For Breonna Taylor

#JusticeforBre: Color of Change Petition

Justice of Alejandro Vargas

Justice for Regis Korchinski-Paquet
 

Justice for Belly Mujinga 

State of Emergency: End The War of Black People 

Demand Radical Data on Coronavirus

Urge Gov. Cuomo to Repeal 50-A

Support the Hands Up Act

#DefundThePolice

Teach British Schools about the realities of British Imperialism and Colonialism


Other Resources

Vice magazine’s article gives tips on how to protest safely in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. The Conversation and Teen Vogue have similar articles addressing public concern and any questions you may have regarding sharing your voice. If you can’t protest outside, The Wired and Architectural Digest provide tips on how to help from home, including making art and utilizing social media.

Educating yourself on the history of racial inequality and how systemic racism impacts our society also goes a long way. Campaign Zero has a detailed guide about policy solutions that are useful to know, and is a great resource to learn about the laws in your area. Black Lives Matter provides details about their movement, with details specific to COVID-19 and global causes. Showing Up For Racial Justice aims to educate white people about anti-racism and organize ways to fight against white supremacy. 

Reading up on matters, as well as celebrating Black voices, is also crucial during this time. The Oprah Magazine has a solid selection of books by Black authors to read, with a list of Black-owned bookstores, courtesy of Publisher’s Weekly, that you can buy them from.

Purchasing from online bBack-owned businesses is another way to show support. The Mad Mommy’s list of Black-owned Etsy shops is great if you want to directly compensate individuals and find unique items. 

If you can’t afford to donate, many YouTubers are creating monetized videos to help out. Leave them playing on your browser with the sound on and ad blockers off, and ad revenue will go toward various causes, like bail funding and donations for the victim’s families. Playlists of other YouTube videos whose ad revenues go toward donations can be found here and here.








Whether it's the cancellation of shows, the debt of postponed festivals and tours or the lack of pay for venue employees, promoters and other insiders, the impact of Coronavirus on the music industry is insurmontable. As someone who spends a good amount of time around live music, it’s hard to keep a positive outlook, especially with recent reports saying that in-person concerts likely won’t resume until 2021. 


Despite this uncertainty, musicians have been banding together these past few months, doing their best to bring some much needed joy into their fans’ lives. Big concert benefits, like the Living Room Concert For America, are bringing the practice into the mainstream and the public’s interest while raising millions for COVID-19 relief. Noisey, the music channel on VICE’s website, hosted Noisey Night In, a livestream festival to benefit Sweet Relief Musicians Fund, on April 11. Philadelphia band Courier Club created Block By Blockwest, a charity festival streamed over Minecraft on May 16, which featured artists like Cherry Glazerr and Pussy Riot. Other bands are taking to Instagram, YouTube, and other online platforms to share songs and intimate performances worldwide.


Though they may seem trivial in the face of the pandemic, livestream performances do make a difference, especially for fans. Here’s a list of some of my favorites that I’ve seen so far. 



Hinds

Spanish rockers Hinds have been quarantined in their homes around Madrid for a little longer than us here in the US, and are one of the groups hit hardest by the pandemic. Lead singer Carlota Cosials’ mother tested positive for the virus, and the band has since rescheduled their upcoming album release and tour to focus on spending time with loved ones. That hasn’t stopped them from making music, though. As part of Rolling Stone Magazine’s “In My Room” series, which features different artists performing from home via IGTV every week, Hinds live streamed two of their songs (now archived on the publication’s website). 


“New For You,” a classic from the band’s 2018 album “I Don’t Run,” is even better completely stripped down. It stays true to Hinds’ raw sound, bringing forth a bit of extra grit. “Come Back and Love Me <3,” a calming tune in its own right, adds something extra acoustically. Even during lockdown, Hinds are still their optimistic selves, pushing through the sound malfunctions and roommate interruptions with fervor. This little snippet makes the extended wait for their new record (“The Prettiest Curse,” out June 5th) well worth it.



The Frights

There are some bands you think you’re never going to find your way back to; the Frights are definitely one of mine. I remember going through a brief phase when I was thirteen, when listening to the San Diego punk alt trio’s “Fur Sure” EP made me feel like the coolest kid in middle school. Though we were supposed to be reunited in person at the Bowery Ballroom this past April, I’ve been reconnecting with the Frights via Instagram, where frontman Mikey Carnevale has been wooing over fans and followers with his guitar (and numerous glasses of wine.)


It’s rare for any artist to take the time to revisit their entire discography, and play it live, for that matter. Between the background noise from his family during the livestream of “Everything Seems Like Yesterday” or the iPad malfunctions in 2018’s “Hypochondriac” show, Carenvale proves that the band can handle anything. Though the Frights are definitely a group you’ve got to jump around to, these more mellow performances show their softer side; one hard not to fall in love with. It was heartwarming to get to see people “cheering” along in the comments, sending in clapping hand Emojis to share their support. Aside from the music, that sense of encouragement makes these performances ones to watch.



Waxahatchee
One of the best things about online concerts is being introduced to new artists on your time and on a budget (of nothing!) I knew very little about Alabama folk rock act Waxahatchee (yeah yeah, come for me indies) until I stumbled across her via the Rolling Stone “In My Room” series. For her performance, singer Katie Crutchfield performed songs “Fire” and “Lilacs” from her new album “Saint Cloud.” Played on a keyboard in her home in Kansas City, they ring out as love letters, proving that simplicity sometimes reigns supreme.


Though alt-folk isn’t normally my thing, I was immediately drawn to Crutchfield’s vocals and musical world. It inspired me to check out the rest of “Saint Cloud,” as well as her previous releases. I was thrown into that wonderful feeling of finding a new artist to listen to, diving headfirst into their discography and scouring YouTube for every video I could (it made me extremely happy to see that the band had an Amoeba “What's In My Bag?” episode). The perfect distraction, in my opinion.



Karen O

It’s taken a pandemic for certain things to happen: for us to see an intense spark in humanitarianism, for certain politicians to start paying attention to their constituents and for Karen O to whip out some of her most precious musical rarities. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs lead singer performed an acoustic version of deep cut “Our Time” via IGTV on April 12th. It’s the first song she wrote for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and the first time she’s played it in over a decade.

Maybe it’s her small son making an appearance, or the makeshift ambience given by a spinning disco ball, but this intimate performance sticks out more than most. Steering away from the usual grit of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ discography, this stripped down ballas feels like a blessing. O’s voice is soft, like she’s singing directly to you, the emotion in her falsettos permeating through. It’ll make you ache for New York (Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ place of origin), but also be thankful to be able to do so in the first place. It might just give you the will to “break on through” this tough period as well.



The Struts

British rock band the Struts are hunkered down in their various homes around Los Angeles, but that’s not stopping them from putting on a spectacular show (or shows). Their new web series “Sunday Service” delves into everything from music to Q&A’s to SNL-esque comedy sketches, all while maintaining the energy that the band brings everywhere they go. Each episode is around twenty minutes long; the perfect length to binge when you’re in need of some good music and laughs (you're sure to get both, whether it’s through the iconic Spice Girls cover in episode one, or guitarist Adam Slack’s intense egg making process in episode three). Their newest episode segment “Stay Home and Unplugged” is dedicated to exclusive acoustic covers of the band’s biggest hits, soothing the souls of those who love their original music. If you haven’t gotten a chance to see the Struts live yet, don’t fret. This series will make you feel like you’ve gotten to know them far better than you could in a single night onstage. 



Bad Bad Hats
Bad Bad Hats are just the right amount of awkward to have you hooked. Their alluring indie pop is perfect to play anywhere from road trips to your Early 2000’s Throwback Dance Party. In lieu of shows, the band (or two thirds of them, husband/wife duo Kerry Alexander and Chris Hoge) started a series called “Islands in the Livestream,” which airs every Saturday at 4pm CST on YouTube. It’s four hours that live up to the group’s self-proclaimed title of “America’s Most Wholesome Indie Rock Band.”

Bad Bad Hats keep things interesting with changing themes every week, so you’re bound to find something you’re interested in. Episode 1  is an ode to the 90’s, Kerry and Chris covering everything from the Cranberries to Fastball’s lost power ballad “Out of my Head.” Episode 2 is dedicated to the band’s favorite love ballads, while others shows tackle old alt rock favorites and songs with names in the title (the cover of Alvvays’ “Marry Me, Archie” had me swooning). Kerry and Chris are also gems to watch. It’s clear how much they love their band and each other, the connection shining through in every song. 


The Strokes

This last one technically isn’t a concert, but I have to make an exception for New York’s finest. Partly for promo and partly out of boredom, the Strokes started a “pirate radio show” called “5 Guys Talking About Things They Know Nothing About,” its premise staying true to the title. The podcast-esque webshow includes everything from casual conversation to the band spinning some of their favorite quarantine tunes.


During April 9th’s episode, the Strokes hosted a listening party via YouTube for their new album “The New Abnormal,” their first LP in seven years. In between songs, they told behind-the-scenes stories about the recording process, the insight trouped only by the absolute chaos that occurs when all five Strokes are together (ie: a heated discourse about the validity of graham crackers). Indulging in the record with them, even if over a glitching Zoom chat, is an irreplaceable experience. As the Strokes share their anxieties about the pandemic, it’s a reminder that we all have the same worries, but also the same hope that things will get better. Like drummer Fab Moretti stated, “We’ve just got to love each other, man; we’ve got to be kind.” 




Nothing will ever compare to live music. There’s something special about being surrounded by people as in love with an artist as you are that can’t be reproduced digitally. Still, these virtual concerts provide solace that’s more impactful today than before. With all their awkward glory, these performances are the most intimate we’ll see our favorite artists, creating a unique connection we might not have gotten otherwise. The mistakes and blunders—the lags and glitches—are a constant reminder that we’re truly all in this together, figuring things out and making the most of it. It shows that even in the strangest times, we’ve still got songs to help us through until we’re back out on our own. 


That is music to my ears.

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Image by Pete Gibson


When I am in a particularly high stress and tumultuous situation, such as living during a global pandemic, it seems as though the only thing I can count on to be consistent is my dream life. It’s not consistent in content, of course, but it is consistently vivid and anxiety inducing. Since the coronavirus outbreak, I honestly think I feel more anxious while I’m dreaming than while I’m awake. 


While I’ve been in quarantine these past few weeks, I have tried to write down every dream I can remember. I try to keep them in a poem, each part of a dream written in a four line stanza. At the end of every week, I bring them to my therapist. I am one of the lucky few with access to virtual therapy, but I think even if I didn’t, I would still try to bring them to someone. Dream interpretation is not a new idea, but I firmly believe in its power to reveal one’s subconscious. Here is what is in my subconscious: 


I'm in an airport and a woman who claims to be the sister of

a guy I’m seeing takes me home in her car and won't let me go!

I escape through the front door and run down the streets of Brooklyn

Where all the brownstones look the same and try to head for Prospect Park.

 

I’m at a birthday party my mother is throwing for me and another girl.

Who is she? Why does she live in my house?

My mom won't let me leave even though I have a date

When I try to invite him to my birthday party, I can't find his contact info.

 

I meet Joe Biden and instead of kicking him in the junk for Tara,

I freeze and he squeezes my shoulders.

He walks back onto the stage while I'm still standing,

The shame and guilt for my inaction overwhelm me while he disappears into the wings.

 

I get abducted by a cult, but it's a nice cult, and Avi is there, too.

The leaders are a straight couple dressed in gladiator outfits and they tell me,

"We like to keep your friend around because he's really funny and charming."

When I ask why they keep me around they look me up and down, hungry.

 

I'm trying to find a date to the prom.

"I'll only go if someone asks me," I tell my friend Amy from high school.

I sit next to Pena from the high school debate team in a hotel lobby.

I ask him if he's going to the prom and he escapes out a window.

 

I have to call the guy I'm seeing "the guy I'm seeing" for

"I don't believe in labels" reasons but at least I get to hook up with

My high school ex-boyfriend who sucks and despite not labeling anything,

I still feel the guilt creeping into the back of his red Toyota Tacoma.

 

When the cult leaders find me trying to sneak out of their underground bunker

In the middle of the night, they take me to the roof, where they take me.

And it feels bad and guilty not because the event was coercive, but because I look over

And I see the woman. And I think of my Christian mother, who loves me.

 

My mother and my cousin Ally take me grocery shopping at Walmart.

I'm trying to reach for the last box of chocolate Lucky Charms but

A cart is in the way so I bump into it and sirens go off, emanating from the cart's base.

I don't know how, but Joe Biden is behind this. 


Here, with the help of my therapist, I can see my fears: being abducted, abandoned, desired, undesired, and weak. I thought knowing what my fears were and having to face them every night would leave me exhausted and defeated, but it’s had the opposite effect. I feel as if all this time alone is an opportunity to know myself. I don’t yet know what all of this thinking and knowing will result in once quarantine ends, but for now I feel as if it is enough to continue existing in myself. 

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Image by Ava Agnes Mayer


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