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99-519: Documenting the History of Policing and Campus Safety at CMU

This guide provides resources and information that might be useful for this course.

99-519: Documenting the History of Policing and Campus Safety at CMU

Instructor: Prof. Jay Aronson (

Are you interested in crime and policing? Are you curious about public safety and security on college campuses? Have you heard calls for the abolition of police since the murder of George Floyd in 2020? This research experience will give you the opportunity to explore these issues in depth through research on the origins and evolution of Carnegie Mellon University’s Police Department. This work will be carried out under the guidance of Prof. Jay Aronson and university archivists. It will run throughout the summer with required in-person meetings clustered in the first four weeks of the course. After that, we can discuss remote participation for the rest of the summer for students who want that option. Students may need to schedule in–person visits to the archive outside of class time. The student research team will: review existing scholarly literature on policing and campus policing around the country; explore historical material in the university’s archives;  gather publicly available material like newspaper articles, crime bulletins, annual crime reports, and university policies; and evaluate mechanisms for gathering public input on interactions with CMU PD. Participants will gain valuable skills conducting and managing historical research in libraries and physical archives, online, and in public spaces and learn a great deal about policing and public safety in the United States.

Note on this experience: This course is likely to be very different from other experiences you’ve had at Carnegie Mellon. You will learn first-hand what it is like to conduct historical research on a contentious, policy-relevant topic using primary sources that you will play a part in finding, organizing, and analyzing. You will have the opportunity to work directly in the university’s archives with the support of our archivists. This is an experience that most historians don’t get until they are in graduate school. This privilege comes with responsibility. You will participate in a collective accountability group that is designed to ensure that you are all keeping up with work assigned to you and that your peers are doing the same. The goal of this group is to be mutually supportive and to stay aware of the accomplishments and challenges of everyone in the group. I will be guiding you over the course of the summer, and will check in with you all on a regularly scheduled basis, but I definitely won’t be monitoring you on a daily basis.

The sensitivity of the subject matter: Policing and campus safety involves sensitive subject matter and you will potentially be finding and reading reports about traumatic or violent events that involve people’s personally identifying information. Please feel free to reach out to me if there are issues that you’d prefer not to be over-exposed to, and also be aware that you have an ethical responsibility not to share details of events that have occurred on campus that are not already part of the public record. We will discuss both issues during the first week of the research experience.


Your grade will be based in large measure on your commitment to taking this experience and the work we are doing seriously. You are required to put in 108 hours of total effort into this project (including class time, reading time, and all research time) in order to fulfill the requirements of a 9-unit course (9 hours/week over 12 weeks).


The specific components of your grade are:

  • Activity Log (20%) In order for me to assess your effort, you must keep track of the time you spend in the class, as well as what you are doing in the same manner that you would if you were working for a company/organization or keeping a laboratory notebook. There is no need to go into great detail—just make sure I can understand how you are spending your time. You will receive an A for the activity log portion of the class if you provide me with a record of your time spent that demonstrates that you spent 108 hours on the project and that I can clearly understand how you spent this time. You will receive a C if you provide me with a log of your time that shows you put in 108 hours, but not your activities or accomplishments. You will receive a zero for the activity log if you spend less than 108 hours working on the class or don’t turn it in. Basically, you are guaranteed an A for the individual portion of the course if you put in the effort and keep track of what you are doing.
  • Peer- and self-assessments of contributions to the project (15%) You will receive an A for the self- and peer-assessment portion of the course if you and your peers agree that you were an equal partner in the project. You will receive a B if you there is evidence that you did slightly less than your peers; a C if there is evidence that you did significantly less than your peers but still contributed; and a D or worse if there is evidence that your lack of participation was a severe impediment to the work of the group.
  • Brief blog post (15%) reflecting on a particular document, a moment during the research process, or the experience of being in the archives that can be published on the library’s blog to highlight the work you’re doing over the summer. I will provide more details later in the summer.
  • The overall quality and completeness of the deliverables (25%) as judged by the archivist partners and me. Everyone in the group will receive the same grade; this is an evaluation of your collective work.
  • The group’s collective assessment of the work you did together over the course of the summer (25%) You will get together as a group and decide what grade you feel you deserve as a group, and why. This is your opportunity to reflect on what you accomplished as a group. Hopefully you will be proud of what you did and will have an easy time justifying an A for yourselves! If you do, that’s what you’ll get for this portion of your grade.

The research goals for the summer are to:

  1. Review existing scholarly literature on campus safety, security, and policing around the country
  2. Examine the university archive’s holdings to get a better sense of what kinds of material is already available in existing (but often uncatalogued) collections
  3. Gather CMU publications and communications—like crime bulletins, annual crime reports, and university policies—either directly from the university’s police department or from other sources to be determined
  4. Conduct a comprehensive search of The Tartan and Focus newspapers for stories on campus safety, security, and policing at Carnegie Mellon
  5. Conduct a comprehensive search of other local and national media outlets as well
  6. Evaluate mechanisms for gathering community and public input on this topic
  7. Analyze a subset of the material gathered over the course of the summer

The deliverables for the summer are:

  1. LibGuide on Campus Safety, Security, and Policing at Carnegie Mellon (we will begin with an internal version for class and eventually convert it into a public-facing one—more info to follow soon)
  2. Review of relevant material in existing archival collections
  3. Collection of CMU publications and communications and determination of what to add to the university archive in collaboration with archive staff
  4. Database of secondary sources on topic
  5. Database of news stories on topic

Learning Objectives: First and foremost, I hope this experience enables you to gain an appreciation for the joys, challenges, frustrations, and work of doing policy-relevant historical research! That said, there are specific things I hope you learn, including:

  1. How to use archives effectively and, as part of this process, how to communicate with archivists (who are invaluable sources of information and advice)
  2. Navigating the challenges of doing research that is partly based on paper sources and partly based on digital or digitized sources
  3. Developing a research plan and modifying on the fly it as necessary.
  4. Communicating with key actors to obtain background information and find out where documents that are not currently available in institutional archives may be found
  5. Conducting comprehensive, systematic searches in major research databases and within the archives of individual publications like The Tartan and Focus
  6. Preserving digital material including websites, pdfs, text files, images, and emails
  7. Constructing and maintaining databases to store material found during the research process in a way that is stable, persistent, and accessible to future researchers
  8. Becoming sensitized to the ethical issues around doing work on topics like policing and campus safety, remembering that these are not abstract issues and that real peoples’ experiences, emotions, traumas, indiscretions, crimes, and personal information are often present in the material we will be collecting and analyzing
  9. Analyzing and interpreting primary source material and organizing notes and thoughts in a way that makes them accessible in the future
  10. Working as a research team on a semi-structured project

Early decisions that need to be made are:

  1. Establishing group norms
  2. Plotting out a general timeline for the summer so we can have a better sense of what we need to plan for, when decisions need to be made, and what kinds of milestones we should set. This involves doing a little bit of all of the different kinds of work to understand approximately how long each task will take. Once we have a general sense of work rates, then we can set formal milestones (understanding, of course, that they may need to be altered)
  3. Scheduling group meetings for the first four weeks of the summer, with the understanding that we will revisit our meeting schedule as we move into June and July to determine whether it should be maintained or is working well. We can certainly stick to the scheduled time or modify it based our collective schedule.
  4. Sign up for timeslots to visit the archive. You need to sign up for a minimum of three 3-hour sessions, though you are welcome to sign up for additional visits if you find the experience to be enjoyable. Please use this spreadsheet.
  5. How you will communicate with one another as a research group (i.e., what platform or app we’ll use)
  6. How I (the instructor) will interface with you and how often we will meet individually and as a group
  7. What databases/programs/systems we will use to collect material; metadata conventions; note-taking conventions
  8. How we will keep track of what we find in the archive (decided in collaboration with the archivists)
  9. Determining strengths of each student at the start of the summer and what skills each student hopes to develop over the course of the summer (this will help determine task assignments)
  10. How the accountability group will work
  11. Identify key actors to interview and arrange interviews with them (and develop questions for each of them keeping in mind that these interviews are informational, not oral histories)


What kinds of material do we actually want to collect and begin to analyze?

  • Any documents relevant to the creation of the CMU PD
  • Local/State/Federal legislation pertaining to the formation of police department by private entities (how is it even possible for a university to create a police department?)
  • Official policies and procedures
  • Annual reports from CMU PD and predecessor units
  • Annual Crime Statistics and Reports
  • Marketing materials that mention safety, security, and policing
  • Crime Reports
  • Budgets and budget requests
  • Documentation for new technology or equipment (cameras, body armor, body cams, etc.)
  • Publicly available complaints against security or police officers
  • Residential employee training manuals
  • Information about how mental health crises are handled
  • Active shooter policies, training material, guidelines, etc.
  • Sexual assault/rape investigation and adjudication processes
  • Websites (CMU Police, Title IX site; also do universal search for University Police on CMU’s web presence)
  • Student Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CMAP/CMARC) material
  • CMU Disorientation Guides

Scheduled meetings as of 5-13-2022

Monday May 16: Meet in 246-A Baker Hall from 2:00-3:20pm for personal introductions and a welcome to the research experience and the topics we’ll be covering

Wednesday May 18: Meet in IDEATE Studio B (106-C Hunt Library, located on the first floor across from the stairwell) from 2:00-3:20pm for an introduction to the CMU archive and the archivists who run it

Monday May 23: Meet in 246-A Baker Hall from 2:00-3:20pm to discuss logistics, course infrastructure, and accountability groups

Wednesday May 25: Meet in 246-A Baker Hall from 2:00-3:20pm to present summaries of second-week readings and to discuss other issues determined by the group

Monday May 30: NO CLASS (Memorial Day)

Wednesday June 1: Meet in 246-A Baker Hall from 2:00-3:20pm to set preliminary milestones based on what we know about how long tasks will take.

Monday June 6: I cannot meet this day, but you are welcome to get together either in person in 246-A Baker Hall or remotely if you prefer.

Wednesday June 8: Meet in IDEATE Studio B from 2:00-3:20 with the archives staff to plan for the rest of the semester, including revision of milestones. Discussion of check-ins for rest of the semester.

PLEASE SCHEDULE INDIVIDUAL CHECK-INS WITH ME AT SOME POINT BETWEEN Wednesday June 8-Friday June 10, ensuring that your activity logs are complete, up-to-date and available for review.

Wednesday June 15: Group meeting at 2pm with me (TBD whether it’s via Zoom or in person)

Wednesday June 22: Group meeting at 2pm with me (TBD Zoom or in person)

Wednesday June 29: Group meeting at 2pm with me (TBD Zoom or in person)

No scheduled meetings the week of July 4-8

Wednesday July 13: Group meeting at 2pm with me (TBD Zoom or in person)

PLEASE SCHEDULE INDIVIDUAL CHECK-INS WITH ME AT SOME POINT BETWEEN Wednesday July 14-Friday July 16, ensuring that your activity logs are complete, up-to-date and available for review.

Wednesday July 20: Group meeting at 2pm with me (TBD Zoom or in person)

Wednesday July 27: Group meeting at 2pm with me (TBD Zoom or in person)

Monday August 1: Meet 2-3:20pm with me to discuss favorite things you’ve collected, big questions you have, and future directions for research (TBD Zoom or in person)

Wednesday August 3: Meet 2-3:20pm with me to discuss favorite things you’ve collected, big questions you have, and future directions for research (TBD Zoom or in person)—this is the last official meeting of the class.


I will not be available the week of August 8, so you should use that time to wrap up the project and complete:

  1. Any remaining documentation
  2. Your collective statement on the grade you feel you deserve as a group
  3. Your peer and individual assessment (I will provide a form for this task)
  4. Your activity logs, ensuring that they are complete, up-to-date, and ready to be graded.
  5. The final survey I provide to you.

I will review this material and your deliverables during early in the week of August 15 and will provide you with collective and individual feedback and grades at that time.

Reading to be completed by Friday May 21:

  • Ed Slavishak, “To Protect and Serve: The Establishment and Reorganization of the Carnegie Mellon Campus Security Office, 1960-1970” The Sloping Halls Review, 1996, pp. 131-150.
  • International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, FAQs for the media,
  • J. Eric Coleman, "Policing the College Campus," in John Harrison Watts (ed.), Policing America’s Educational Systems (Routledge, 2019), pp. 65-74.
  • CMU Police Responses to Jay Aronson’s Questions, December 2021.
  • Yalile J. Suriel, “Microsyllabus: The History of Campus Policing,” January 19, 2022, Radical History Review, (please take a look at this, but you don’t need to do individual readings)

Second-week readings to be divided up amongst group and presented on Wednesday May 25:

  • Eddie R. Cole, “The racist roots of campus policing,” Washington Post, June 2, 2021,
  • Melinda D. Anderson, “The Rise of Law Enforcement on College Campuses,” The Atlantic, September 28, 2015,
  • Cobretti D. Williams, “Race and Policing in Higher Education,” The Activist History Review, November 19, 2019,
  • Nathalie Baptise, “Campus Cops: Authority Without Accountability,” The American Prospect, November 2, 2015,
  • Davarian Baldwin, “Why We Should Abolish the Campus Police,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 19, 2021.